21 Jun

This year, many aspiring engineering students are worried they may find it difficult to get a seat in the coveted Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The merit lists — recently released by the IITs after the joint entrance examination (JEE) results — reveal that the entry bar across categories, both for open and reserved ones, has risen.

Around 472,000 candidates appeared for JEE 2010 on April 11 — up from last year’s count of 385,000. However, this year the qualifying score in the open category rose from 178 in 2009 to 190. Even for the other backward categories (OBCs), the merit list cut-off stands at 171. Last year, it was 161.

Students, who took the JEE this year, and the teachers who helped them prepare for it, have mixed opinions. One section thinks the increase in the cut-off is a case of “improved standards”.

Yet others believe that when the IITs tried to rectify the errors that had crept in, their answer sheet evaluation method has given rise to the anomaly.

The result: For the first time in four years, the IIT-JEE average marks have shown double digit scores in all three subjects — physics, chemistry and mathematics. The aggregate average almost doubled — from 29 in 2009 to 55 in 2010 out of a total 489 — while the cut-off for successful candidates showed an improvement from 178 last year to 190 this year. The JEE will announce the final admission details on its website on June 28 when students will get to know which technology institute they could be admitted into.

Meanwhile, many students and coaching institutes blame the “rectifying of errors” for their “low scores” and what they say is a “disappointing” merit list.

Rounak, a student who took the JEE this year from Bombay, says: “The merit list did not make sense and was very disappointing. Many of my friends, too, did not even get a rank.” Akash Mukhopadhyay, another JEE taker from Bombay, concurs: “The goof-ups in the question paper and the adjustments thereafter, may have led to some additional marks for students who did not deserve it.”

The IITs, however, disagree with this line of thinking. B K Mathur, dean — planning and coordination at IIT Kharagpur, counters: “The cut-off marks depend on the scores and the overall performance of the students. We are trying to put together a JEE question structure that is on the basis of high-school level curriculum, covered across all boards. The reason is, we want to do away with the dependence on coaching institutes and put in place a structure so that even students who just follow school curriculum and do not go to coaching classes can qualify for IITs.”

A spokesperson for JEE in IIT Madras, which conducted the JEE this year, agrees with Mathur. “This year the overall students’ performance is better and as a result the cut-off set is higher. There are also more IITs this year and more seats to be filled up. So there is nothing to worry about,” he says.

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