Prajwal Jha, a Class 12 student and JEE aspirant, was in for a shock when he found out that he would get only two attempts to crack JEE Mains this year. In addition, the exam dates were dangerously close to his board exam dates, leaving him anxious, perplexed, and stressed.
Such is the case of lakhs of aspirants, many of whom are now thinking of dropping the year because of how close the dates are to their board examinations and how short the gap between the two attempts is.
The two attempts, which would earlier have a gap of 80-90 days, will be held with a gap of 19 days in between them. The first attempt is scheduled for 21 April to 4 May and the second attempt will be conducted between 24 and 29 May.
In 2021, students could give four attempts – and the education minister had said that four attempts might be the rule from 2021.
However, on 1 March, the National Testing Agency (NTA) released a schedule, making it clear that there would be only two tries. On March 14, the agency announced that the dates would be rescheduled since they were clashing with some board examinations.
The dates of session 1 were pushed forward by a week. But this only reduced the gap between the two JEE attempts. While there are no direct clashes, board examinations for students from multiple boards are close to their entrance test, some even the day before or after a particular exam.
Prajwal said, “Previously, the first attempt would be in January or February, then boards would take place after a month or two. They would have time to prepare better and then sit for the second attempt. This is unfair to us as we were not prepared for this.”
With only 19 days, when most of them will be preparing and appearing for board exams, there is little scope for improvement.
Every year, lakhs of students sit for JEE Main, hoping to secure admissions at India’s top engineering colleges, namely the NITs and IITs. Over 9.39 lakh students appeared for JEE Mains in 2021. Students can apply to technical undergraduate programs in engineering, architecture, and planning across India with their JEE results.
Each candidate’s exam will be scheduled on one of the six dates that are announced by the NTA. Students will know about the dates when they receive their admit cards, scheduled to be out mid-April.
No Clarity from Authorities Yet
Students say that they have been writing mails to the NTA but have not received a concrete reply as yet. A writ petition, filed by a student, was heard in the Supreme Court on 30 March. The Supreme Court disposed of the petition, saying that the matter pertains to the policy domain.
The court said, "The matter pertains to the policy domain. Hence, we permit the petitioners to submit a representation to the competent authority for consideration. The decision of the competent authority will, however, not furnish any basis for initiating a fresh round of litigation before this Court since the matter pertains to a matter of policy."
However, students said that their representation had tried to meet the NTA, but they were told off and did not receive any help. A student said, "Some of our student representatives had approached NTA but they did not pay any heed to our concerns."
The Director-General of the NTA did not respond to our queries on the same. (This story will be updated in case he responds).
Students Seek Justice on Twitter
With nowhere else to turn to, students have started campaigns on Twitter with thousands using the hashtag #JEEStudentsWantJustice and #JEEMainsAfterBoards.
The dates are almost clashing with the exams of multiple boards, starting from CBSE and ISC to state boards such as Telangana state board and Kerala state board.
Aashrita Bhasker, a Class 12 student from the Telangana state board, said that the condition has been taking a toll on students mentally. She said that the students of the current batch deserve better as they will not be able to prepare in only 19 days.
“My boards will get over on 19 May and then I can prepare for the second try but there is too little time and I will already be wasting one try,” she said.
Shreya Sharma, a CBSE student from West Bengal, said that the current schedule of JEE leaves her with only one attempt to perform at her best and get the rank she was aiming for.
“Ever since I heard the announcement, I have been under huge stress and anxiety. I am worried about my future and am being forced to consider dropping a year. I am afraid that I might lose a year.”Shreya Sharma, a Class 12 CBSE student
Students said that since the preparation for board exams is so different from JEE Mains, they are scared of scoring badly in both.
Students from the Karnataka state board and the Odisha state board had similar concerns. They were afraid that they would not be able to perform in either of the exams, and then end up wasting a year.
A Karnataka Pre-University (PU) student said that he could not compromise on his boards because there was pressure from home to perform well in boards. At the same time, he cannot compromise on JEE Mains as his future is dependent on it.
Afraid of Wasting Another Year
Lakshya Raj, a JEE aspirant who had dropped a year last year, said he is also affected by the dates. He said, “We have a Telegram group of over 2,000 students where everyone is worried. Many are planning on dropping a year while others are in a very bad condition mentally. There is a lot of stress on us to prove ourselves this time.”
A candidate, who hails from Bhadrak district in Odisha and had dropped a year last year, said that she did not have facilities to prepare last year. This year, however, she said that she had somehow managed to prepare via online coaching classes.
But if there is a gap of only 19 days, then there is no point as there will hardly be any improvement. I will also be traveling for other exams such as WBJEE and it will be very hectic as all of the exams are sandwiched together.
Akshay Joseph, who decided to take the year to prepare again, said that those who gave the entrance last year, had an advantage as they got four chances.
He said, “I got into decent colleges but I was aiming for better. This year, the gap is less and the exam has been made more difficult. There is negative marking for arithmetic questions.”
He added, “We have never seen a situation where the gap has been reduced and the examination has been made more difficult.”