exams, India

Our IIT journey!

Even as my son is planning to leave for IIT to join the 2019-2020 academic session , I feel like I have to recite the whole journey to the whole world!! 🙂 Also, the whole IIT preparation drama ceases to exist once the lad enters the hallowed grounds of the precious institution! Here are a few(or a lot of!) of my thoughts on the whole process:

What are the IITs anyways?

India and IITs are synonymous with each other. Ask any parent whose child is in grade five or six in India and their aim is always to get into an IIT. For the uninitiated, IIT is ‘Indian Institute of Technology’ for securing an undergraduate or post-graduate degree in engineering and there are a total of 23 IITs in India today. The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are autonomous public institutes of higher education(Wikipedia)

There are roughly about 13,376 seats up for grabs in various streams of engineering like Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and more. India’s young students and their parents are always allured by this institution.  Competition is fierce and this year about 9.35 lakh candidates competed to get one of the 13,000 seats. The IITs though cannot accomodate everyone, can they? So, what do they do? Have entrance exams that will definitely the raise the stakes and make the students to prepare harder…

The JEE entrance exams:

The JEE or ‘Joint Entrance exams’ are the gateway to the esteemed institution. The JEE(Joint Entrance Exam) has two parts to it. They are the ‘Mains’ and the ‘Advanced’.  The JEE tests you only in Math, Physics and Chemistry(which is actually a huge relief for my son – as he is not too fond of any sort of English testing!! ;)) Only once you clear the ‘Mains’ exam – will you be allowed to participate in the advanced exam. As of this year(2019), the ‘Mains’ exam itself was conducted two times – once in January and once in April( and he took the exam both the times!!) There were a few students who scored 100% percentile in the Mains exam! (hats off to them!! :))

The ‘advanced’ exam is probably one of the toughest exams in India today. This year, the ‘advanced’ exam was held in late May. Students start preparing for the JEE exams right from fifth or sixth grade!!(unbelievable, right?)

We started our earnest preparation for the JEE exam only in 11th grade – even though he attended some sort of coaching in 7th and 8th grade too.

my travel diary

JEE Main and advanced exams:

The JEE Main exam was reasonably easy this year and my son scored an excellent percentile 99.4 percentile but with an AIR of 5922(can you imagine?!!) The JEE advanced exam though was an entirely different matter. It was set by IIT Roorkee and almost everyone was shaken by the paper.

Except for me!! 🙂

Why? My son always prefers harder papers and loves the challenge rather than the easier paper. I knew he would do well in a hard paper and he had brighter chance of entering the IITs! (how odd, know?!!) Finally, the results were declared on June 14th and true to my thinking he had scored very well in his advanced exam with an AIR of 2588.

JoSAA:

Once the advanced marks and ranks are in, the counselling process with JoSAA(Joint Seat Allocation Authority) starts. The whole process is entirely streamlined. Seat allotments for the different branches and colleges happens entirely online and with amazing precision. The rules are laid out beautifully and the movement happens perfectly. After going back and forth and dilly dallying on our choice of colleges and branches between the 23 IITs we finally accepted one IIT on Sunday, 7th July 2019.

The IITs give reservation only to the Scheduled castes(SC), Scheduled Tribe(ST), OBC(Other backward classes), EwS(economically weaker sections), physically handicapped and girl candidates. Since the ratio of boys to girls in IITs is very low, there has been extra reservation allotted for girls to enter the prestigious institution(which is a wonderful move, I would say!) IIT Delhi, even had open house exclusively for girls to attract girl talent into the institution.

What is so special about the IIT?

1.First and foremost, the students get to interact with a lot of like minded students which will definitely enhance one’s growth.

2. Next, obviously is going to be the money part. The students from the best and top IITs get placement offers from international and national companies such as Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Shell, Honeywell, Google and… you name it and they will be there!  The students can get placed at an offer of about 13 lakhs or more.

But of course, not all are going to be placed at that amount and a lot depends on your GPA and other factors.

3. An IIT degree has international recognition.

I am sure there are plenty of other factors but I could think of this only for now…

How much does it cost to study in an IIT?

This is something you will love to hear – it costs roughly about 3 lakhs per year! Now, 3 lakhs/year is actually mind bogglingly cheap from our standpoint(considering that we are in the most expensive part of India!!) This type of education from most international colleges and universities will definitely leave you with a standing student loan…or you would need to figure some other amazing ways to pay for it.

And finally from my son’s own words, the answer to 

“What sets the JEE Advanced apart from other engineering entrance exams?” 

  1. Most other engineering entrance exams consist of only a single paper. But as for JEE Advanced, it consists of two papers, each of 3 hours duration!
  2. The format of the JEE Advanced is not fixed, it varies from year to year.
  3. Questions in the JEE Advanced can be of many types, such as multiple choice (single/multiple correct answers), match the following, integer answer type, comprehension (or ‘paragraph’) type, and numerical answer type (correct to two decimal places). Most other entrance exams usually have all questions in the ‘multiple choice single correct’ format.
  4. The questions in JEE Advanced generally require a very deep and proper understanding of the topics, and some may test you on multiple concepts. They also generally take more time to solve.
  5. Because of the difficulty level of the questions, the number of questions in each paper is very small when compared to other entrance exams of similar duration. (For example, each of the two papers in this year’s JEE Advanced had only 54 questions!)
  6. The ‘multiple choice questions with multiple correct answers’ often have a different marking scheme compared to the rest of the questions. For example, in this year’s JEE Advanced, the marking scheme for such questions was as follows:
    1. If ALL the correct answers for a question are selected, and no incorrect answer is selected, 4 marks are awarded.
    2. If some (but not all) correct answers are selected, and no incorrect answers are selected, 1 mark is awarded for EACH correct answer that is selected.
    3. If no answer is selected, no marks are awarded.
    4. If any INCORRECT answer is selected, 1 mark is deducted from the total score.
    5. Example: If the correct answers for a question are A, C and D, then marking A, C, D will result in +4 marks, marking only A results in +1, marking A, C results in +2, but marking A, B, C results in -1.

This is the reason why most Professors and academicians throughout the world take JEE exam paper and analyze it and re-analyze it…

After IIT – life is smooth and easy?

Many of you might remember my IIT/IIM post from a few years back. ‘IIT’ is neither a beginning nor an ending but a great milestone for those who have achieved it.

The life at IIT or the degree obtained from an IIT can only get you up and running initially and have a nice tag behind your name throughout your life  – but it cannot immunize you against life’s ups and downs.

Life’s curves can only be handled by a lot of positivity, calmness and divine belief!!

Stay tuned for more on our IIT saga…:)

 

 

 

India, Musings

Realities of life in India!!

Yes, this is another post about the ‘Realities of life in…India’ not ‘USA’… 🙂 🙂 This post is mostly applicable mostly for families, individuals, couples who return after a foreign visit that lasts for 2+ years or more…so here goes…

  1. We are warmly greeted by “Sirs” and “Madams” in our personal and work environments…I was pleasantly thrown off by this sudden respect…(I did not know what to think of it initially – except,”Please,please don’t call me “Mam” – I don’t mind being called by my first name, however older I maybe to you” 🙂 🙂 !!) In India, I had forgotten, if somebody was older to you even by two years, we automatically became “Mam” and “Sir”!! Luckily, most of my remote acquaintances have only called me as “Jayanthi”…
  2. Remember the “loneliness” that I had written about in my US-India posts? There is nothing like that here… we have friends from our school days, friends from our college days and more friends and still more friends and counting…:) And in a city like Bangalore which has a constantly moving population, the friends circle only grows all the time…and no shortage of family too… So, none of the loneliness business – if at all, we are swimming in a sea of humanity all the time which is lovely!!
  3. As I see it, most of us in India do very well financially and personally too…if at all, the only hitch might be too many people trying to influence others decisions. So, anybody going to the US or other foreign countries for better financial prospects – not to worry – life is good here!! 🙂 ( for the middle and upper middle class)
  4. India, as I have observed after my US stay has a highly dependent culture. From the time we are young, children are dependent on parents and later in life, parents are dependent on children(again, no right or wrong here – just prefer the “independent” system so that we don’t stress the relationships around us) Consider these points:

a. In the US, children as young as nine months are taught to feed themselves and by the first year, they are eating independently with no help from parents. Contrast that to the Indian culture, where parents are continuously running behind the children with a bowl and spoon in hand helping them eat!!

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b. This continues to teenage years and beyond. As young teenagers, their Western counterparts are encouraged to step out of the house and start working at restaurants to understand the value of money. Is this even a feasible thought in Indian culture??(Plus,  it is absolutely unnecessary too – but there goes our independent thought!!)

c. Parents in the US are also encouraged to start planning for a child’s college education from the time they are born. Working professionals are encouraged to start saving for retirement once they start working, buy a house and finish paying the mortgage by the time they retire. This ensures that the child becomes independent when they enter college. Adults are independent and have enough money and own the house when they retire too!!

I am sure all this is prevalent in India of today – but up to what extent it is being done(or can be done) in India is highly debated…

d. Who can forget the maids, drivers, baby sitters, cooks of India? Every family’s routine relies heavily on the maids of India. We are heavily dependent on them for our daily chores and life is not same even if they are ‘off’ for a day… 😉

5. Children grow more naturally and are not confused about which way to go – the Indian way or the Western way or grasp both ways…

6. I cannot resist saying this again – but just the freedom to be able to work or study or do what you to do in life without visa restrictions is indeed a huge blessing! I feel for all the women or spouses on H4 visas(H4 visa holders cannot work) who are languishing their lives abroad with fantastic degrees and not being able to put it to good use…

7. In India, we are not the first to receive the cutting edge tech products(like the latest iPhone or the latest iPad) but it does come to us eventually! 🙂

8. Inter-caste and inter-religion marriages are better accepted now… I cannot imagine such a thing some 20 years ago…

9. India has a much more disciplined and meticulous life. I don’t think I have seen anybody coloring their hair, have interesting hair styles, wear different types of attire to school. Having a school uniform regulates a lot of things for school going kids. Women might try different attires but only in a city like Bangalore or other bigger cities – the smaller tier 1 and tier 2 cities expects women to be fully clad…

10. Engineering and medicine are still the most sought after professions in India! And getting into IIT is still the greatest dream of every Indian parent!!

11. And last but not least, cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad have considerable number of  children born in the US. These children have returned back to India with their parents and there are plenty of schools that accommodate them. Even colleges have a separate category on their forms for children born abroad – “OCI”!! So it is all not only “brain drain” …the reality is that there are parents who have decided to come to India for good  and India loves to accommodate these returnees!!

Cheers!

India, US

Realities of life in the USA – 2

I thought I was done with writing about India and US but I was watching a Tamil movie ‘Achamundu Achamundu’ yesterday and all my thoughts coherently aligned yet again for another reality post!! 🙂

  1. Loneliness is a huge killer for Indian families in the USA…especially, women. If you are neither a student nor are working, loneliness will grab you in her arms and never let go of you!! 😦 If you live in a cold place like Detroit, Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago -you can be certain you will be in her arms at least once in your time there.
  2. Most women who are neither working nor studying, will end up making friends in the local library, school, college, parks or other social gatherings.
  3. Friends will be the real social strength for immigrants in the USA. Anybody from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,  Bangladesh and any/all Asian countries – we become extremely attached to them because of our common culture! 🙂
  4. Social gatherings like weddings, engagements, pre-engagements, baby showers, baby arrival gatherings and more will come and go in India and you will be cut-off from them. You will see them in all probability only when the child goes to kindergarten or beyond…
  5. You will really not see many people outside walking on the streets like in India.You will definitely see cars, cars and more cars…

 

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6. Doing laundry everyday is really not the norm in the USA. It is something that visiting parents and in-laws will find difficulty adjusting to.

7. And if your apartment, has a common laundromat – be prepared to carry your clothes to the laundromat…(don’t we miss the maids in India?!! :))

8. Most families will not get the newspaper in paper format either. Again that is a fact that many visiting parents and in-laws have to get adjusted to.

9. If you get to visit the USA as a student, finances will be absolutely tight. You will be trying to prove yourself as a good student and you have to manage all the finances all alone for the first time in your life too.  This is probably the toughest path for an immigrant and the most satisfying one too. You will enjoy the American system of education which is fundamentally different from the Indian system.

10. One eye or rather both eyes will keep track of every movement in India too!! 🙂 Who has won the election, what is the trend in women’s fashion world(for women), what are the children of India studying currently – might be some thoughts that are constantly whizzing through us – this is also the way to keep in touch with our motherland…

11. If you have decided to settle in the USA, you will be visiting India more than 2-3 times a year for different reasons and excuses!! 😉

Read the first part of ‘Realities of life in the USA’  here…have I missed any other realities?

India

CBSE vs ICSE – always a good battle!! :)

As most of us from India might be aware, CBSE and ICSE are the two popular education boards in India. While most of us parents are strongly attached to one particular board for any which reason, putting our child into either of the boards is a perennial dilemma for most parents. We choose one board and then after a few years think the other board might have been better and we keep see-sawing on the decision.

However, with my son having completed his Xth grade from the ICSE board and XIIth grade from the CBSE board,  these are a few of my learnings over the years:

  1. When he first started school in India in fourth grade, we had safely forgotten the nitty-gritty details of boards in India(remember – we returned after a long US stint) We saw the first school, liked it and he stayed there, irrespective of the board. It was then we learnt that the school was an ICSE school and learnt the ICSE way of approach.
  2. ICSE syllabus is vast. Writing ‘vast’ in the English language is easy – but understanding the word ‘vast’ and studying the ‘vast’ syllabus in ten subjects is not easy.
  3. There are ten subjects in the ICSE board for grade 10 – yes, TEN!!  They are Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Hist/Civics, Geography, English language, English literature, Computers/PE/or another optional subject, 2nd language.
  4. There will inevitably be 50 chapters in Math, 50 chapters in Physics, 50 chapters in Chemistry and so on for the final board exam!! There have been times when my son has always been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information in Xth grade and has always asked me one simple question “How can I look at all 50 chapters the night before the exam?” The answer of course is quite simple – you cannot look at all the chapters before the exam, you can only look at the weakest ones before the exam. The ICSE exam thus needs a lot of exam hacks and cracks to be successful in it with less stress.
  5. Most parents feel the CBSE board offers less stress – because the subjects are clubbed together(like Physics, Chemistry, Biology as ‘Science’, History/Civics/Geo as ‘Social Studies’) Now, I cannot say for sure whether the CBSE board till Xth grade is less stress or not – but you sure have to study all the science laws and Trignometric formulae to ace life’s academic tests.
  6. In hindsight, XIIth grade CBSE board was a relatively easier and happier experience for my son.
  7. Now, the final irony was that when the grade X and grade XII results for both the boards were released this year, the ICSE/ISC students were awarded full marks or centums in many subjects such as Math, Computer Science, History/Civics/Geo while not many were awarded centums in Math and Sciences in CBSE schools!! ( And I am a sucker for centums! :))

Quite a twist in tale, right? The supposedly easier syllabus had lesser known centums and the grading was harder (atleast from what I have seen around me) and the supposedly harder syllabus had more centums and more students got better marks than they expected!!

I am not sure which syllabus had the last laugh?

Parenting

My ’99’ mark wonder boy!! :)

Many of you might recollect that I sat and waited and waited for the Xth grade marks to be declared for my son, two years ago..but this time, around the the CBSE twelfth grade results in India took us all by surprise by being declared suddenly!! (but it was a sweet surprise, though!! :)) In India we love the declaration of Xth grade and XIIth grade marks …everyone is excited and going bonkers, phones ringing incessantly – the excitement has been the same from the time I studied 12th grade!! :)(if at all, it has grown more!!)

The anticipation is always huge for my nerdy and geeky son, who is known to only “study”!! 🙂 (yes, he exists!!) The boy whom I have never taught anything since the age of 2,(yes – you saw that number correct!! :)) and who has never been to any form of tuition (rather he is capable of him taking tuitions!!) all through his school, finally got his 12th grade results yesterday.

While I always wonder what is “the” thing that must be shared on social media…I always end up sharing my son’s marks on social media through a blog post!! 🙂 So, here without any further procrastination – are his marks:

Computers – 99/100

Math -99/100

Physics- 99/100

Chem -95/100

English – 95/100

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With a total percentage of 97.4%!! (and ironically it is the same percentage as his Xth grade!!)

And where does he stand in school with this result? He is the SCHOOL TOPPER!! 🙂 YES, HE DID IT – even though the ‘1’ mark in each subject evaded him, we are all over the moon for him!! 🙂 🙂 We couldn’t have been more proud, happier and excited!!

To the boy, who entirely studied on his own and drew his own timetables and formed his own shortcuts and never gave his parents anything to worry about on the studying front, may HAPPINESS and SUCCESS always find you!! 🙂

To the teachers, students of Bala’s present school and his past school(s) – we are forever indebted in shaping our son’s life and always having trust and faith in him!! Thank you for making him smile and giving him a happy carefree environment to grow!!

 

 

 

 

 

Family, India

Women’s Day

It is March 8th and yet another Women’s Day..while we rejoice this important day and women’s equality is always discussed in all spheres of life in every part of the world,  I keep wondering what can and should change for women. It should not be a one day affair that we talk about it and forget about it later in the year. From career choices, to pay checks, to household chores – there is always something that a women wants to speak up for.

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While I have always been very lucky in that “I” have been the only one in my life who always made my choices in how I want to work, whether I want to work and how my life will be, I know many women might not have that luxury. They are boxed into certain “careers” or “likes” from a very young age. They are told(directly or indirectly) they should be married at ‘xyz’ age and not study too much(because they will not get an equally educated groom!!) (All this might not be as prevalent in the bigger cities of India – but it is definitely present in the smaller cities)

Women in bigger cities of India have definitely come a long way but still I feel we are “boxed” into certain categories “working before marriage”, “should not work after marriage”, “must work after marriage” etc etc. I am sure most of us are helping in any little way, but I would suggest the beautiful woman to take charge and decide what is best for her and her family… after all the woman’s happiness is the family’s happiness!

Help her choose what she wants to do and stand by her!

Cheers and Happy Women’s Day! 🙂