Basic things required to get into IITs

BASICS: Give us a brief about you?
Varun: I did my schooling from DPS Bhopal. I have recently completed 2 years in Computer Science at IIT Kanpur. I am a Tech fanatic and research enthusiast. While exploring the various fields out here, my interests developed in Machine Learning and Computer Vision. I would like to pursue research and hence higher studies in the future after my B.Tech.

BASICS: What inspired you to get into IIT’s?
Varun: I was always attracted towards computers and all the fancy technology. I liked to read about new gadgets, upcoming innovations and space research. My school exposed programming to me and I just loved it. I developed several short games like minesweeper, tic-tac-toe, etc in lab time. This fascination was the driving factor for working hard to get into IIT and more specifically in Computer Science.
I knew at IIT I would get a lot of opportunities to work on my interests. And this turned out to be true. (I have an elder sister who used to tell me about the culture at IIT so I was pretty aware of IITian life.) I dreamt of creating airplanes, robots of my own design, trying out Artificial Intelligence, etc while in school. To my surprise, I was able to do all of them in the first year itself.

BASICS: According to you what is the basic thing that is required to get into IITs?
Varun: According to my experience, MOTIVATION is of utmost importance. At the end of 2 years, everyone has almost the same knowledge (thanks to our dear coachings there) what’s important is that you remain calm, confident and motivated while giving the exam.
During the preparation time, you have to have a source of motivation. He/she can be your teacher, sister or anyone. Other than this you yourself must have a reason to come to IIT. You should be able to answer this question “What will you do when you come to IIT?”. The answer could be as simple as “I want to explore the fields with experienced people working in them.”

BASICS: Have you always been a topper and a hard-working student?
Varun: Before class 5, I was living in small towns so being a topper there didn’t matter much. It was in class 5 that I shifted to DPS and saw heavy competition there in every field; be it sports, academics and what not. So obviously I wasn’t in the top rung initially, however was able to come out in the top students within two years.

Hard work meant only studying before exams for me till 8. I used to do my homework in the school itself so that I have all my time at home for playing. In class 8 I joined coaching coz I was afraid of tutions (some past experiences ). There I saw yet another bunch of super intelligent guys solving out H.C. Verma of 9 and 10 in class 8. It was again a race to come to the top. Coming close to those guys was my goal for next 2-3 years. So from class 8, I was serious enough towards studies though that was restricted only towards olympiads, not school studies.

BASICS: Give some tips to increase efficiency while studying.
Varun: I would recommend having a clock ticking by your side whenever you study. The clock prevents you from wasting your time. It reminds how each second goes by and you still have a lot to do in life. While solving questions set a time limit like 2min/ques (say) and start a timer. Try to achieve that target. This way the entire duration is completely utilised without distraction.

BASICS: How to gain confidence & develop interest in subjects?
Varun: To develop interest I would suggest focussing on concepts and their applications. You would be amazed to see that a simple fact can be exploited to create a complicated machine.
Confidence comes from within as well as with your company. First, you should try to tackle each and every question posed out to you. Try to do it with your full power. Once you are able to solve a few questions and are able to clear doubts of your friends you will gain confidence. Its true knowledge increases by sharing. Discussing with your friends is an easy and interesting way to clear concepts and gathering knowledge. Competing with them on solving questions would give you confidence. The more you compete the more confidence you will get.
Here it’s needed that you don’t lose confidence if you are left behind. It should make you work harder to perfect yourself.

BASICS: How to plan studies & daily routine to have maximum productivity?
Varun: The daily routine depends on the person. Some like to study at night while others in the morning. So I really won’t involve much here. As far as productivity is concerned, I have already told, discussion with friends (only study no random talks) and timed question solving is essential.

BASICS: How to be emotionally strong & cope up with the stress of JEE preparation?
Varun: As I told if you have a reason to go to IIT then you also know that it can be fulfilled through other means also. You know that IIT is not your destination or final goal. Your life won’t end if you don’t reach IIT. Whatever your goal is, there’s always another pathway. So having a reason to go into IIT is important because it gives you the courage to face the exam. You know that even if I don’t get into IIT I can reach my goal. This gives a feeling of security and prevents nervousness.
My experience was I never felt stress during JEE prep due to constant motivation, interest in subjects, dedicated company (towards studies) and the desire to reach my goal. These things easily help you in countering stress leave aside coping up with stress.

BASICS: How to balance JEE syllabus & school syllabus?
Varun: Essentially JEE syllabus and school syllabus go hand in hand. If you have studied for JEE diligently then you have all the concepts extremely clear. All you need to do is to learn how to write in board exams and that takes just 3-4 days per subject. I was preparing for mains while in board exams as giving a mains paper already covered my practice for physics, chemistry and maths. So I just studied English specifically for boards. For rest, I just gave the previous year papers to see how I perform and get those copies checked by school teachers.

BASICS: How is life at IIT? Tell us about your experience
Varun: Life at IIT is awesome. You will have only 2-3 hrs of classses per day and rest you are free. Essentially you get 5.5 months of vactaions in all per year. So you have lots and lots of time to pursue your own interests and hobbies. And yes there is a club here for every activity you can think of; adventure sports, music, racing, etc.
Sometimes you have to really think what should I do now!! You will develop great contacts that’s for sure. Everyone is gonna do something great and they will be your future support centre. You can easily get funding for whatever you want: Start-Ups Yes! New Clubs Yes! Equipments Yes! Projects and what not.

BASICS: Some books you will suggest to your juniors for JEE preparations
Varun: Books as most of you have heard:
Physics- HC Verma, NCERT (Along with HOTS exercised at the end they are great), I.E.Erodov and 100 problems in physics (For those searching for challenging problems though sometimes they are beyond JEE level), Resnick and Halliday (For concept strengthening only no need to study entire book)
Maths- I didn’t do much other than Cengage specifically. Mostly I took up any book that my librarian at coaching gave for solving. But do go through Play with graphs it is essential for calculus.
Chemistry- NCERT(very important), Atkins for physical (Only for concept strengthening), JD lee (If interested in inorganic chemistry ), Rest your teachers can tell better
Some books are too heavy (like Atkins, JD Lee, Resnick ) use them to clear specific topic. Don’t go on reading the entire book.
INTERNET- Great book for every subject. Google helped me a lot during studies.

BASICS: What are the mistakes students usually make while preparing for JEE? How can they be avoided?
Varun: Students usually try to study continuously for 9-10 hrs at a stretch. That is not effective, In those 10 hours your brain effectively functions for 6hrs at max. So I would recommend every student to have a break (30 min) after 2-3 hrs of study. It refreshes your mind. Yet another myth is WhatsApp and smartphone waste your time. It really depends on you and your company (friends). For me, they were a time saver. I could easily send the question to my friend and he would do it and reply back. I used to take photos of good questions that I see and store it on my mobile for future revision. Essentially smartphone helped a lot in my studies.

BASICS: What is the ideal time one should devote in the preparation?
Varun: I was given a target of 16 hrs of daily studies including your coaching and school. But this was after November in class 12 when the time was less. In general, I would recommend 10 hrs of study in total at least if you in class 11. But this was just my experience whenever you start feeling satisfied that I have done a decent job today that’s ok. You will know how much work is needed to reach your goal.

BASICS: While preparing for JEE what was the most difficult phase that you had to go through?
Varun: There was a time when I got demotivated and my performance dropped. I talked to my teachers, parents and siblings. They motivated me and helped me recover from that. Rest most of the time as I said I never considered JEE as a stress.

BASICS: Any message that you will like to give to your juniors?
Varun: I would say only three things – Find a reason for everything you do, Remain motivated towards it and believe in yourself.

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