How do you prepare for JEE?

The golden question asked by each and every one of the 15 lakh students appearing for JEE Main this year is how do you prepare for JEE? We just had to answer this question.

We assume that you would have considered the glory at stake and the hard work which it brings to a student. After all, it’s not an easy task to forgo all the fun of your teenage years school and devote that time to prepare for an exam, you may or may not succeed in. If you are still evaluating writing JEE as an option, do check this – Why you should give JEE? or Where does JEE take you to? Our take – it’s worth the effort, and some. If you agree, read on to know the grand recipe for success in JEE.

We spoke with more than twenty-five Top 100 rankers in IIT Bombay (~75 of top 100 ranker choose to go to IIT Bombay every year). In our journey to help a genuine JEE aspirant, we sought the special secrets that these guys swore by. We tried to look for the secret sauce which they were applying to their daily breakfast bread which made them sharper at calculus, enabled them to imagine what an electron would do in every organic reaction, helped them visualise a rotational kinematics problem and allowed them to emerge as winners after defeating every JEE problem thrown at them.

We spoke to them over a period of one month, asked them over 100 questions, with a motive to find the holy grail for success in JEE. We questioned ourselves and asked – 15 lakh people every year crave for success in this exam. Is there a code that only the Top 20 AIRs are able to crack? Is it sheer luck? Is it some very peculiar methodical way?

When we put our minds to it, went through every interview we recorded, we started seeing patterns which should have been obvious to us from the start. The ‘Trade Secrets’ were things which were right in front of our eyes always but went unnoticed.

So we thought of sharing these secrets, which were born out of the analysis that we derived from this activity, with you in the best, purest and the most unbiased way possible.

For making all of this high-density information readable, let’s split it into different sections.

  1. The Preparation
  2. The Books
  3. The Sections
  4. The Question Paper
  5. The Exam Strategy
  6. The Health

The Preparation

A. The Preparation

The preparation was one area where all high rankers literally nailed it. They were clear; their plans were actionable and they went into their day with the plan in their head. They had a timetable which they followed religiously and made it a point to remain on top of all their preparation needs. In short, they were smart, dogged and relentless about it.

This is what we found:

  1. The Problem – A smart JEE aspirant will not get stuck on a problem. He knows that when he will attempt it again with a fresh mind, he will crack it; if not, then some time later, but he’ll find the solution by hook or crook. A lot of JEE aspirants get demotivated when they get stuck and get drowned in the feeling. Demotivation is one of the biggest enemies you can have with your preparation.
  2. The Doubt – A smart JEE aspirant will make it a point to ask his teachers about the most trivial doubts possible. Remember, in JEE, there is no such thing as a trivial doubt because this doubt may come in your way of solving problems during the exam.
  3. The Follow-up – A smart JEE aspirant will record all his doubts over his JEE preparation and do a rigorous follow-up on each and every doubt to resolve them. JEE is made to evaluate smart people which are why problems in JEE are asked on the most conspicuous concepts. If every nook and corner of a concept are clear to you, you will crack the problem. Otherwise, it’s might turn out to be a nightmare.
  4. The Teacher – A smart JEE aspirant is always in his teacher’s good books. He pays attention in the class, writes notes, revises it once he’s back from class (we have been told this many times, and this is the truth. This works. Big-time). Small habits like these may differentiate a smart worker from a hard worker.
  5. The 12th Board – A smart JEE aspirant doesn’t neglect the 12th Boards. Don’t listen to anyone who says it’s not a priority. JEE Main is hosted by the same board which runs CBSE. Many rankers whom we spoke to had read their CBSE books cover to cover, word to word, and they claimed that it helped a lot. CBSE books make a great foundation for your JEE preparation.
  6. The Distraction – A smart JEE aspirant stays away from distractions and addictions. TV, play-stations, cricket – one extra hour overdone on these activities during a crucial period in your preparation  and your rank might slip beyond your expectations. We didn’t find anyone totally not doing it but all of the people whom we spoke to had apparently realized the importance of self-control over all of this because it pays in the end.
  7. The Motivation – A smart JEE aspirant remains inspired and motivated throughout. It’s very important to have a group of friends who are inspired, driven and are always working their mind to solve problems. A very true quote – You are the average of the five people around you.

A lot of this might be very personal but we have outlined a set of areas which you should surely focus on; many others you may have to figure out for yourselves. We are not saying the path is easy but stay motivated and you’ll be able to scale great heights.

The Books

B. The Books

Physics:

Must Read
NCERT
Concepts of Physics by HC Verma (Part 1 and 2)
Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday Resnick and Walker

Chemistry:

Must Read
NCERT
Physical Chemistry by O. P. Tandon
Numerical chemistry by P. Bahadur
Organic Chemistry for JEE (Main and Advanced) by Solomons, Fryhle and M. S. Chauhan
Concise Inorganic Chemistry by J. D. Lee

Mathematics:

Must Read
NCERT
Higher Algebra by Hall and knight
Trigonometry by S. L. Loney
Coordinate Geometry by S. L. Loney
Calculus and Analytic Geometry by Thomas and Finney

Books are beyond crucial and play a very integral role in your JEE preparation. Choosing the right books for practice can make a lot of difference. Most of the recommended books which students practice are mentioned above (Don’t skip the MUST READ tag!).

Some ground rules for when you practice from the books:

  1. Practice everything  there is in the syllabus of JEE. Don’t practice anything which is not covered under JEE. Know your priorities; If you like something, mark it and practice later. Remember, you need to be smart about this.
  2. Many times, a lot of these books have many similar questions. Don’t waste your time solving each and every one of them. Once you know how to approach a particular type of question, you can pretty much solve all the similar ones.
  3. We understand that you get bragging rights when you solve questions through Irodov and Krotov, but problems in these books should be tackled ideally after you are done with the stuff that actually matters i.e. the regular coursebooks . If you want to do this for fun, it’s OK, but don’t overdo.
  4. The main aim of any book is to provide you with questions to practice and to clear your concepts. Toppr itself provides access to 200,000 questions which will last you for a lifetime. Keep practicing the topics that you are uncomfortable with. That’s what will get you ahead.


sections

C. The Sections

Physics:

Physics is one subject which has both intense haters and passionate lovers. From people to whom the subject is a mystery to the ones who have mastered it, you’ll find them all. A critical aspect of preparation for JEE Physics is that one must have solved enough problems to know all the different kinds of possible  problems, from as many different possible topics.

You can look at a Physics problem like a jigsaw puzzle, where each individual jigsaw blocks represent concepts and problem-solving techniques with respect to Physics problems. For some jigsaws, it is clear, even before you put a few pieces together, how the final solution will look like. For instance, for a given set of information, you would know that if you draw a free body diagram and balance forces you will surely get the result. For many problems in JEE, the full picture might not be visible right away. You need to start with parts of the jigsaw that you have seen earlier and then fit in the missing parts. To be able to identify these different parts of the jigsaw, you will need to have used them earlier in a different problem during preparation. Collect as many of these jigsaw parts in your armory as possible and use them frequently. Make sure that you know where these ready-to-fit parts originally come from, for JEE can make a completely new jigsaw out of an existing one. Knowing your concepts inside out will ensure that no problem can puzzle you!  

Here are some tips for some of the most commonly encountered topics in JEE physics:

  • In Kinematics and Newton’s Laws, try to keep the formulae that you memorize to a minimum. For instance, in projectile motion, all the formulas are easily derivable within seconds if you use two principles – horizontal velocity remains constant and vertical velocity changes just as for an object under free-fall. Stick to the fundamental concepts and practice a variety of problems.
  • For conservation of energy and momentum, you should be able to analyze the problem and list the variables that need to be found. Then you should know and understand the physical rules that will give you equations to find these variables.
  • In problems in rotation, understand the importance of axis of reference and conservation of angular momentum.
  • In Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM), it is necessary to know the equations for velocity, displacement and acceleration and to be able to write the force equation about the mean position for small displacements.
  • For waves and sound waves, there are a few starting points for which you have to remember the formulae. Keep them in a list and practice how they are used in different problems.

All in all keep the ready-to-fit jigsaw pieces exercised and up for new situations. The key to solving a complex problem is to break it down into components you can deal with. If you are familiar with enough of these jigsaws or components and they are fresh and ready, no problem should be alien or unsolvable.

Mathematics:

If there’s one section of JEE which cannot be conquered without extensive practice, it’s Mathematics. There is unlimited type of questions which can be formed from a single topic. This is precisely the reason you should practice as many types of questions as you can. If you aim to excel at this subject, leave no stone unturned in your preparation for the variety of notorious topics that this subject holds.

Remember the old saying ‘Practice makes a man perfect.’ Tell you what, it does!

So let’s see what special things need to be taken care of while solving problems in Mathematics.

  1. There is one trick which is not specific to Mathematics but is highly useful in JEE. It is called checking/eliminating the options by trial and error method. For example, if we have been given a problem in which we have to find a general formula in terms of n we can put n=2,3 etc and check which options can be eliminated easily. Also, in order to develop your speed, do some calculations in your mind and remember some interesting properties of numbers like Pythagorean triplets, squares, cubes, prime numbers, co-primes etc.
  2. Most of the questions from Sets and Functions revolve around identifying the domain/range of functions and points of maxima/minima. Here are a few tips and tricks to master:
    1. Good knowledge of properties of special functions like modulus, greatest integer function, fractional part function etc., will always help.
    2. The trick to solving any problem related to finding the roots of a function which are a combination of functions such as trigonometric ratios, logarithms and exponential functions is by breaking it into two functions, both of which you can deal with separately. All you have to do now is to find the point of intersection of these two functions. For example: finding the pointing of intersection of y=x and y=logx is much simpler (Use graphical methods) than figuring out the roots of x=logx.
    3. There are many students who panic when they see exponential functions, especially when both base and exponents are functions of x, for instance, say  xtanx. The trick to avoiding all the scare is to use logarithms and convert the given equations to get linear terms and try to resolve the problem further. Caution: Be careful while using this technique, as sometimes taking a logarithm might actually increase the complexity of a simple exponential problem.
  3. Coming to Trigonometry and Solutions of Triangles, try your luck by substituting standard values of angles of 30°, 45°, 60° or of sides of a triangle like (3,4,5) (5,12,13) in the options to eliminate at least two options. You can also try putting the options into the equations given in the question.
  4. In some questions which deal with Integral Calculus, we can differentiate the options and then examine them. Just be careful when the options contain ‘None of these’ or ‘All of these’ as this means there might be no unique answer and you would need to examine all the options before arriving at a conclusion.
  5. Also, for problems in conic sections, 3D geometry and vectors, drawing a well labeled and almost to the scale diagram surely helps. Depending upon the question and the diagram it may be possible to “see” the answer.
  6. In Permutations & Combinations or Probability, the problem can be sometimes solved very easily by finding the cases of “not” event rather than finding the number of cases of the event. For example, finding the number of ways of choosing at max 9 rings out of 10 different rings boils down to the subtracting number of cases of choosing 10 things altogether from a total number of combinations. 

You might have found that every person you approach has different sets of tips and the best ones are those which are formulated or deduced by you. Solve as many questions as you can and figure out the best ways to approach different types of questions for yourself.

Chemistry:

Chemistry is one section where you can score heavily if you have put in enough effort. Unlike Maths and Physics, Chemistry questions, especially organic and inorganic, fall into two categories: the ones you know the answer to and the ones you don’t. So ensuring that you  are well versed with the entire syllabus and have practiced enough problems will guarantee you a more than the decent score in Chemistry.

  1. For organic chemistry, it is recommended to make notes from reference books like Pradeep’s. NCERT has 6 chapters in organic chemistry and the hand-written notes for these chapters can be easily prepared within 6 days. After preparing these notes, review them every day.  You need to remember the reactions and understand the different mechanisms for each of these reactions. Apply these concepts while solving questions. Practice as much as you can. Regular practice and revision are the only way to master the numerous reactions and mechanisms in organic Chemistry. You can find excellent practice questions from Toppr’s exhaustive question database or any other coaching institute’s reference books. Refer to your notes while answering questions and add pointers to your notes whenever you come across a new type of question which requires the understanding of a new concept or a trick. Practicing questions will help you clear more and more concepts in detail. Master the concept of acidity and basicity of organic compounds as most of the entrance exams ask questions based on this concept.
  2. For inorganic chemistry, you can easily get good quality notes from any coaching institute’s reference book. All you need to do is take out one hour of your time and daily revise it. Most questions are asked about p pi- p pi and p pi – d pi bonding. A thorough understanding of this topic is essential; a visualization is an important tool. Also, the concept of hybridization is very critical. Understand how to approach questions based on hybridization, geometry and structure. Learn the position of different elements in the periodic table and the groups they belong to, at least up to the first 40 elements. Knowing where a particular element belongs in the periodic table gives you a fair idea of its properties, which in turn, can prove to be useful in many problems. Memorizing is a difficult task and for the majority of cases, not a preferable one. Moreover, it’s unreliable. Hence, practice as many problems as you can. With maximum practice itself, you will be able to learn a lot of concepts on the way.
  3. For physical chemistry, you should first learn the basic unitary method of solving maths problems. The same concept can then be applied for solving problems dealing with mole concept. As far as the theory is concerned I would advise you to go for the book written by O.P. Tandon or Pradeep’s. Besides the book I mentioned, you should solve the past years’ IIT-JEE questions. They are excellent for concept building. Also, NCERT books are highly underrated. I believe they are nicely worded and excellent for conceptual understanding of the subject. Learn, cram, memorize the reactions of different reagents in acidic, basic and alkaline medium. It is very important to know these reactions while solving questions on stoichiometry.

The keys to success: be prepared, focus on understanding, work enough problems outside of class to learn the concepts – you’ll never learn the concepts unless you make mistakes on problems and learn from them – and stay caught up with the material. Remember, ‘The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.’

The QS

D. The Question Paper

The JEE question paper is a highly debated topic. The process of creation of this famous question paper has been very *hush-hush*. It needs to be. There have been instances of the JEE papers being leaked before (in 1997). JEE committee takes proper care while making the paper. There are even rumors that the JEE paper is made on an isolated island (remember the movie The Shutter Island?).

Pattern:

Mode of Examination: Both Pen and Paper (P&P) mode and Computer Based (CBT) mode

Duration: 3 hours

Type of Questions: Objective Type Questions, with equal weight to Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics

Marking Scheme: 4 marks to be awarded for each successful attempt and -1 is to be deducted for each incorrect response

Physics: 30 questions. 4 marks each. ( Total = 120 marks)

Mathematics: 30 questions. 4 marks each. ( Total = 120 marks)

Chemistry: 30 questions. 4 marks each. ( Total = 120 marks)

Grand Total: 360 marks

The thing with JEE question paper is that the type of questions keeps changing. There are blank type questions, single choice questions, multiple choice questions and what not. If someone told you that the JEE Main 2016 will contain some out of the box new type of questions, DON’T believe the person. No one knows except the committee that makes the question paper.

Be confident, understand the concepts, clear your doubts and chill out. Don’t worry about the pattern.

Here’s a small analysis of JEE 2013 and 2014 Mathematics section:

Overall, the spread of questions across topics followed the general trend with a heavy weight to definite integration, differential calculus, coordinate geometry, permutations, combinations, probability and trigonometry. But within these topics, a small and similar range of concepts are tested. For instance, there were too many questions on functions defined by integrals. Also, all the questions about vectors were about their dot and cross products. Several questions on whether a given function was one-one and onto were asked. The problems on probability were simple where one had to find the number of favorable cases. The questions on matrices involved the identification of the invertibility of a matrix in terms of its determinant. Questions on conditional probability, number theory, inequalities, binomial identities, vector applications and conics (not including circles) were not in found in proportion in both the tests.


Across both the papers, like always, there were some easy questions that a student should spot quickly and not miss out on. The questions on matrices required only basic knowledge of concepts in invertibility. The counting question just involved the counting of diagonals and sides of a polygon and one of the other simple questions just required the student to differentiate a given equation to find the slope of the curve. Another question on probability could be easily solved using the hit and trial method.


However, in both papers, there were some unique and interesting questions as well. A question on combinations had a twist with the standard integral solutions of linear equations. There was a question on limits which had a catch and an unsuspecting student might have arrived at two possible solutions and not noticed that one had to be discarded. Another interesting question on basic coordinate geometry could be solved using the graphical interpretation of sum of distances from two lines.


Again like every year, some questions were time-consuming and a smart student should keep an eye out and skip such questions. One of these was a question on the solution of triangles which involved sine and cosine relations with circumradius and inradius. To give another example, there was a question of linear differential equations with a trigonometric substitution.


There were also a few questions where a student who had studied slightly beyond the broadly defined JEE syllabus had an advantage. Counting derangements, which appeared in the exam, was not generally assumed to be within the syllabus. Another question could have been easily solved if the student had knowledge of substitutions of hyperbolic functions. Similar is the case with a column match question that was easily solvable by students who had handled complex roots of unity previously.

The analysis of the Physics section in JEE Advanced 2014 shows that the level of difficulty was moderate for both the papers and that this section was relatively easier than the other two sections and out of the 40 questions, 16 were seen to be easy and 15 moderately difficult. The distribution of questions across different topics was not uniform and strongly biased towards mechanics and electrodynamics which accounted for 40% and 27.5% of the total marks respectively. The question spread in Mechanics, however, was more or less even, with a stress on fluid mechanics, properties of matter and rigid body dynamics. For electrodynamics, the question ranged from electrostatics to current electricity with 2 questions asked on concepts in capacitance.

Heat and thermodynamics were given 12.5% weight in the question paper followed by optics, SHM & waves and modern physics having 10%, 5% and 5% weight respectively. Questions in thermodynamics were dominated by the kinetic theory of gases along with one question from calorimetry & thermal expansion. Given, the questions were not very difficult, a student may try to maximize his/her chances by spotting the easier questions first to score over other competitors and then proceed to the harder questions. This allows for the most optimum utilization of time.

The Chemistry section, on the other hand, was the most difficult section among the three with a heavy stress on class XII syllabus. Out of the 40 questions, 50% were rated as difficult with 14 questions on organic chemistry. Out of the 14 questions asked, 12 were asked from organic chemistry-II, which includes stereoisomerism, carboxylic acid derivatives, aromatic compounds etc. 3 questions were asked based on the reaction mechanisms of alkyl halides, alcohols and ethers.

The inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry sections shared 15 and 11 questions between them. The former saw 5 questions from p-block, 4 from chemical bonding and 3 from d & f-block while the remaining 3 questions were distributed across coordination compounds, metallurgy and qualitative analysis. The marks distribution in the physical chemistry section was more even with most of the topics having one question each and gaseous state, mole concept and thermodynamics having 2 questions each. The chemistry section was difficult and hence it is important to take note that scoring heavily in the other two sections would be essential to make up for the marks lost in a subject that is usually considered high scoring.

The Exam Strategy

E. The Exam Strategy

A smart army commander will always know all about the enemy he is fighting against. He will also know whether he is fighting in snow, rains, highlands, lowlands, marshlands, dense forests or waters. A commander who wins the battle is able to use all of this to his advantage and overpower the enemy. Assume the JEE question paper to be your battlefield. You should know everything about it– pattern, no. of questions, marking scheme, time and anything else you can imagine. Only then you will be able to make a strategy around it to crack the exam.

Some strategies which our AIRs told us.

  1. The Easy first, Hard second – As obvious from the title, you do the easy questions first and then move on to the harder ones. Skip questions which don’t seem obvious after reading once and giving it a brief thought. You can always come back once you have ensured that you are not missing out on free dollies.
  2. The Deep Review – Start with a 15 min deep review of the question paper. On the way, mark questions you want to do first, mark questions which are hazy post the first read, mark questions which are hard but should do, etc. This can be followed to use strategy no. 1 more effectively.

Strategies can be very personal and you should not follow anything with blind faith. You should be implementing a tried and tested strategy of your own in the final exam. That’s why it’s very important to test everything on a sample paper or a test series.

health

F. The Health

Health is the most underrated topic of JEE preparation. Exam time is tension time. We all know that. It is the time when we lose all focus except one – the exam. The exam is the biggest step towards realizing your dream, which is why it is very important. The fact that it is so crucial puts students under so much pressure that they forget their eating habits, sleeping habits, social life, and just about everything else. While you should study hard for your exam, you should never compromise on your healthy eating habits. NEVER EVER EVER!

We are all too familiar with students falling sick before the exam or fainting during the exam or coming down with terrible dehydration. All these incidents happen when you neglect your health. The body needs to be in sync with your JEE preparation and it needs to know that. A lot of students try keeping their brains sharp during 9 am – 12 pm which is when the final JEE happens. It helps the body to account for this and helps you be your sharpest at this time. You should too!

Understand that solving a paper is a very personal and specific strategy. Solve as many papers as you can, get to know your comfort zones and strategize your moves accordingly. Be fluid as well, change your plan as and when you find shortcomings in them.

In the end, it all boils down to the amount of tireless dedication and hours of practice that you bring to the table. Work with a burning zeal towards JEE and, honestly you’ll be able to solve any paper given to you.

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