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India - Bad to Worse; In IIT with 5% in JEE Physics 


             In the IIT joint entrance examination of 2007, a score of 15% in mathematics was enough to make it to IIT-Kanpur. If you found that shockiMore Pictures ng, look at this year's figures. In 2008, students could join IIT-Kharagpur despite scoring no more than 5% in physics. 

            For the second year running, the reduction of subject cutoffs to single digits under a procedure introduced in 2007 has allowed less meritorious candidates to slip into IITs even in the general category. 

            This flies in the face of the seemingly reassuring statistics put out by IIT-Roorkee on its website in August stating that in the 2008 JEE conducted by it, the marks obtained by the last admitted candidate in the general category were 63 out of 162 in maths (39%), 72 in physics (44%) and 45 in chemistry (28%). 

            The website glossed over the fact that some of the admitted candidates who obtained higher aggregates (and, therefore, higher ranks) actually scored much lower marks in one or the other subject than those scored by the last admitted candidate. 

           The lowest marks in individual subjects among the candidates admitted to IITs this year are 10 in maths (6%), 8 in physics (5%) and 15 in chemistry (9%), an RTI query has revealed. 

           Consider a sample of the anomalies that have emerged from the latest JEE following the drop in subject cutoffs (the first filter in the selection process) to 5 in maths, 0 in physics and 3 in chemistry.
  • If the last admitted candidate had an all-India rank (AIR) of 6,773 scoring respectable percentages in all three subjects, the one who scored just 6% in maths obtained a much better AIR, 5,308, which was good enough to get him admission to IIT-Kharagpur or Roorkee.

  • The candidate who scored just 5% in physics attained an AIR of 4,999, which could get him into IIT-Kharagpur, Guwahati or Roorkee, missing out on Kanpur by 3 marks and Bombay by 6 marks.

  • The candidate who scored 9% in chemistry obtained an AIR of 2,903, which could help him join any of the more sought after IITs. 

           Several such anomalies have come to light because of the data disclosed by IIT-Roorkee in response to the RTI application from a computer sciences professor in IIT Kharagpur, Rajeev Kumar. 

           Though the subject cutoffs in the much-touted JEE have been in single digits since 2007 (as reported first in TOI), the compromise in the quality of intake has worsened this year. A comparison of the lowest marks obtained by admitted candidates in individual subjects shows a drop across the board in these two years (see Table I).

If such ridiculously low marks have been fetching IIT seats in the last two years, it is because, under the procedure introduced in 2007, the subject cutoffs are 20 percentile, which means the best marks obtained by the bottom 20% of the candidates in each subject. 

            The 2007 procedure followed IIT Kharagpur's embarrassment before the Central Information Commission because of its inability to explain the basis for the much higher subject cutoffs in the previous year's JEE, which had been conducted by it. Adopted as it was on the rebound, the 2007 procedure adopting 20 percentile as subject cutoffs has turned out to be imprudent as there was no dearth of candidates in 2008, for instance, scoring much higher marks in each subject (see Table II). 

            Since JEE involves negative marking, the 20 percentile formula has yielded single-digit cutoffs which have opened scope for candidates performing disastrously in one of the subjects being admitted on the strength of their marks in the other two. This has proved to be unfair to those who performed consistently in all the three subjects and yet lost out simply because their aggregates were slightly less. 

            From the data that is available on all three JEEs held since RTI came into force, IITs could have easily averted such incongruities in their admission procedure had they taken the subject cutoffs as the least marks of the top 20% candidates instead of the highest marks of the bottom 20% candidates (see Table III). 

            This is because when the 80 percentile formula is applied to the data of the last three years, the subject cutoffs turn out to be more meaningful (as they range from 21 to 37 marks) and at the same time they yield more than enough candidates to be included in the AIR list on the basis of their aggregates (since about 8,000 are currently ranked, IITs will have almost three times that many to choose from). 

           Given their global reputation, IITs would do well to rationalize their cutoff procedure for the 2009 JEE in the light of the anomalies that have surfaced in the last two years with the 20 percentile formula.

Education Times
( Dated: 13 Oct 2008 )

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