Reduce stress, really?

Dear Mr. Kapil Sibal,

I was not surprised that the first sentence of your introduction on your website is “Kapil Sibal comes from an illustrious Punjabi family.” Yes – I have highlighted the word illustrious there. You are a lawyer and one of your alma mater is Harvard Law School as I can see from your wikipedia page1. So, you went to HLS. Did you go through a stressful exam to get scholarship for HLS? Let me guess. No. Your illustrious family was able to support you. 2

I am not surprised, then, Mr. Sibal that you do not understand what is the stress that lacs (crores?) of students from middle and lower than middle classes go through and what is the real reason behind that stress. So, I am going to talk about my personal experiences of the time when an illustrious leader like you had other things to think about than the stress students face.

I was an engineering education aspirant and these were pre-AIEEE days. My preparation had been going well. So, I had not filled up the forms for as many entrance exams as some of my less confident friends had. But I still had JEE, Roorkee entrance exam (REE), BIT Mesra exam, DCE entrance exam and the Bihar state common entrance exam on my list.  For DCE entrance exam I had gotten seat in the corner of a room in which there was only one fan and it was barely enough for the people sitting right under it.  I was close to fainting by the time I had finished the paper (that place was a JEE center as well. So, some people would have gotten that seat during JEE also). During BIT Mesra’s entrance exam I had a heat stroke and was barely able to keep my eyes open while writing the paper. But thank my stars that was not the case during JEE and REE. And yeah – by the time of Bihar state common entrance exams, I had caught malaria and well… Thankfully JEE results were out by then, so I did not have to take that exam.

And here is something you do not understand, but need to understand. Having five different exams, which gave me five chances to fulfill my aspirations, was not a stress! It was a way to reduce it. If you fell ill, if you had a family emergency, if your had an accident while reaching the venue, if you were simply having a bad day and your mind was not working in the exam hall, or if the sky had fallen – you had another chance! Yes – I would have felt really bad, if I had fallen ill during JEE. But that would not have been the end of my life, because there still was REE and BIT Mesra and State entrance exam and DCE. I might not have achieved the best, but the doors would not have closed on me for another year or for my entire life.

There was another aspect of having different exams. They had different patterns. Some of them I was good at. Some of them I wasn’t. In fact, let me talk about your favourite – board exams. At the cost of appearing to brag, let me tell you that I was a good, sincere, hard-working student. Simply put, I knew my stuff well before the exams. I wasn’t the kind to have panic attacks before exams. I was better or at par with most students in my class. And I had not neglected board exams for JEE preparation – my teachers can vouch for that. But you know something -I performed bad, real bad in board exams compared to my equally talented friends. Why? Was I having a bad day? Nope. Had I fallen sick? Nope. Had I messed up with the exam schedule and studied for a different subject that the exam was for? No, Sir. I just had a bad handwriting! That’s right. (And I know you were born in 1950 and you probably think that it was right of the system to punish me for that. But from my point of view it was just lazy of the system.)

You know what! The disproportionate effect handwriting had on board exams results was the biggest stress for me in the student life. And you know what helped me cope with that stress? That there were these other exams, where it did not matter – not so much at least. There were people, who could not do well in JEE because they weren’t good on that pattern, but performed well in the board exams and got admissions in the colleges which considered board exam results. Yet others performed well in the state common entrance exams.

Let me accept. The system is not perfect. None of these ways of selecting students might be great. But it had two qualities that reduced stress for students.

  1. There are a number of chances someone gets
  2. Different exams give chance to people with different aptitudes

Giving people only one way to succeed and only one chance of doing that is NOT going to reduce the stress.

And let me get back to your favourite board exams again. Have you heard the stories of how board exam answer sheets are graded? How teachers are under immense pressure to finish grading in a short time? How they are paid per answer sheet and are in a hurry to finish grading without going through the answers? How teachers continue grading even in the darkness to finish their quota (I’m sure they are now owls)? How they weigh the answer sheets and give marks based on that? How they check the copy until the student has gotten marks enough to pass and then use a blue pen to strike out rest of the pages to make it appear like the student had crossed them?

No? Then I am really not surprised how you do not understand the stress students face. And nor do you understand why using board exam marks (apart from the statistical issues of different boards) at any stage of IIT entrance is not an idea I am elated at. If my paper had fallen into the hands of one of those overworked, underpaid teachers, who did not realize how they could be destroying a life through their shortcuts, I would never have made into even the 50000 students you intend to select using board exam marks.

So what, you say. What is the guarantee that checking JEE papers does not suffer from these problems? Umm – yeah. There is no guarantee, but here are the things I know

  • People grading JEE papers are much more qualified than the teachers grading board exam papers.
  • People grading JEE papers are not as overworked (and do not have to check as many answer sheets) and are much better paid than the school teachers grading board exam papers.
  • People grading JEE papers know that they have to live with the results. They will teach the students they select . And any teacher wants to teach good students.

So – yes! I have reasons to trust JEE more than board exams, even though it would have (and it had) its own set of issues.

Mr. Sibal – I know you are trying to simultaneously solve the problems of capitation fees and financial stress and coaching institute and world hunger by messing up with engineering entrance examinations. But I have some humble objections to your ways of achieving those too. I will write it in another post.

For the time being, some of the other things are crying for my attention.

Until then
Sincerely yours
Jaya Jha

(Follow up post: Stress, Coaching Institutes, Capitation Fee and World Hunger!)

  1. Nope! Don’t tell me that you actually let something inaccurate about you lie about on Internet just like that. You know, no one will believe you.
  2. Let me humbly point out that I tried to check about the scholarship thing by clicking on “Read more” button on your website. But it gave me a server error. Have you over-stressed your web design/hosting vendor? Or have they been so unstressed and relaxed under your tutelage that they don’t care to do their job at all?
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About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe ( with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: Twitter: @jayajha Facebook:

10 thoughts on “Reduce stress, really?

  1. That not fake at all….All the above is really…..really damn true.
    Good jaya for putting up such a live,vivid and Honest blog.

  2. Pingback: Stress, Coaching Institutes, Capitation Fee and World Hunger! « Miles to go…


    • Stop doing lame personal attacks and open your mouth only in the case you have something substantial to say.

      For all I know she is very capable of doing a lot of things. Second, you have not given a single reason why there should be one exam.


  5. Nice piece of blog, but just in order to give more points against Sibbal doesnt make sense to pen down wrong(or rarest of rare things) about the teachers: they are the ones who bring us where we are. At certain points including this , this piece shows the much seen obbssesion that IITians have with IITs. Nice blog otherwise .

  6. the article seems to be biased towards those who make it to the IITs or other esteemed institute. but those are not the only ones whom govt. should be bothered about, it should also think about the overwhelming majoirity who don’t make the cut and for them stress would be proportional of number of failures which in turn would be proportional of number of exams. think about over demanding parents (for whom their kid is mr/miss genius), think about about under performing students (for whom every exam is a nightmare), think about mushrooming coaching classes (with crash courses for each exams), think about travelling all across the state and some times across the country, think about scorching summer heat(which bothered u in bangalore this summmer :)… there is definitely some stress involved with each exam.

    • You were so focussed on nitpicking on the author, that you clearly missed the point. You are so damn sure that that a student cannot fall sick, encounter an accident or anything cannot go wrong on THAT ONE day of the examination. The overwhelming majority you are talking about will still not “make the cut”, only the number of exams is getting reduced, the number of seats is not exploding. Do you understand probability? You know if there is only one exam and god forbid you fail at it, your probability of getting into a good college is ZERO. If there are more exams, there is always some chance. There is always hope. Which situation do you think is more stressful? Do you really think the demanding parents will NOT increase pressure on their children to do well in THAT ONE exam and make it a question of life and death? Let me tell you a fact, underperforming students for whom every exam is a nightmare don’t take JEE exam and they don’t deserve it either (I am not being offensive here, just that they can do something else and much better with their lives instead of running after JEE). In practicality, most of the students are aware of what they can achieve and more than 50% of those who take the AIEEE exam don’t even take the JEE exam. What about additional pressure on those students? About coaching institutes, with the new format every single individual who wants to get into any college, leave aside JEE, will have to take coaching for schools and coaching for this ONE exam. And they’ll spend everything possible to make sure they don’t let go of this ONLY CHANCE that they have. This will only proliferate the coaching classes and this whole problem. On a side note, coaching institues have already started preparation for the “additional” job at their hands.
      Looking at your weird logic and the personal attack you are making on the author, it is very evident that you have never been there.

      PS: I am not an IITian, still I am proud (if you want to read it as obsessed, go ahead) of the IITs and their standard. And as a citizen of India, I don’t give right to one stupid politician to tinker with the standards of the best educational institute of the country.

    • I have a personal experience. My younger brother got a rank of 800 something in Bihar Engineering exam in 2005, he was getting Mining in BIT Sindri. I asked him not to take the exam. He came to me in IITK and tried to study. Next year in 2006, IIT JEE implemented 1 yr drop rule. He couldn’t appear for it. AIEEE had come and all exams had been replaced with single exam. He got a rank of 70000 in that and that will not get him in any good college. He missed Bihar Combined Engineering exam in 2006. The exam date had moved forward, admit card had gone to my father’s workplace and he couldn’t read English. So no one knew about it. My brother was in IITK with me. So when he went to appear for exam, it was already over a week before.
      There were no Engineering exams left. We tried to get him into a private college. They asked for a huge donation and we couldn’t have afforded it. I had just started my job. My brother was shattered. A year before, he had a seat in BIT Sindri in Mining and he had let it go. I was ashamed and guilty. I had wasted his 2 yrs in vain.
      There was no option but to prepare again, but my brother was totally devastated. Family wasn’t supportive either. Both of us together had wasted a huge money (as per my family standards) without showing anything for it. My brother went to another town saying he is going for study, instead became a Sales Man, selling socks and cheap Chinese product door to door. When he came back 2 months later, he was so thin and looked 5 yrs older. I somehow managed to convince him to appear for Bharti VidyaPeeth and MP’s BCA exam and he cleared them both. He went to do 6 yr BCA + MCA entrance from a Tier 3 college in Indore.
      So what spoiled my Brother’s Career by 2 years : Lack of Exams, You messed up AIEEE , missed out your state engineering exam and that was the end of life. Fortunately I was working by that time and was able to afford his private engineering college fees. Else his career would have been over even before it began. The scars that it left on him are visible even after 6 yrs of it passing.

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