Almost everything today is somehow affected—and sometimes entirely reshaped—by scientific and technological advances. Science has pioneered every aspect of life and it creates millions of job opportunities as well. What else than IITs can offer you the best STEM studies in India!
IIT JAM being one of the most-sought exams among M.Sc. aspirants to get into IITs, is taken by around 56,000 students every year. There are many students who are going to appear in IIT JAM. They have many questions in mind regarding the preparation strategy and study plan. We interviewed Kalpak Gupta (IIT JAM Physics AIR - 63). His insights regarding JAM preparation and experience gained while pursuing Ph.D. from IIT Delhi will motivate and inspire JAM 2020 aspirants to keep their Physics preparation on track.
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
Q) A little detail about your academic journey and whereabouts. (where are you from, where did you studied earlier than IITD, how you got into IIT Delhi).
I am originally from Barasat, West Bengal. I shifted to Delhi during 8th standard, due to health problems (I have limited vision in right eye due to retinal scarring). I did the rest of my schooling from DAV Public School, Kailash Hills, and then did my graduation from Hindu College, DU.
After that, I got into IIT Delhi, and I am currently doing Ph.D. there. For the preparation of JAM, I took coaching. Plus, the syllabus of DU is also good, so my B.Sc. itself taught all the subjects well too.
Q) What are the most important topics for IIT JAM Physics? How did you prepare for JAM Physics?
Ideally, you should know everything in the IIT JAM Syllabus. And the pattern and weightage cannot be predicted for sure. Obviously, Electromagnetism, Mathematical Methods, Mechanics (both Classical and Quantum) are most important.
After that, I would say Thermodynamics, Electronics, Statistical Physics are important too. But if I have to choose, I would say that preparing the basics of all the subjects is better than taking a few and covering them fully. Remember, you may require more than one subject to solve a question.
For example, the same question may need basics of mathematics, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics. The first goal should be to make your concepts crystal clear.
From my preparation, I have found that consistency and discipline is the key to success. You cannot treat it like a chore. Being very hard working one day, and then relaxing for the next two will not get you the desired results.
You have to really love it, think all the time about it, ‘eat and breath’ it.
You know the difference between the topper and the last ranker? One was playing games or chatting when waiting in a queue, and the other was solving the same question with different methods while waiting in a queue.
Having said that, frequent breaks and having a normal life with friends and hobbies are essential. That’s healthy. But the priority and passion has to be the study.
Also, the focus should be on the different type of questions instead of solving the same type of questions again and again. The final aim is to develop an intuition that you begin to think of ways to solve a new problem as soon as you see it.
For that, you need proper practice. Notice the word proper. You can’t just blindly open a book/copy and start studying from anywhere. There is a method to the madness. Personally, I believe that until you can recall everything in your sleep, you are not prepared enough, but that’s just me.
If I may digress, I gave NET Exams with zero preparation. I still cleared it because I had studied regularly for years, and hence had developed that intuition/thinking style which helped me solve the questions. This thing cannot be taught. It has to be experienced by yourself.
Q) Is it possible to crack IIT JAM Physics without Coaching? You are in IIT Delhi so how many students are there in IITs who actually made their way without any help from classroom coaching?
In my days (I joined MSc 5 years ago), there were very few coaching for JAM. So, students mostly prepared by themselves. Nowadays, I guess the situation has changed a bit, but it can be cleared by self-study also, provided you follow proper materials and techniques. There are several students who don’t take coaching and come to IITs through JAM. The increase in the number of IITs is also a good thing in that regard, as there are more seats now.
Q) Most of the students are focused on cracking JAM only. Can we can a sneak peek into the life after getting enrolled into M.Sc. Physics?
This is a very good question. I would say if you are interested in Physics and like it, you can continue with M.Sc. It's duration is two years, and it gives you the knowledge and a master’s degree. M.Sc is just like B.Sc. You study, perform practical, and take exams.
It is much more important to think before joining a Ph.D. program, because that is a long-time commitment, and it’s very different than studying in a classroom and scoring well in exams. If you don’t have plans for a Ph.D. degree or being a scientist or professor, then an MBA may be good for you.
Coming to the life of an MSc student, I feel it is balanced, neither too easy, nor too difficult. But different people will feel differently. I, for example, felt that MSc was quite easy in terms of scoring marks if you know the right tricks (I can’t divulge more in public). What matters more than marks is actually the knowledge you gain. Plus, the experience of an IIT is unique. You really get a feel of what makes an institute premier. The campus, the teachers, the facilities, all are quite good.
Q) Every year nearly 13,000 students appear in JAM Physics. Do you think Physics is a great option for a research career?
Yes, but a lot of other things have to work in the student’s favor. Like, say, your guide, your institute, your strengths, your family responsibilities etc. Although a research career is promising, the initial years of struggle can be very disheartening.
People preparing for JAM may not have much knowledge of the outside world, so I would like to inform them that most of the Ph.D. students are depressed. This is the nature of the work.
You are working on something new, something important. You are literally adding to the existing bank of human knowledge. No doubt you will fail a thousand times. If you think you will enjoy the journey, then it’s for you. If you are looking for quick results and materialistic success, then it’s not the right career for you.
Q) What intrigues you the most about Physics?
The best thing about Physics is that you figure out how things work, how the world works. So many phenomena, so many predictions, everything can be obtained just from a few sets of laws. You can learn a concept, think about it, and even months or years later, you suddenly get new insight and understand it a bit better. That experience is very powerful.
Q) How do you keep yourself motivated?
Since starting of my Ph.D., I am searching for this answer too. Motivation in Physics is very complicated because you do not get instant results. You will study and think, seemingly endlessly, and you won’t even realize when you have mastered a topic. So, my answer will be that this subject can’t be pursued by motivation, but only with passion and genuine curiosity.
Q) Any resources or helpful notes that you'd like to share with JAM aspirants?
There are a lot of groups on the internet, WhatsApp, Facebook, Quora, etc. which can be very productive in your preparation. You can get a lot of good tips and good materials from them. So, instead of using the internet to waste time, you can use it for your own benefits. Take help from your peers and seniors, both for materials and for experiences and advice.
As Kalpak rightly mentioned, it’s not the academic brilliance what makes a topper different from other students. You need to be persistent, optimistic and willing to work hard for the goal.