Living in a state with a large number of engineering colleges — over 250 across the state — Tamil Nadu students have largely been content to stay at home. The rising numbers of students from the state who wrote the All India Engineering Entrance Examination this year, however, proves that that may be changing.
N. Sandhya, a Chennai-based student says that with the Tamil Nadu Common Entrance Test (CET) being scrapped, she had time to study for the AIEEE instead. Another Chennai student, Jacob Mathew, feels that since he did not do very well in his Class 12 examinations, he is unlikely to get into an engineering college under the Anna University counseling system. "AIEEE is my safety card," he says.
Coaching centres across the state have taken advantage of the increased interest in AIEEE. Geetha Prabhu of Aims Education said her institute had seen a 100 per cent increase in the number of students applying for AIEEE coaching. In Coimbatore, S. Sivakumar of Brilliant Tutorials says that while the growth this year was marginal, last year's growth — which immediately followed the abolition of the CET -was very high.
Clearly, State Board students are gaining interest in an examination that has been a forte of CBSE students till recently. In fact, of the 500 students who came for coaching at Brilliant, only 34 were from the CBSE, he said.
It was the same story at T.I.M.E., another coaching centre in Coimbatore, according to co-ordinator Liza Phyllida. "The representation from State Board schools has increased tremendously. There is much awareness now and also students like to compete and go to colleges outside the State."
The AIEEE examination determines the entrance to the 20 National Institutes of Technology, including the one in Tiruchi, 4 Indian Institutes of Information Technology and 10 deemed universities, apart from several central government institutions, central government quotas in state government institutions and the state engineering colleges of several states which use AIEEE for their own counselling.
Many Tamil Nadu students are now willing to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by AIEEE.
"If I get into a good NIT, I would rather take that than a second-rate college here," says R. Subhashini of Villupuram.
Tiruchi was not a centre for the examination, but it hosts the most prestigious institution in the state which depends on the examination: the National Institute of Technology (NIT-T). Of the total number of 1,346 students who took the Mock AIEEE this year at the NIT-T (compared to 954 last year), 646 students were from State Board.
Though the increase in the awareness about AIEEE is a welcome trend, State Board students stand little chance of faring satisfactorily, observes S. Raghavan of NIT-T, pointing to the vast difference in the standards of the State Board and the CBSE. Students from the State Board will stand a fair chance to secure admission in IITs and NITs only if their standard is raised on a par with CBSE, he said.
A. Rajagopal, a full-time trainer for AIEEE and IIT-JEE, felt that crash courses to prepare State Board students for AIEEE would help only if they are comfortable with the Class XI syllabus in the first place. The ratio of questions from the Class 11 and 12 syllabi was about 45:55, according to trainers.
Mr. Sivakumar of Brilliant points out that the style of questions also matters. “In addition to the problem-oriented questions there were assertion and reasoning type questions that were introduced for the first tie somewhat based on the IIT-JEE pattern,” he adds. CBSE students are better trained to deal with such questions, several trainers feel.