The Lifelong Benefits of Acing the Highly Competitive Joint Entrance Exam


Of the many benefits of appearing for the Joint Entrance Exam, the early boost of confidence of acing it may be the most valuable in the long run.

"Competition is a rude yet effective motivation."

There is no denying that competing with yourself and others is one of the most effective ways of keeping yourself motivated to go faster, higher, stronger, and to be better. The Indian education system aims to instil the competitive spirit in students early, with sports competitions and scholarships. But the ultimate competition any student aspiring to become an engineer can face in early adulthood is the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE). With around 10 lakh students facing this crucible every year, the JEE is a right of passage into adulthood. Of the 10 lakh students who appear for the exam, only around 2 lakh qualify for JEE Advanced. Finally, the creme de la creme of engineering students who clear JEE Advanced are selected to study at the top engineering institutes of the country.

These numbers reflect just how important the JEE is for aspiring engineering students, who, let's face it, are a significant percentage of students pursuing higher education in India. The JEE can thus be seen as the exam that "makes or breaks" your career.

But does success in the JEE really translate into lifelong benefits for the top students? Latest research published in the Journal of Corporate Finance suggests that acing the JEE can indeed instill early confidence in students that helps them drive firm performance later on, when these successful students go on to become CEOs and directors of corporations. Sugato Chakravarty and Prasad Hegde in their research paper titled "The Joint Entrance Exam, Overconfident Directors, and Firm Performance" contend that students who crack the JEE go on to hold more corporate directorships than those who do not, and that a positive relationship between firm performance and having such directors on the board of directors can be established.

Confidence of directors fuelling firm performance has already been proven by research, but Chakravarty and Hegde explore the source of that confidence, and make a compelling case for attributing it to the "intrinsic overconfidence that propels them to make decisions on corporate boards that translate into superior firm performance."

Reading Chakravarty and Hegde's paper makes us wonder: did the CEOs they studied derive their confidence from acing the JEE or did their intrinsic confidence lead to their success in the JEE? It seems like a chicken or egg problem. Let's analyse some perspectives of this issue:

Cultivating the right mindset for JEE success

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Each time we face our fears, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in doing so." While confidence inevitably comes with success, success is only possible with confidence.

But where does the confidence to face your fears come from? The source of the initial confidence that leads to success in exams is mysterious: we have all seen the best students falter under the pressure of exams, and average students feel very confident about their academic prowess. Several tips and tricks have been tried by students over the years, from breakfast cereals and supplements to improve memory to using the appropriate pens. Some experts suggest power posing as an effective tactic to boost confidence, but recent research shows that it is competence, and competence alone, that drives confidence.

Competence is built over time through hard work and perseverance. In short, there is no quick fix to success. Richard Kline says, "Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control."

The JEE is a test of knowledge and analytical skills, but it is also a pressure test to check if you can handle the stress. To be able to ace it, you have to work on acquiring the competence to do so, which will fuel your confidence. Cultivating the right mindset for success is critical: you cannot crack the test if your stress levels compromise your physically fitness on the day of the exam. At both stages -- while preparing for an exam as well as on the day of the exam -- a positive attitude is indispensable.

"It's the JEE! How can I take it easy?"

How does one remain positive in the face of an insurmountable challenge such as the JEE, you ask?

Well, whether you're a JEE student or the parent of a JEE student, take a deep breath and repeat after me:

There is life beyond JEE.

While there is research to show how cracking the JEE boosts confidence which could eventually enhance the performance of the corporate firm you're the CEO of, the other personality traits of these CEOs have not been explored. Can we rule out this possibility: the discipline and determination to succeed is higher in these CEOs, which leads them to crack the JEE early in life, and later results in them taking confident decisions as CEOs? No!

In other words, it is possible that these high-performing CEOs had a winning attitude to begin with, which was reflected in their JEE score.

And what happens to those who cannot crack the JEE? Dorothy M. Neddermeyer once said, "Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it." Being denied entry into the premier engineering colleges in the country may seem like a setback you cannot recover from, but it is important to note that how you respond to this crisis will determine the course of your life. The process of appearing for competitive exams -- the late night study sessions and regular, consistent studying -- equips students with more than just the skills to ace the JEE. It instills in them the discipline and can-do attitude to tackle other academic and career challenges: the discipline and perseverance you gain are transferable to other areas in life. Strip the JEE process of the fear and stigma of failure and you have the best mindset for success, whether you end up cracking the JEE or not.

Latest research published in the Journal of Corporate Finance suggests that acing the JEE can indeed instill early confidence in students that helps them drive firm performance later on, when these successful students go on to become CEOs and directors of corporations. Going back a few years, we could argue that an early boost in confidence by acing the NSTSE, state scholarships, and Olympiad exams could give students an early boost in morale that equips them to handle the more stressful Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) later on in life. Moreover, preparing for these competitive exams has the side bonus of making the school syllabus seem easier in comparison, making learning fun.