Sunday, April 18, 2010

Diligence v/s Intelligence?

As a product of the JEE myself, I have been reading both positive, and negative reactions to changes proposed for admitting students into the IITs, with much interest.

Board Exams = Diligence?
Many years ago, I used to think doing well on board exams had to do with being diligent. Putting in long hours redoing fairly standard problems/questions, committing large amounts of data to memory (processing it was completely optional), learning to present material neatly etc. The exam paper itself, was never a surprise.

JEE = Intelligence?
The JEE on the other hand was quite the opposite (I suspect that coaching classes changed the equation somewhat). Very few problems were standard, and clearly required some degree of processing. No amount of sheer practice could substitute for the "think on your feet" aspect of the exam. Clearly, I use the label "intelligence" quite loosely to describe this quality of the selection criteria.

I don't want to imply that diligence and intelligence are orthogonal in any sense. And a completely different issue (and one that my colleagues and I talk about quite a bit, in the context of what makes for good grad-student/scientists) is what is more desirable?

One fairly important person said something about "99% perspiration", and while I could bicker about the percentages, my thoughts are in alignment.


Raghu said...

If diligence can be thought of as stick-with-it-ness (like the ability to stay focused on a task -- e.g. studying for a test), then intelligence (as measured on performance tests etc.) can be strongly related to diligence. See:

This is the lesson I take from the success (and near indispensability) of coaching classes to modern JEE.

Sachin Shanbhag said...

Correlation between diligence and doing well on tests is expected, no? But JEE in my opinion is somewhat different from SAT or GRE (which are similar to board exams - the more you practice, the better you do).

Another way to put it. If you took the top 200 JEE students and asked them to take a board exam - a significant fraction would do well. But take the top 200 (Karnataka) board students and ask them to take the JEE, the fraction that would do well, I suspect, would be different. I use this example merely to point out that the JEE and board exams select for different things.

Another reason why coaching classes work is sources. Books like Irodov were once not "discovered", and offered people who set JEE a goldmine to dig problems from. Now, it is much harder.

Raghu said...

My point was that the "diligence" enforced by coaching classes has a big effect on JEE's ability to measure "intelligence".

I think, the question really is: Taking the reality of the coaching machinery into account, does JEE do any better than a board exam to identify candidates for admission into the IITs? I think not.

Sachin Shanbhag said...

Raghu, I agree completely with your comment with one very strong caveat (oxymoronish, or maybe just moronish). The top few people that JEE selects are quite different from the top few people that board exams select. For the 9800/10000 other people, its a different story.