Debasish Panda had topped the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main March attempt by scoring 99.959 percentile. He was the highest-scoring student from Odisha – a state topper. This was his second attempt at the engineering entrance exam as he had also appeared for JEE Main 2021 in February. In his first attempt, he had obtained 99.89 percentile score.
Even though Panda has emerged as a state topper, the pandemic, he claims took a toll on his preparations. Cacking the highly competitive entrance exam required a lot of consistent efforts and focus, said the topper. At a time when no schools or coaching centres were open due to the pandemic, 17-year-old Panda had to change his preparation strategy and devise a new study plan.
“I like physical classes more than online classes. Even though we save travel time while studying online. The online classes tend to be longer than offline classes and adapting to this new mode of study took about three months of adjustment,” said Panda.
He decided to fix a schedule but a flexible one. “Studying from home comes with its own pros and cons. What worked for me was the flexibility of it. Instead of making a regular schedule, I kept my schedule flexible. It allowed me to be ok with disruptions, if any, however, I ensure that I divide days based on topics and allowed myself time to delve as deep into a topic as needed to attain a concept clarity,” said Panda. He claims that every night before going to bed he would make a mental note of what he has achieved academically in a day and what he aims for tomorrow and evaluated his performance daily.
He used to cover the syllabus well in advance and left exam-taking practice for the last few weeks. Taking exams again had helped him practice and improve score, he said. Panda is now preparing for the IIT entrance test – JEE Advanced, however, he has registered to appear for the April and May attempts too for practice. “Even though JEE Advanced syllabus and exam pattern is different from Mains, taking Mains again is a no-loss situation for me, however, there are chances that I might improve my score. If nothing it would give me experience,” said Panda.
For Advance, one has to study more in-depth and work on creative abilities. Advance is a more practice-oriented exam, opined Panda.
While he is currently preparing for IIT, he has already cracking IISc Bangalore entrance exam. He got 415 rank in KVPY which he thinks is not “good enough” and he wants to keep his “options open”. “I have not decided on any particular institute yet, I want to go for research. I am keeping my options open. Even though I have cleared KVPY, I am not sure if I would be picked and get to pursue research at IISc, so I am aiming to crack IIT-entrance as well,” he told news18.com.
A student of ODM Public School, Odisha, Panda has always been good at studies. He says that he had an interest in pure sciences since childhood and mathematics has always been his favourite subject. He has also been taking coaching classes since class 11. His mother works at a hospital and his father works as an admission officer in a local engineering college. He is an only child.
Advising his peers who would be appearing for JEE now, Panda said, “complete the syllabus before the last six months and after that focus on practice. One learns from one’s shortcomings while taking repeated tests.” He added, “Sometimes we think that we would relax and read that one chapter tomorrow or keep revision for a later stage. But what worked for me was revising what was being taught in class daily. It is the consistency that pays later. It helped me clear doubts simultaneously and be prepared in advance. Nothing can replace theoretical clarity. After which it is all about practicing one’s problem-solving abilities.”