AMONG the multitude of students who write the UGC's Junior Research Fellowship tests, only about 1,000 are able to obtain the JRF.
Since the 1,000-odd fellowships are distributed amongst 77 disciplines, it is almost impossible to make an estimate of the number of fellowships in each discipline. So the best one could do is to ensure that one scores the maximum across the three papers.
Paper I: Research Methodology and Aptitude Test: 50 Multiple-choice questions, each carrying 2 marks. You
could answer any 50 out of the 60 questions presented. Total time allocated, 75 minutes
Paper II: Objective Test (in chosen subject): 50 multiple-choice questions, each carrying 2 marks in the subject opted by the candidate. Total time allocated,
Paper III: Subjective Test (in chosen subject): A total of 26 questions spread over five sections, all of which require written answers of varied lengths in the optional subject opted by the candidate.Total time allocated, 150 minutes.
Section I: 5 questions with 30-word answers based on a passage, each question carries 5 marks (25 marks).
Section II: Definitional-specific with fifteen 30-word questions, which test conceptual understanding, 5 marks each (75 marks).
Section III: Analytical or evaluative with five 200-word questions, 12 marks each (60 marks).
Section IV: Essay type, one 1000-word question (40 marks).
Research Aptitude Test
This paper primarily is mix and match series. The syllabus has ten components, which can be roughly divided into four major sections viz (a) Teaching Aptitude (b) Research Methodology (c) Maths and reasoning abilities (d) Policy and institutions. Since there would be questions across the ten sections, it makes sense to prepare uniformly.
From December 2009 onwards you have the choice of answering 50 questions out the 60 listed. But still it makes sense not to leave any major section unattended at the preparation stage.
Get the definitions right, and know the difference between a normal distribution and skewed to the right distribution. At this juncture, do not attempt to seek out more information, the time must be better utilized for the optional paper. With respect to paper 1, the only preparation that is essential is to revise thoroughly and keep the information you know on your finger-tips. Ideally you must space your preparation in such a way that you give equal attention to both.
Optional Paper II and III [MCQ Paper + Subjective Paper (5-mark questions)]
Build competencies, section by section. Review the syllabus, and identify possible questions in all formats. There are lots of commonalities between the objective and subjective paper, especially between five-mark questions, both from Section 1 and Section 2. In a broader sense, especially Section 2 (5x15=75), most of the questions have to be answered within five or six lines.
They may also be presented as MCQs. So it is imperative that you are thorough with the sections you have mastered. While preparing it does make sense to write out Q-cards on important definitions, ideas, authors and principles. The cards come in handy, especially for last minute revisions.
Optional Paper III [Subjective paper (12-mark/40-mark questions)]
Unfortunately the 12-mark questions do not offer you any choice but the 40-mark questions, do. Here's where your analysis of question papers would help. If you had looked at the question papers over the last five or six examinations, you could see a relationship between the 12-mark questions and 40-mark questions. Some sections of the syllabus are invariably more amenable to 12-mark questions.
If you can zero in on them, then prepare those sections thoroughly. If you have not touched a portion of the syllabus now, give it one read at least. You may remember enough to write out a passable answer. Even one mark is better than none. By now you would have also attempted to write some practice examinations, based on past years' question papers. If not, do so immediately. By writing you clarify your thoughts and the practice would stand you in good stead during the examination.
A 3-week plan to get cracking The First week:
Revise all sections. You must spend 75 percent of your time on optional and 25 percent on Paper 1. Generally revise your research methodology fundamentals and definitions. You must space your reasoning and data interpretation preparation as a diversion to optional subject preparation. Allocate more time during this week for the 12-mark questions. Make a list of about 50 questions and mentally revise the answers. Write down a few just for practise and time yourself.
Exclusively devote this week for Optional Paper (MCQ questions). Solve as many as you can. For each question mentally look at the possibility of a 5-mark question in the subjective paper. If you spot a 5-mark question, revise the concepts involved.
This week must be used to ensure that you are able to write out an answer for these short questions without counting individual word limits. Towards the end of the week, without notice, ask a friend to give you a random essay type question from the past question paper. Write out one full essay and time yourself. Gives you a last minute assessment tool.
During this week study nothing new. Barring doing some reasoning questions as a past time, you must not spend any more time on paper 1. Spend all the time the Q-cards. One day before the examination, sleep well and throw your books away. You will do well.
Keya was a JRF holder and is currently reading for her PhD at University of Tartu.