Exams Killed The Physicist

When you have no one else to blame; blame the education system itself.

Posted by Shikher Verma on April 3, 2016 Tags: Life@IITK   4 minute read

Some times I like to think about what went wrong with us. It all started so good. I though we would always stay together. You are probably scratching your head and thinking what the hell is this guy talking about! Lets start from the very beginning. The Honeymoon period It all started in fiitjee, while I was preparing for jee. My coaching’s physics teacher was awesome. He made me fall in love with physics. I really enjoyed how you take a few mathematical structures and describe and predict everything about the real world around you. Sure I had to take tests often but I never really had to make any effort for physics. Consequently when I was filling my choice list for iitjee it was filled up with all the physics degrees that were offered. Engineering physics at Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Guwahati… Even though my coaching teacher warned me that physics in college will be quite different than school physics and my father warned me that the placement statistics might not be good. But I went with it anyway. Life was good. I joined physics b.s. at iit kanpur.

Mid life crisis, things didn’t last after I joined college. I used to be the topper of my school class or coaching section. I knew that was not going to last but then too, knowing it in advance didn’t really help much. I was suddenly competing with the very best of the country. Concepts were taught faster than I could learn them. Suddenly physics started changing. It wasn’t the little formula and lots of intuition anymore. It became more about the complex mathematics and less about physical intuition. On the other hand, I got involved with Robotics club. In the beginning it was nothing very serious. We were building cool stuff thats all. But as physics was deprived of more and more physical intuition, robotics became primarily about it. Not just the physical intuition but robotics had a way to unify my interest in programming with the physical intuition I enjoyed in physics. But still I didn’t give up on my childish dream of becoming a physicist. The final deal breaker were exams. IIT Kanpur has one of the toughest academic routine. Books prescribed to be taught for two semesters are taught in one. Each semester is of four months and at the end of each month you have exams and quizzes to haunt you while you sleep. That coupled with the fierce competitive environment make these test so stressful that you are forced to pull all nighters and last day marathons for exams. And with each passing exam you are forced to think, “Is this what you want to do for all your 20s ?”
Exams kill all interest anyone could have in a subject. We jokingly like to say, “Lehron ka sukoon toh sabhi ko pasand hai, Lekin tufaano mein kashtiyan nikalne ka maza hi kuch aur hai.” But thats not actually true if its a tufaan all the time. Were is the “Lehron ka sukoon part?” We get that for a couple of week or so; and then its tufaan time all over again. Exams are very inefficient in judging whether someone has knowledge or not. Especially at IITK, because the percentage of people who know how to game these exams is higher than average. These people know how to get maximum marks with minimum knowledge. They have mastered the art of exam giving. There are a lot of things wrong with studying physics at college. Maybe it was the dim chances of job in industry after b.s., maybe it was the frustration of how boring and mathematical physics academic career would be. Whatever might have been the reason that ticked me off… I am not going to be a physicist anymore.