“The night before the JEE Mains exam I was nervous. I remember calling my professor anxiously. He said to me, ‘Sachin Tendulkar is a great player. But even if he fails to score a century in one match, he knows he will in the next one. He trusts his abilities more than circumstances.’ The day of the exam dawned. Ninety questions stared at me. I had one attempt and I had to make it count. After 1.5 hours of solving questions, I looked to see how far I’d gotten. I’d only managed to attempt 30.”
As Kalpit Veerwal — famous for scoring a perfect 360/360 in the JEE Mains 2017 exam — recalls that moment in time, he terms it “life-changing”. Although flustered, he felt he knew his attitude determined everything.
“I set my pen down and closed my eyes. I recalled all the exams I had ever attempted. It reminded me of how in the past few years I’d risen from a nobody to a ranker. Then, I picked my pen up and started solving again.”
How the next one and a half hours went by is a blur in Kalpit’s memory. But when the bell went off, he was done with every question.
From that day to the present, the 24-year-old Udaipur native’s journey has been nothing short of unconventional. Ask him his closely-guarded secret to success and he smiles, “There isn’t one.”
A journey of relentless hard work
Growing up in a middle-class home, Kalpit says education was given prime importance. His father, a nurse, was adamant that his sons should have access to resources and opportunities that he had missed out on.
As Kalpit recalls, “My father was from a very simple background. But even then, he was one of the first people in his community to get educated. He had big dreams of becoming a doctor, but medical coaching wasn’t easy in those days. He went on to become a nurse instead.”
As Kalpit prides himself on having a BTech degree from IIT Bombay — one of the most sought-after institutes — he credits his father for always having his back.
With education being put on a pedestal in the family, Kalpit’s tryst with competitive exams began at an early age. The first of these was in Class 7.
Not only did he do exceptionally well but got a scholarship too. Unbeknownst to him, it was these successes that paved the way for his incredible performance in the JEE Mains.
Every attempted competitive exam served as a bounce board that propelled him further. Physics and Mathematics were topics he thoroughly enjoyed. Pursuing concepts and digging deeper into them came naturally to him.
“I had no intention of giving the JEE exam when I was in school. But, with all the extra studying I did, it dawned on me that I had already completed the JEE Physics section by Class 9!” he shares.
Looking back at the trajectory, he says his curiosity and willingness to look beyond the textbook stood him in good stead. He cites one such instance, “In Physics, there is a concept known as the ‘Theory of Relativity’. It wasn’t in the Class 11 syllabus which I was studying at the time, but regardless of it, I studied it. I also ended up deriving the equation for the equivalence of electric and magnetic fields. I did it purely out of interest.”
So, you can only imagine Kalpit’s astonishment when one of the questions in the JEE Mains was on this theory. He smiled to himself as he went on to derive the equation.
An attitude to learn coupled with an enthusiasm for the subjects has been Kalpit’s driving force. He credits this duo with keeping him determined throughout the JEE prep journey.
My life’s journey so far:
– Was interested in studies from a young age, had fun but also had curiosity in learning.
– Cleared several exams, including Rank 1 in some exams. NTSE, Olympiads, KVPY, etc
– Got AIR 1 in JEE and shot to fame (360/360 in Mains 2017, first time in…
— Kalpit Veerwal (@kalpitveerwal) September 16, 2023
“There were times when I would be reminded that I was a boy from a small city competing against kids from Mumbai and Delhi, some of whose parents were IAS officers. But I knew what I lacked in background I could make up for with my hard work.”
Tips from the pro
According to Kalpit, achieving your target score in the JEE Mains exam is a blend of many factors. He shares some of these while the others are available on his YouTube channel ‘AcadBoost’.
The syllabus is the core
While being an avid lover of topics that extended beyond the syllabus, Kalpit says he changed his strategy when he started prepping for the exam. “I started taking the coaching material seriously. I kept mock papers as my focus.”
Passion is key
When asked about his performance and how he managed to achieve a nearly impossible feat, Kalpit says it had a lot to do with his love for the subjects. “Only attempt the exam if YOU truly want to do it. Because only when you have a natural passion for something will you do it wholeheartedly.” He adds, “I see a lot of students who do not really wish to sit the exam, but still attempt it. One should know what their calling is and what they have a penchant for.”
Consistency > Hardwork > Talent.
Your talent is innate, cannot be changed too much, and it can’t give you much leverage.
Hardwork is good, but 24 hours a day is the cap – not much leverage here too.
But, you can be consistent over decades – BIG leverage.
Stick to something…
— Kalpit Veerwal (@kalpitveerwal) September 29, 2023
Enjoy the process
It is but natural to let the pressure get to you in such competitive exams. But Kalpit encourages students to enjoy the topics. This takes the burden off. “If you enjoy the process, then you’ll automatically do well in your exams.”
Past year papers are important
As the days of the exam get closer, Kalpit suggests veering away from cramming in new topics and instead focusing on revision. “Past year papers are a great help to go over concepts.”
Even talent needs hard work
Acknowledging that he has a natural ability when it comes to competitive exams, Kalpit says talent on its own won’t take you very far. “I do have special abilities to understand things a bit faster. But there’s no use of talent if you don’t work on it.”
Trust your instincts
The day the results came out is etched in Kalpit’s memory. But he shares an anecdote of a time much before the D-Day.
“I was checking around with my friends and coaching classes that had released their answer keys. There was this one question in particular that was tricky. Everyone was of the opinion that I had attempted it by an incorrect method. But I was sure I was right. I remember my friends saying to me, ‘No one will think of such a strange way of solving this’. When the results were announced, needless to say, my method was the right one.”
“Trust your gut feeling,” he adds.
Following the JEE Mains exam, Kalpit started a Facebook page where he would advise students on preparing for the exam, books to refer to, etc. In addition to this, he had a Quora account where he would answer students’ doubts and a blog.
With the amazing response these platforms witnessed, Kalpit was inspired to start his venture ‘Acad Boost’ in 2019, which tailor makes courses for students who are preparing for the JEE exams.
He says that while over “2 lakh students have accessed the content, 11,000 students have benefited from the paid content.”
“When all my batchmates were sitting for placements in college, I knew I’d get a good package if I did the same. But nothing about my life has been conventional. And I decided to take the road less travelled. I am enjoying every bit of the journey,” he adds.
As Kalpit wraps up the conversation, I ask him to point out a determining moment in this entire journey. “The moment I picked up the pen in the JEE Mains exam room and began solving the questions again.”
Edited by Padmashree Pande