Delhi’s Kavya Chopra and Ghaziabad’s Pal Aggarwal are the first women who were ranked first in the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main, results of which were declared on Wednesday night. Both credit their success to their parents who never said no to them and let them make their choices. Chopra had earlier scored 99.97 in February but said she was determined to “score better”. This time, she has got a 100 percentile.
“My parents always treated me and my brother equally. I was never discriminated against personally based on my gender but I am aware that not many girls in India are not as privileged as me. Even though I have never been discriminated against myself, I am aware of what other girls go through. I might not be able to understand the gravitas of my feat now but I am grateful,” said the 17-year-old DPS Vasant Kunj student, who said she hopes her achievement “opens up doors for other girls”. She is preparing for JEE Advanced.
Agarwal also reattempted the exam as she had scored 99.988 percentile in February but was determined that she could “do better”. She practised hard and got a perfect 100 this time. She has not only cleared JEE Mains but has also got an admission into IISc Bangalore by clearing Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana Exam (KVPY Exam). She too will be appearing for IIT entrance JEE Advanced.
Agarwal, a student of Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, told News18, “My parents always treated me and my brother equally, they never made me feel that gender was a consideration while making choices. I want to become an astrophysicist; it is not seen as a women-friendly option. My parents never told me to go for computer science or any other field.”
The engineering entrance exam is predominantly male-dominated, so much so that decades after its conduct, this is the first time that women have made it to the top rank of JEE Mains. Several reports by IITs, academicians cite females opting for STEM in school, and parents spending lesser on coaching for female students as some of the key reasons behind the gender gap. In 2021, for the first time not only one but two women candidates have got rank 1. Out of the top 18 students, 16 are men.
While Chopra aims to study computer science from IIT-Delhi or IIT-Bombay, Agarwal is keeping her options open and will choose between IIT and IISc. “If I get an IIT, I will go for engineering physics for my undergraduate degree and if I opt for IISc, I will select physics with a mathematics minor,” said Agarwal.
Both the teenagers said they believe the engineering entrance exams are not just about academic competition but also the test of one’s mental strength. “Setting a new target every day, remain focused on completing the syllabus and during the exam, all situations need mental strength,” said Agarwal. Chopra too said she underwent emotional stress while preparing in isolation in the Covid-19 pandemic, however, it was her determination, self-motivation and focus that helped her sail through.
Aggarwal is a resident of Ghaziabad. Her mother is a clinical psychologist and her father is a businessman. She also has a younger brother who is studying in class 10. Chopra is a resident of Delhi. Her father is an engineer, her mother is a homemaker and she too has a younger brother.