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Aces at physics have skills to excel in other fields too: study

Researchers found JEE students with high scores in subject also did well in maths, science.

mumbai Updated: Apr 09, 2013 02:51 IST
Bhavya Dore

Those who do well in physics are likely to excel in other fields too, a paper by researchers from the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE) has found.
The paper, accepted last week by British journal Physics Education, concluded that the skills required for physics, particularly problem-solving, are applicable across domains such as maths and chemistry as well.

This could explain why many Indian Institute of Technology toppers go on to become successful businessmen, said researchers. The conclusions could have implications for science education and overall pedagogy.

The two-year study analysed 8.76 lakh Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) scores and science Olympiad results for 2011 and 2012.

A high correlation was found between the physics scores of the high scoring students and their performance in the chemistry and maths sections of both exams.

The JEE is the entrance test for IITs across the country. The analyses found the correlation in the performances to be 0.57 or more. The highest possible correlation is 1.

The paper will be published in May, and could substantiate what we know anecdotally – that those who do well in JEE often do well in other exams andprofessions because they possess the same problem-solving abilities.

“The study shows that the problem solving skills required for physics happen to be general, and there is a good chance you may have the cognitive skills to pick up an allied subject,” said Vijay Singh, a professor at HBCSE and one of the paper’s authors.

“This gives us an indication that those who do well in IIT go on to succeed in other disciplines such as administration, management, finance and so on.”

The paper was written by Vijay Singh and KK Mashood and also involved interviews with 20 students who had excelled in all three subjects. HBCSE in Mankurd is a centre under the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

“Interdisciplinary domains are also getting popular,” the paper said, while concluding. “The requirement that students possess skills which they can use flexibly across domains is global.”