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Branch Change - Clearing the Mist

August 27, 2019
- Jayati Shrivastava, Divyam Goel, Arnab Mukherjee

To be or not to be a BC

The IITs are considered to be the most coveted institutions for undergraduate studies across the country. The fact that only around 1% of the candidates appearing in the entrance exam manage to secure a seat in these institutions is a testament to the quality of students that manage to get through.

But added to this is the disadvantage that your fate is left in the hands of that little amount of magic that you produce during the 6 hrs of one of the most difficult and strenuous examinations across the globe. The incredible load of expectations of all those who surround the examinee sometimes leads to blunders that can cost the candidate his/her dreams. However, the system itself provides the candidates with another chance to deem themselves worthy of their dreams, with the opportunity to change their branch in their freshman year.

In the oldest technical institute of the country, this opportunity presents itself at the end of the first semester. The best part about it? The students compete as equals with nothing but merit separating them from their dreams. That, and of course their JEE rank that comes back to haunt some of the candidates. Most of the freshmen find themselves struggling to strike that sweet spot of balance between exploring the plethora of opportunities that the campus has to offer and studying “hard enough” in order to have a better shot at changing the cards they were dealt with.

The main aim of this article is to dispel some of the myths that seem to surround the idea of changing your branch, make past year statistics easily accessible, and hopefully provide perspective with regards to the ideology behind the process.

Rules and Regulations

The guidelines for the branch change procedure for the academic year 2018-19 can be found here:

Key Takeaways:

  1. The additional 10% seats “added” at the end of the semester are calculated using the original number of seats being offered by the department during the JoSAA counseling. Extra seats are also vacated if students from a department change their branches. (see next picture)

  2. Grades are the only criteria on which preference is given to students. In the case of equal grades, the JEE Advanced rank will be the tiebreaker.

  3. B.Arch students aren’t eligible

“In India, we don’t choose our major but our major chooses us.”

Reflect on this for a second. Most of the students who enrolled in IIT Roorkee in any branch whatsoever did so without much research about what they were getting into. In fact, the research generally begins after the JEE ranks are out and your future has already been partially decided. Most of us are told to choose any available branch from the old IITs simply because of their reputation(sounds familiar?).

According to the modern-day convention, almost everyone seems to be aiming for the circuit branches without actually even knowing what the stream is all about.

But since we’re already here, how about adopting a different approach?

The first step in any life-changing decision is to identify why you think taking that decision means so much to you. Most of the candidates that think about changing their department do so citing the placement statistics of the previous years. While not the best way to make that decision, we don’t discourage you from going down that road. But what we certainly encourage you to do is to understand that now that you are on campus, you have the opportunity to talk to a vast variety of seniors, all of whom are working in various different fields. In doing so you enable yourself to make an informed decision of what you want to do, at least for the next few years if not eternity.

Citing the fact that a number of students look forward to the process, the rules and regulations for the same were considerably relaxed last year. Owing to this, the students now enjoy a much better chance to change their branch than they did prior to 2018. The following diagram shows the number of students that successfully changed their branch last year:


Adopting a Holistic Approach

Contrary to popular belief, being a traditional “ghissu” is not the key to changing your branch. For most of it, it is a journey in parallel to the one you embarked on when preparing for JEE but also a lot different in terms of the opportunity cost and final outcome.

Most candidates who give their everything towards the idea of a department change often make the same mistakes, the most major of them all being never actually stepping out of their rooms to explore what the campus has to offer. This decision either comes back to haunt them if they fail or becomes something that just falls into the pit of buried regrets if they are successful.

Adopting a holistic approach in getting through your time on campus is probably the best thing that you can do regardless of what your aspirations are. Devote yourself to your studies, the idea being to give your best but not to be bogged down if you’re unable to do so (this is where relative grading is most helpful). At the same time don’t disregard all the talks and lectures that the institute and the various campus groups organize.

The key is to manage your time exceptionally well and also to be persistent with your efforts towards the final goal (see the similarities yet?).

How tough is it?

To put things into perspective, we now follow up with a diagram based on last years statistics. The numbers provided here are just to give the viewer an idea of what he/she needs to do in order to secure a branch change. It is important to note that these numbers do not form a standard basis and change each year according to the preferences of the candidates that year.

As mentioned earlier, the rules for this procedure have been considerably relaxed but even so the entry into the “much coveted” circuit branches(CSE, ECE, and EE) remains an uphill task. The required SGPA last year was as follows:

Branch Opening SG Closing SG
CSE 9.905 9.81
ECE 9.714 9.619
EE 9.667 9.381
MSM 9.429 9.429
ME 9.381 9.048
CE 9.333 9.333
EPH 9.286 8.714
CHE 9.048 8.857
IN 9 8.81
GPT 8.714 7.81

Final Word of Advice

The truth is that changing your branch is by no means easy, but consistency and persistence go a long way in getting you what you want. It is important to remember that your college isn’t just here to provide you with quality education, being an IITian is a lot more than that. It’s about modeling yourself into a better individual, something that is only possible if you step out of your room and your comfort zones to experience the journey that is IIT-Roorkee. So although putting a semester into something that draws you as much as the idea of a branch change (and we know it does), it wouldn’t be the worst idea to allow yourself to indulge into the little joys of campus life as well.

Hear it from them

“What I followed was simple, I attended all the lectures, made notes and attempted all tutorials. Whenever I found any topic difficult, I read the textbooks referred by the professor. If I ever felt the need for additional resources for the common courses, I contacted students of other branches. Regular study and consistency is the key. It is important to understand that being completely absorbed in just studies will do no good, rather it will cause frustration. My simple advice to any aspirant is that be regular and sincere. If you ever feel stressed or bored, just knock on your friend’s door.”

- Sparsh Gupta (2nd Year, Branch Changer from EE to ECE)

“The best advice that anyone can give you regarding changing your department is to stop thinking about it right up until the time you actually have to fill out the choices. I followed a similar approach but only after a set back in my mid sem examinations.

In my experience, the most difficult part of getting my department changed was rising above all the years of spoon-feeding that we received when at school and our coaching centers. The teaching standards seemed to have dropped all of a sudden where the professors expected us to do nothing more but either rote learn the formulae or take the high road and not study at all.

But in this process of discovering the right recipe to success, I ended up learning the true meaning of self-study. Do not let things get monotonous. You could study 8 hours a day and not get anywhere or study as many hours as you actually require and get to a place where you’re more comfortable with yourself. Involving yourself in the other activities being carried out on the campus. DON’T MISS OUT. Believe me, when I say this, it will keep things interesting and if you play your cards right you might just be able to get your department changed.”

- Divyam Goel (2nd Year, Branch Changer from BT to ECE)

“Early on I realized that the curriculum courses were not too demanding.The actual challenge was to stay focused through the hullabaloo around.

The start of the semester sees many students excitedly entertaining the prospect of branch change, but the interest and the will to work hard fade over time. The lectures are tedious and waking up for the 8 am class may not seem worthwhile. You might not see immediate results of your efforts. Also, the sense of having too much to do in too little time never leaves, but you gradually get better at multitasking.

My performance in the mid-semester exams was barely satisfactory and its easiest to give up when the odds in your favor “seem” so low. But if you truly, sincerely want something, you will keep trying and your efforts are sure to see you through.”

- Jayati Shrivastava (2nd Year, Branch Changer from PSE to EE)

“Even while taking up chemical engineering, I had it churning at the back of my mind that I NEEDED to get into mechanical engineering; I had convinced myself that I was undoubtedly passionate about it. Turns out, after a couple of semesters into my new branch I am pursuing research in physics( which I am not entirely sure of either ). The moral here is that interests are extremely volatile and keep changing, and if you indeed are truly passionate about something, you’ll be able to do it regardless of your branch, even though it might be trickier in some cases.

One thing you can do is to make full use of all the opportunities this campus has to offer. Never spoken in public before? Try debating. Never tried putting in ink the things that roam in your mind? Try writing for a magazine. Try making a website of your own and see if it interests you. Reach out to seniors for help. Roorkee can be a lot of fun if you manage your time here well and have some self-awareness.”

- Sudhang Varshney (3rd Year, Branch Changer from CH to ME)

“You might not feel so good about the lectures. Don’t worry, even I didn’t. Self study will help you sail through. But I suggest that you should attend the lectures regularly and try to be attentive. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Also having a good attendance helps you in bunking classes before the mid-sem and end-sem exams to study. Complete the tut sheets on time and attend tutorials regularly to clear your doubts.Mostly the questions asked in exams are from the tut sheets.”

- Gurdeep Singh (2nd Year, Branch Changer from EE to CSE)

“Scoring a high SGPA is not difficult if someone completes the assignments in time and keeps up with whatever the professor is teaching in the class. Reference books give you confidence in the course. Match your class notes with the referred books to better understand topics you are not clear about. My mid-semester performance was just above average. At that moment, I could have concluded that branch change was not my cup of tea but my consistency and persistence paid off.”

- Nitish Aggrawal (2nd Year, Branch Changer from MECH to EE)

“Staying attentive to all the lectures throughout the semester is not possible, but try not to let the workload pile up for the end moment. Also, be serious about the CWS marks as they make quite a difference to your final score.”

- Radha Jayaraman (2nd year, Branch Changer from PSE to CHEM)