JAM, JEST or TIFR, Which exam to prepare for?


       I’d like to start off by classifying exams into groups rather than viewing them individually, I’d strongly recommend readers to do the same, otherwise might lead to confusion-given the huge number of exams one can give. The point of separating by exam syllabus is that you can prepare yourself for all the exams under a group that has the same syllabus.

The Physics entrance exams can be divided into two categories broadly based on the education level of the students they’re designed for, BSc level and MSc level. Do read the blog post [How to do MSc Physics after B.Tech/B.E?] below to find out all the exams we can give.

Here I’ll be classifying and analyse them to see which of them suits whom.

BSc Level Exams

These exams are Screening tests for BSc grads to enter MSc or Integrated Ph.D. (MSc+PhD). All these exams have more or less the same syllabus, so preparing for one of them would mean you’re mostly prepared for the other ones too. Of course, there is no 100% overlap in the syllabus but you can always prepare those few extra topics as required for any specific exam.
  • JAM
  • Physics GRE
  • MSc Entrance tests for universities like HCU, LNMIIT, JNU, Pune University, IIT Mandi, DU, and many others mentioned in the blog post above

MSc Level Exams

These exams are Screening tests for MSc grads to enter a Ph.D. or job.

  • JEST (it also is for BSc grads, will dig into the deets in the next section)
  • GATE
  • CMI Ph.D. entrance test
  • A few other tests mentioned in the blog post above

Before I start the comparisons I’d like you to know that I’m very much in favor of studying for BSc level exams with a major focus on JAM. Though I’ve tried to be as objective as I can, it’s very likely (and obvious when I look back at the article now 😅) that my biases have crept in. So, do bear that in mind while reading.


Things to consider

  • No.of Institutes accepting the Exam
This is the most important thing in my opinion.  In this post How to do MSc Physics after B.Tech/B.E?, I have listed all the exams one can give and the institutes that admit through those exams.
If you take a look at the MSc level exams, you’ll notice that through JEST, one can get into almost all of the ‘good’ research institutes(not the IITs of course) in the country. All the other exams like(GATE & NET) have a much lesser number of institutes most of which are already covered under JEST.
Of the BSc level exams,  JAM makes you eligible for the max number of institutes.  IITs and IISERs
  • Stipend
All IPhd programs and Ph.D. programs provide you with a monthly stipend of Rs 31,000.

Through JEST and other MSc level exams you’ll be mostly entering IPhd programs or Ph.D. programs. Hence, you’ll be provided with a stipend. For IPhd programs it’ll be Rs 16,000 per month for the first year, then it’ll be enhanced to Rs 31,000 per month as a normal Ph.D. student. If you are economically struggling or if you need money for any reason then it’ll be a great option. HRI and LNMIIT are the only institutes that offer stipend during MSc although it’s not a Ph.D. or IPhd program. So, if you go through JEST you’ll be mostly getting a stipend.

Through JAM you’ll be getting mostly into MSc programs, however, there are a few IPhd programs through JAM in IISERs where again you’ll be paid the same amount of stipend.

BSc level exams Vs MSc level ones

Here I’ll quickly discuss the major differences(apart from the two discussed above) you’ll need to be wary of while choosing one of the groups.


  • Difficulty: BSc level exams are obviously easier than MSc exams as the syllabus to be covered is much lesser.
  • No.of seats: This year, through JAM, General candidates with a rank around 600 also got into the new IITs (They are not comparable to old ones but still they are fine to do our first Physics degree) the other universities offering MSc also have good amount seats as compared to JEST. Less than 400 people qualify JEST (even lesser for CSIR-NET) and there is no guarantee of a seat even if one qualifies as they have to crack interviews which again are competitive. You check here in this list that most people who made it to physics after engineering from our community have made it through BSc level exams.
  • Going abroad: If you wish to go abroad at some point(which I highly recommend) then you need to wait until Post doc if you get into IPhd or a Ph.D. program. But if you’re in an MSc program and build a good research profile with Internships (additionally publishing a paper will be extremely helpful) you can go abroad for Ph.D. right after MSc.
  • Dilemma in choosing a research field: If you join an MSc course, during your two years of learning different subjects in physics, you’ll get an idea about which one to choose to pursue your Ph.D. in, but in an I-PhD, after the initial course work for 2 years, you’ll have to do your Ph.D. in that institute only(there are a few with exit options though), and that institute may or may not have people working on the topic of your interest. Since engineers won’t be quite knowledgable about the various sub-streams and research fields, it’d be better if we decide on the go while studying. Even with people who already have an inclination towards a specific field, It sometimes happens that the initial field of interest changes during the course when they’re exposed to more number of streams. It is to be noted that though some institutes let you quit an integrated Ph.D. in the middle and leave with a master’s degree, it’s usually not followed for some reason.
  • Interviews: All the I-Phd and Ph.D. programs will require you to crack the Interview while MSc entrance exams don’t.

In praise of JAM

     JAM is rather easier to crack for us since it is of BSc level syllabus as opposed to JEST and other MSc exams which will need us to cover a lot more syllabus.
The second thing, JAM happens in February and most other BSc level exams (i.e MSc entrance exams) happen in June or after that. Hence you’ll have a lot of time to prepare for those exams which are essentially on the same syllabus as JAM. If you couldn’t crack JAM for some reason, it’ll give you a lot of time to reflect upon and correct mistakes in the June exams.
Thirdly, with JAM preparation you can also crack (but of course you might not top) JEST. This is because the JEST exam is designed with both BSc grads and MSc grads in mind. You’ll apply for JEST in the IPhD category and so you’ll be only competing with the BSc level grads who usually have knowledge only of BSc level Physics. Though the paper is the same for both Ph.D. and IPhd categories, the ranking will be differentThere actually are a few cases of people cracking JEST with solely JAM preparation, read this post by Bala Kumar who did that feat


     So, if you were to ask me which exams should I prepare for, then I’d say “You need to first decide if you want to focus on BSc or MSc level exams. If you choose to go for BSc level exams then focus on JAM and if you’re looking for MSc level exams, then focus more on JEST. Some people do both but I’d not recommend that”
So, my picks are
  • JAM     –   from the pool of BSc level exams
  • JEST    –   from that of MSc level exams
     Notice, I only asked you to focus ‘more’ on those particular exams, not to ignore the other exams. If you are preparing for BSc level exams then prepare with focus on JAM and orient your preparation around that exam, but that doesn’t mean you’ll not give the other exams or not prepare for them. One better appears for other exams(Both in this pool and the other pool) and study the few extra topics for individual exams (for the exams in that group, of course) as needed. The same goes if you choose JEST.

   All in all, no matter which exam you choose, you need to top the exams and outdo the candidates who majored in Physics stream in a Physics exam! That means, working one’s bottom off is a necessity independent of their choice of the exam. So, all the best in that and if you need any help or motivation we’ve got a whole community to help you and cheer for you, CHEERS 🍻!!

You can find exam preparation strategies, tips, and motivational success stories, etc written by our group members at
Physics after Engineering.

Below is the link for our Whatsapp group with 700+ members all of whom are engineers who actively discuss and help each other out in entering the physics stream after engineering. 

You can find the FAQs and important conversations that happened earlier in the groups in this SubRedditr/Physicsaftrengineerin/

Mail me on [email protected] for further queries.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on telegram
Share on whatsapp

1 thought on “JAM, JEST or TIFR, Which exam to prepare for?”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Applying to German Universities

I have briefly summarized the application process in steps, I tried to be as straightforward as possible. Here are some steps. Application Process Looking for universities Look for university list

Self-Preparation For JEE, NEET, KVPY

Hi! I am Ritam Pal, and I have been a JEE/NEET aspirant like you just some time ago… I qualified KVPY in the year 2018 and 2019(both SA and SX),

Economics After Engineering

Economics ISI MSQE (19–20 LPA) ELIGIBILITY: Three-year Bachelor’s degree with Economics and Mathematics as full subjects.Holders of the B.Stat. degree of the Institute are eligible only if they have taken

Akash Gupta

Applying to German Universities

I have briefly summarized the application process in steps, I tried to be as straightforward as possible. Here are some steps. Application Process Looking for universities Look for university list

Read More »

Economics After Engineering

Economics ISI MSQE (19–20 LPA) ELIGIBILITY: Three-year Bachelor’s degree with Economics and Mathematics as full subjects.Holders of the B.Stat. degree of the Institute are eligible only if they have taken

Read More »