Guide to an Engineering Student's Preparation for IIT JAM for MSc Physics

      For engineering students who are looking to do an MSc in physics in India, the IIT JAM (Joint Admission for MSc) exam is the main route to gain admission into IITs and several other institutes for an MSc admission in physics.

I was also a mechanical engineering undergrad at Delhi Technological University and gave my JAM exam in my final year. I was able to secure AIR 3 and got admission into the MSc physics program at IIT Bombay. So this is a post on how to crack the IIT JAM after engineering or during B.Tech. I would discuss how I prepared and what are some good strategies to prepare for the JAM exam for engineers.

Eligibility Criteria

[Are Engineers eligible for MSc Physics in IITs through JAM?
Reffer to this post to know about the ambiguity detailedly]

Let's first discuss the major issue that most engineering students face, that is, the eligibility criteria. The IIT JAM website says that for MSc physics admission, a student needs two semesters of math courses and four semesters of physics courses. Generally, all engineering programs have two math courses in two semesters, so this is not usually a problem. The issue is physics courses. Now as a mechanical engineer, I had two physics courses in the first two semesters and then mechanical engineering courses. But I still gave the JAM thinking that some of my mech courses like Fluid Mechanics and Heat and Mass Transfer could be considered physics courses.

Well, I got a top rank and was offered admission to IIT Bombay. The eligibility criteria are verified later in the institute and it was a mere formality. Engineers have got admission in IIT Bombay MSc physics in both my senior as well as junior batches. The general idea is that IIT Bombay and IIT Kanpur allow engineers, so if you get a top rank in JAM, you would get admission. The other IITs and NITs may not offer admission so it is better to apply to all possible institutes. 

(Follow this link to know about institutes that take engineering students in MSc physics:
How to study Physics after Engineering in India?)

But nevertheless, the eligibility criteria is a bit vague and branch dependent and it is hard to predict what would happen. So the best possible way is to just take the exam with full preparation, try to do your best while keeping back up options. If you get a top rank, IITB and IITK are definitely there to take you.

NOTE: IIT Indore accepts mechanical, Computer science and electrical engineers in their MSc Astronomy program

Now let's go to the preparation part.

Syllabus and Background

You can check the JAM syllabus here.

The JAM exam mainly tests undergraduate physics knowledge based on multiple choice type objective questions. For typical engineering students like me, some of the topics are known but there are other topics which we have never studied. 

In my case, during my third year, I used to spend time teaching myself physics via books and video lectures at an undergraduate level at least because I was interested in physics and wanted to make myself comparable in knowledge to any physics undergrad student, even though I was an engineering undergrad. My college had no provisions of taking courses of my choice and a bad physics department and thus self-study was the only option. But this background building made the JAM exam extremely easy for me.

If you already know that you want to do physics, I suggest you to start studying physics, not for the exam, but just for the love of it. It would give you an idea whether you indeed like physics or not since real physics involves more than just popular science shows and it needs a mathematical understanding of advanced physics topics. And it would also make any entrance exam like IIT JAM extremely easy to crack. If your college like the IITs has an option of taking physics courses, start taking them. 

For basic quantum mechanics, you can follow Griffith's or Shankar quantum mechanics or MIT's Allen Adam's video lectures. For electrodynamics, Griffith's is again a good choice. For nuclear and particle physics, Mittal and Verma can be used and for solid state physics and relativity, Arthur Beiser's modern physics is enough for JAM level. Mathematical physics is sometimes covered even in engineering and otherwise, Mary Boas's mathematical physics textbook is quite handy. In addition to all of this, NPTEL lectures and MIT OCW are also good sources to study physics on your own.

The earlier in your engineering program you start doing this, the better. Use holidays and vacations so that the required engineering coursework can be handled during the normal college days. Proper planning and scheduling will go a long way in helping and make a reasonable schedule and sticking to it.

Books & Sources:

  • Basics of all subjects: Halliday & Resnick. Feynman lectures (This one doesn't have many problems but is an excellent source to build intuition) 
  • Quantum mechanics: Griffith's or Shankar(Only the basics chapters) or Allan Adams 8.04 lectures
  • Electrodynamics:  Griffiths Mathematics: Mary L Boas Nuclear: Mittal & Verma  
  • Solid State Physics: Arthur Bieser's Modern physics 
  • Khan Academy videos for Building intuition in basics 
  • Numerous other videos available in NPTEL and MIT OCW etc..

Cracking the IIT JAM Exam

Cracking any exam requires extensive knowledge of what the exam tests and what the student is required to do. Assuming the physics background and syllabus is taken care of, here is what I did and what I suggest. The best way to practice for an exam is by taking it and the way to do it is via previous year question papers. In the last month leading to the exam, I bought Arihant's previous year IIT JAM papers book. Now this book may have mistakes in some of the answers' explanations, but it is invaluable since it provides previous year papers and model test papers. (You can find old papers of most of the physics entrance tests in the "Free download" section of the "fiziks" academy website. there also is a topic wise analysis of previous papers and other useful free stuff in the website)

Practice a few previous year papers, preferably the recent ones. Give timed mock tests and determine your weakness areas. Brush up on the weak topics and keep giving the timed mock tests using the book. Exam practice is the best practice and soon you would get a hang of what to do on the exam day. 

Once your physics background is there and you practice using previous year tests honestly, it is not difficult to get an extremely good rank in the IIT JAM exam. I did these two things and was able to do well in the exam. 


As an engineering student, if you want to do MSc physics in India, IIT JAM is an exam that should definitely be given a shot. Do not worry about the eligibility criteria and keep other options for back up which are mentioned in another post in the blog. Determine if you really like physics by studying physics on your own and balancing it with engineering coursework. Keep the JAM syllabus in mind and prepare all the mentioned topics. About a month before the exam, practice timed previous year papers and mock tests to get to know about the exam. 

If you do all this, there is no reason why you wouldn't get a great rank in the IIT JAM exam even if you are an engineer. 

Good Luck!

If you want to read about my journey into physics after engineering, you can read about it here: My Journey into Physics After Engineering -Vaibhav Sharma

Also, do visit all other posts in our blog Physics after Engineering

If you have more questions, you can reach me here in comments or on 
Facebook: Vaibhav Sharma
Quora: Vaibhav Sharma

Also, do visit all other useful content of our blog Physics after Engineering.
Below is a page with the link for our WhatsApp group with 250+ members all of whom are engineers who actively discuss and help each other out in entering physics stream after engineering.

About the author:

Mr. Vaibhav Sharma is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in the prestigious Cornell University, an ivy league university which is the 14th best university in the world and is among the top 10 universities in the USA!!

The fact that he once was an engineering grad like the readers of the blog should give us all enough hope and assurance to pursue our passion for physics after engineering.


  1. Hey Vaibhav! I just can't explain how happy and relaxed I feel after looking at your success in diverting to physics. I am now in my 4th year of Computer Engineering and want to study physics. So, Thank you so much!

    1. Yeah that's a really inspiring journey, I too found a lot of assurance and joy reading that. I suggest you to look at all other posts in our blog that has information about all the possible ways in which one can shift from engineering to physics stream and also preparation tips to Jam and other exams similar to that.

  2. I found this blog amazingly helpful in clearing doubts and giving clear vision of what to opt for.Vaibhav sir ,I found your story very inspiring . Thank you for putting such sincere efforts to help (engineering) students like us.

    1. Thanks Kapse! Glad I could be of help. I hope you spread the word among others who need help.

  3. Which books should be referred for classical mechanics and vibrations waves?

    1. Halliday Resnick for newtonian mechanics and AP French's book for waves and oscillations should be enough. For classical lagrangian or hamiltonian mechanics, use Goldstein.


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