In the next 30 days or so, the board exams will begin in most states. Students usually approach these with a mix of fear and anxiety.
Words of advice from all quarters—parents, relatives and peers, or anyone who has taken the dreaded “boards”—only add to the confusion. To help students survive this tough time and make the most of their prep break, we decided to seek out professionals—people who specialize in coaching and tutoring—and got them to share their mantra for a smart study schedule.
Study break: Vyushita Sahai, who’s appearing for her class X board exams, relaxes by playing the piano. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
The first step before you begin revision is to assess your capability. “If you are an academically bright student, the next couple of weeks is the time for you to concentrate on concepts that you have not revised earlier. Don’t waste time revisiting what you already know,” suggests Shiv Kumar, director, R&D and academics, at Careerlauncher.com, an organization that specializes in test-prep education. For weaker students, this precursor month to the boards is not the time to experiment. Revise what you know and perfect that. “Also, if you are likely to appear for competitive exams after your class XII boards, do try and devote 20% of your time to preparing for those exams, at least until mid-February,” says Kumar.
Sandeep Anand, CEO, 100Percentile.com, a test preparation website, advocates the five-R rule—reorganize, revise, rest, relax and reassure. “The most important step is to collect and organize all the study material you need in one place before you start. If you do that correctly, 50% of the stress factor will be lowered.”
Go off the books
Practise, practise, practise and don’t be lazy about working out all the steps, especially if you are a math or science student. “While you watch your favourite TV programme or have a meal, just pick up puzzles from newspapers and various websites and challenge yourself to solve them,” suggest academic instructors at IMS, a centre that specializes in management entrance exam-oriented prep material (www.imsindia.com). “This develops imagination and equips you with the art of out-of-the-box thinking in the shortest possible time.” Doing puzzles will be a welcome break from the routine syllabus as well. Another way to break the monotony of nose-to-the-book drills is to take tests online or study with TV channels such as Topper, which specializes in interactive course modules for students of class IX-XII. “Also, adopt a technique that allows you to connect the course content to everyday ideas so that you may have a higher recall,” suggests Debabrata Goswami, professor of chemistry at IIT Kanpur, who teaches class XI and XII students on Topper. Try acronyms, mnemonics, rhymes, or association of concepts with daily activities.
Take it further
Instead of robotically memorizing theorems and formulae from your math and science syllabi, find real-life applications for them. Instructors at IMS feel students get into the habit of memorizing without understanding. It is the easy way out, but definitely not the smartest. Often, last minute exam anxiety drives all rote learning out of the head.
Most tutorial agencies advise students against obsessive re-reading of the textbook matter without clarity on the topic. “If the fundamentals are not in place, the revisions would be of no use as more than 50% of the paper is usually application-based these days. It is never too late to go back and understand the basics if you have even the smallest doubt,” suggest the instructors at IMS.
For the language or arts papers, Atul Kulshrestha, chairman, Extramarks.com, a website that specializes in online board preparation, recommends writing out the answers instead of just verbal revision. “This will help you to understand where you are likely to make mistakes and also get a sense of how long you will take to phrase an answer,” he says.
Two things that Goswami urges students to guard against is having a very rigid timetable and just sticking to one subject at a go. “It is a good idea to have a set timetable,” Goswami says, but if “you need to spend an hour or so over your scheduled slot for a topic, don’t get stressed. Finish what you have started revising, take a break and then move to a new subject completely. It will help you to stay refreshed.”