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Updated: February 16, 2014 14:06 IST

Go easy

Rema Menon
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Set realsitic targets and achieve them. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
The Hindu Set realsitic targets and achieve them. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

With a clear-cut, planned approach, you can work your way through the board exams. Some pointers to help you gear up.

“What is this year’s cut- off percentage at Anna University? Will I make the cut? Should I try for C.A. along with B.Com.? Balu is keeping the Singapore option open, should I do the same? I have not done the SAT subject tests; will I have time to meet the deadlines? Will I get the 96 per cent my parents expect of me? Should I check my Facebook account? Will I see my friends again? The entrance exam coaching is killing my time. Who invented exams?” These are just some of the questions that plague the minds of young adults as they prepare for the boards and plan the next chapter in their lives.

As a counsellor, I always tell people who seek my advice that it is natural to feel some level of anxiety because of the expectations in you, peer pressure, the competitive nature of the admission cycle and the challenges of the unknown future and what it holds for each one of them. Instead of freaking out, jumping from one subject to another while preparing, STOP! Take a deep breath, remember that you need to control your thoughts and fears or they will take control of you.

The exams are barely three weeks away. Those of you who are procrastinating and sitting in ‘La La Land’, remember it is time to pull up your socks. Others who are feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead, take charge.

Where are you in the preparation platform? Subject by subject, do a colour coding of chapters you need to complete. Code Red — chapters to be done. Amber— chapters that are half done. Green — done! Tackle the RED chapters when you are in ‘the zone’. The matter revised should be committed to long-term memory. When we do not go over the material and revise and repeat the exercise, everything will seem familiar but you will not have enough points to answer the essay questions. Our brains can retain enormous amounts of material but to do that you need to go over the information till you get it. Mindless memorisation is not the trick, understanding the concept and its application is the key.

Realistic targets

Once you have taken stock of your level of preparedness with the colour coding exercise, design a timetable that is doable. By being aware of the weightage of marks for each unit or chapter, you can work smart, and focus your energies on those chapters that have maximum weightage. Tough subjects could be prioritised and tackled when you are fresh and ready to seize the moment. Making brief notes and mind maps can help you in remembering points while revising the subject.

You should allow yourself intervals between each time slot so that you can take a break and not be too stressed. Remember, setting unrealistic goals will only dishearten you.

Download the previous years’ papers and take mock tests once you have completed the portions. Short tests on units covered may also be effective in understanding where you stand.

Try to study in an environment conducive for uninterrupted study. Avoid temptations like ipad, playstation, laptop, Facebook, WhatsApp, TV and phone. They distract you and can be ‘time wasters’ at this juncture.

Each individual has his/her own unique learning style and place of study. Some like all related material spread out in front of them while others are organised and keep only the relevant material necessary. Some like music in the background while others need pin-drop silence. Select an environment and style that best suits you. While working on past papers, try to recreate test conditions and be true to yourself and the assessment. Try to get the answers evaluated by a tutor/teacher to understand your areas of weakness and work on those segments.

Time is of utmost importance at this stage of exam preparation. Identify the challenging topics and jot down points. Should doubts arise, identify them; seek assistance from teachers to clarify them. Small doubts can make you anxious and worried. Minimise those by identifying them and finding adequate solutions. Unless you take charge and sort them out, they could cause undue stress. By keeping such tasks to the last minute, you will unnecessarily fear the worst.

Learning styles

Some of my students need to make copious notes, some need to read aloud, some need to mark their notes with post-its, highlighters and pictures, while others need to go over things line-by-line with their index finger or walk up and down the room reading aloud. You could be a visual learner, auditory learner, tactile learner (kinaesthetic) or adopt a combination of these styles. Some of you may be ‘day larks’ and study best early in the morning while others are ‘night owls’ and work late into the night.

One of the common refrains I hear from parents is that their children do not eat or sleep during the days leading up to the boards. It is important to sleep six-to-eight hours a day. By burning the midnight oil and staying up all night, some students get to the examination centre all tired and sleepy. Sleep deprivation can affect your ability to recall information and all your hard work may come to naught. Also, avoid junk foods that will make you put on weight. Eat healthy and include foods in your diet that help you sustain your energy levels.

Once you have completed the tasks you have assigned yourself, reward yourself. Take a break by going for a walk or a short stint in the gym. Light exercises not only tone up the body but also bring welcome relief after a hard day dedicated to revision. When self- doubt and stress overwhelm you, go into ‘auto suggestion mode’ and tell yourself you can do it. Rational self- talk is also effective when your mind wanders off and you lack focus. A few relaxation exercises can help you stay calm and prevent panic attacks. ‘Pranayama’/Yoga would certainly be helpful. Apart from all this, believe in yourself and give it your best shot.

The writer is director and founder,Counselling Point Training and Development, Dubai, U.A.E.

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