If you thought national-level competitive examinations for school students start after class X, you are wrong. A number of talent search examinations nurture the analytical, reasoning and subject knowledge in the primary class itself. This month, two such exams – National Talent Search Exam (NTSE) and National Science Olympiad (NSO) – will be held, and according to the organisers, the number of students taking such tests is on the rise.

Rithvik Narayanan was in class III when he first appeared for a national examination, National Science Olympiad. “I only prepared from my text book but in the Olympiad there were very few questions from the book. It was an average performance, but it taught me that there is more to be learnt beyond the text books,” says the class VI student of Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan School, T.P. Road. This year he has already appeared for the International Informatics Olympiad and has two more exams to take. “I work out problems mentally before using the pen and paper and read up reference books to prepare,” he says.

According to experts, the organisers usually send information on such tests to the schools and in a majority of the institutions it is the top scoring students who are encouraged to take the examinations. These exams motivate students to explore understanding of a subject beyond the textbook and to take up self-study at a young age.

“These tests do not essentially conform to any syllabus or board. In Maths, for instance, students are only expected to know the information and formulae they learn in a particular class. But the approach they take to solve a problem is what makes these tests tricky or easy,” says Dhirendra Pratap Singh, faculty in Maths and Physics, AIMS Education. Teachers agree these tests are training ground for higher level exams, the most popular of them being IIT-JEE and medical entrances. Last year 11.5 lakh students appeared for the Olympiad exams conducted by Science Olympiad Foundation from 850 cities. The Foundation is next introducing International English Olympiad in association with English and Foreign Language University, Hyderabad.

“From class IV onwards, there are many takers and the maximum is in class X. The motivating factor for the candidates is that we do an analysis of each one's performance and send it to their school. We also rank the child at the city and national levels,” says Rajan Marwaha, Director (Corporate Communications) of SOF.

Students say that as there is no prescribed book these exams really test one's understanding of a subject. To enable class VIII students taking the NTSE scheduled for November 21, TRS Forms and Services Pvt. Ltd, a data capturing and imaging services, is conducting free online pre-test on www.e-assessment.in.

“Last year 1.5 lakh students took the NTSE exams and this year the number will be nearly 2 lakh. For students who are not taking any external help in the form of coaching and want to know where they stand, the pre-test should be a great platform,” says N. Subramanian, CEO, TRS Forms and Services.

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