Schools

Don't just cram

Students preparing for exams. Photo: K. Pichumani  

The board exam timetable is pasted on the wall in front and you are wondering, “Is my study plan good enough?” Your school helps you with preparation, but you have doubts: What should I concentrate on — short or long-answer-questions, text or diagrams, main subjects or languages? How do I remember all the points? Will I be able to complete the paper? Will I have time to revise? How do I manage time before and during the exams?

These are important questions in this career-defining race. But do not worry. Following a few simple tips can help you prepare and answer papers in a way that will enable you to secure good marks.

Gearing up

Write the exam with a clear mind and confidence. Avoid distractions. If you are not studying, go through in your mind what you studied, tick off the points mentally or recite an equation. To stay fresh, eat food that can be digested easily. Find activities to de-stress, like yoga, music or walks in a park or beach. Take small breaks (15 minutes) while studying. If you are feeling sleepy, take a nap, wash your face, drink a glass of cold water and get back to studies.

Adopt a three-way strategy: Study, solve question banks and answer sample papers. It is important to be thorough with the numericals in the textbook, since the ones in the question paper could resemble these. Do sample papers without a break to see whether you can sit continuously for three hours. To manage time, check how long you took to answer each question. Keep track of where you get stuck — like essay writing, steps in math, etc — so that you can focus on improving those sections. Written practice is also very important.

Plan of action

Chalk out a well-laid timetable for preparation by allotting ample time for each subject. Try to cover every topic and chapter. There is very little chance of questions coming from outside the textbook. Allot time for subjects depending on how much you know and how vast the syllabus it.

You can also reverse the order of preparation — the last few exams first and the first exam closer to the date. Practise diagrams, graphs and tables and make sure they are neatly labelled. For chemistry, practise conversions, the main reactions and logic questions. Solve 10 question papers from the previous years to figure out the exam pattern and popular questions.

Prepare flash cards with formulae, theorems and definitions. Write formulae, notes and dates in bright colours on chart paper and put them up on the wall. Ask someone at home to quiz you on those and check how quickly you can recall them.

Take out time for group study with serious friends. You can have doubts cleared and get valuable study-method tips. For clarity, maintain separate notebooks for each subject where you can jot down important points, formulae, solved exercises. These notes will help you quickly revise before specific exams. Do not compare your pre-board test marks with that of other students. Take these board exams as a fresh start and concentrate on your preparation.

Exam time

Reach the examination hall a little early. Make sure you are carrying all the important things: admit card, pen, pencil, eraser, instrument box, etc. Once you are seated, put everything out neatly, stay calm and say a prayer if you want. Be alert and read the questions carefully. Misinterpretation of questions can be quite damaging. Start with the ones that you are more confident with. Once you have completed the easier and moderate ones, attempt the others, but don’t mix the sections. If you can’t remember an answer, do not panic and move on to the next one. Answers have a way of springing to mind if your preparation is thorough.

Choose numerical over theoretical questions and find shorter methods to solve them. You would know the answers, but presenting them well is very important. Write neatly and underline concepts to make it easy for the examiner to find answer points. Write clear answers keeping them short, unambiguous, direct and simple. No examiner likes to scratch his/her head to figure out what’s written. Remember to leave some time for revision at the end and re-check the paper carefully.

Health tips

You may sleep late and get up late in the morning during preparation time. But will it work when the exams are on? Examinations are scheduled for early morning hours, so correct your routine. Go to bed early and wake up early. Get up around 4 a.m. for a round of revision. Set your body clock in order.

Ensure at least six hours of sound sleep a day. A rested mind is in a better state to grasp the questions. If you can’t sleep, drink a glass of warm milk boiled with athimathuram (liquorice) before going to bed.

Chitra Ravi of EZ Vidya says, “Regular and consistent study helps more than bursts in the last mile. Sitting in silence for 15 minutes a day helps calm the mind. Mild music, scented candles can have a soothing effect on a racing mind.” She also advises students to get ample practice since it helps to improve speed and confidence, especially in math.

Don’t just ‘read’ math problems, work them out. Remember, your syllabus is limited and there’s only so much one can test. Don’t discuss the paper soon after the exam — you have other exams coming up and it is important to stay focused. Enjoy the preparation and live the moment. “No matter what people say, it is only an examination. It is the beginning of your life in many ways and certainly not the end,” says Chitra.


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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 4:38:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/school/dont-just-cram/article6869029.ece

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