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Exams: How to prepare well?

by Dr. Mandar V. Bichu
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Exam preparation is not just about the strategy to prepare for writing examination papers, when they are a week or a month away. There are some things which should be part and parcel of any student’s mental make-up to help her/him in learning any subject and be prepared for exams.

  1. The preparation of exams or tests starts from the time the teacher teaches a particular topic in the class. Attentively listening to the lesson while it is being taught; active participation in the related class discussion; completing home-assignment and studying the topic at home are usually sufficient to absorb and recall the subject matter. These steps should become a study routine from young age. Regular study is the best way to avoid examination blues!
  2. Good, legible hand-writing is an asset and appropriate efforts should be made in the early years to develop that skill.
  3. While studying a topic, effort should be focused on absorbing the concepts, rather than cramming up exact words through sheer memorization.
  4. Different subjects need different approaches. Technical subjects such as math and science demand precision whereas languages require imagination.
  5. Not all students can excel in each subject and many a time, they may find some subjects difficult or even boring. But they have to be clear in their mind that they should not neglect the subjects they dislike. In fact, they should try and put in extra effort to understand and master those subjects.
  6. In day-to-day life situations, many times the timings and schedules need to be modified. That’s why rather than making strict, rigid time-tables, it is important to teach the value of flexible but responsible time management. Allotting a certain time of the day for studies; dividing that time into different subjects/topics and completing the set tasks within the set time should be taught from the early school age.
  7. Efficacy of studying can be maximized through various strategies such as fast reading; preparing notes and charts; mnemonics; mental math techniques; visual/verbal recall and solving mock test questions.
  8. Internet has opened many new avenues to improve study techniques. Besides lots of reference material, there are many free tutorial videos from expert teachers available on the net. These resources could be effectively used to improve the understanding of different subjects.
  9. General reading habit (Reading newspapers, magazines and fiction-non-fiction books) helps in building up vocabulary, imagination, general knowledge and overall world-perspective.
  10. Extra-curricular recreational activities (Sports, arts) should be given due importance to develop a well-rounded personality.

Preparing for an approaching examination

The preparation needs to be modified when the major exams are just a few weeks away. The tips for students are as follows:

  1. Ideally this final preparation should begin 4- 6 weeks in advance. This time around the main goal is revision, practice and strengthening the weak study-areas.
  2. Prepare a time-table where every subject has been given enough weightage.
  3. This timetable should be like a countdown (10, 9, 8, 7….) and each day should have a set portion as the goal. Of course, sometimes these goals may not be met fully and the schedules may need adjustments accordingly.
  4. Due consideration is to be given to the fact that each subject should be revised not too far from its examination date.
  5. Try to keep adequate breaks and keep a mix of subjects to avoid boredom. (For example – after doing math sums for a long time, take a break and then read history or language lessons). How long a study session or a break should last is according the student’s aptitude, attitude and ability.
  6. Read the subject matter through the text-book and notes. Rather than taking a long time on each topic, try to run through the important points and elaborate them in your mind.
  7. Go through the question-banks or previous years’ question-papers if such sources are available.
  8. Write a few mock test-papers with full seriousness to simulate the exam experience.
  9. Get to know the marking scheme from teachers to get an idea which points should be stressed in the answers.
  10. Group discussions with classmates can prove useful but make sure not to waste that time in idle chatter.

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