STU­DENT OF THE YEAR

Five sim­ple ways to ace en­trance ex­ams. Top­pers tell you how.

India Today - - ASPIRE - By Son­ali Achar­jee

When Ankit Garg, 22, scored 100 per­centile in the Com­mon Ad­mis­sion Test ( CAT) 2009, he had lit­tle idea about the kind of me­dia at­ten­tion and aca­demic lau­rels that would soon come his way. “On the day the re­sults were an­nounced my house in Chandi­garh was burst­ing with re­porters and TV cam­eras. I had ex­pected good re­sults in the CAT but scor­ing full marks came as a wel­come sur­prise,” says Garg, who went on to com­plete his

MBA from In­dian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment, Cal­cutta.

In­tense com­pe­ti­tion and un­pre­dictable exam pa­pers have made crack­ing en­trance ex­ams the sole pur­pose of many a young stu­dent’s life. “Ear­lier crack­ing Joint En­trance Ex­am­i­na­tion ( IIT- JEE) meant tak­ing upon only one exam ( IIT- JEE), while se­cur­ing 60 per cent in your board ex­ams. To­day how­ever, get­ting a seat at an In­dian In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy ( IIT), has be­come a sort of triple jump, wherein you first have to en­sure your pres­ence in the top- 20 per­centile in board ex­ams, then be in the top 1.5 lakh in JEE ( main). Once you have cleared both hur­dles, you can ap­pear for JEE ( ad­vance), which is equiv­a­lent of the ear­lier IIT- JEE. The prepa­ra­tion has to be for all three fronts, boards and JEE ( main and ad­vance). “This has added to the bur­den of stu­dents,” says Manoj Sharma, vice pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Res­o­nance Edu­ven­tures. In 2012, 5 lakh stu­dents ap­peared for the

IIT- JEE, for 9,647 seats with a suc­cess rate of 1.9 per cent. In 2013, 12.75 lakh stu­dents ap­peared in JEE ( main) for 9,885 seats with a suc­cess rate of 0.76 per cent. “The in­ten­sity of com­pe­ti­tion has al­most tripled in just two years. Pre­par­ing for both board ex­ams and test pa­pers has now be­come ex­tremely stress­ful for stu­dents,” adds Sharma.

Be it the med­i­cal National El­i­gi­bilty and En­trance Test ( NEET), the man­age­ment CAT, the en­gi­neer­ing JEE or the le­gal Com­mon Law Ad­mis­sion Test ( CLAT), there are some tried and tested prepa­ra­tion tac­tics that are guar­an­teed never to fail, no mat­ter what the exam.

AL­WAYS FO­CUS ON YOUR CORE STRENGTHS

Pallerla Sai San­deep Reddy, 17, from Butcha­la­palem , Andhra Pradesh, knew what his strengths and weak­nesses were when he ap­peared for the JEE ( ad­vance) this year. With a score of 332 out of 360, Reddy emerged as the national top­per. “It’s im­por­tant to con­cen­trate on what sec­tions you are good at in the exam be­cause th­ese are the bits that you are sure to get max­i­mum marks in. This doesn’t mean that you should over­look your weak points. Join a coach­ing in­sti­tute for some ex­tra help in im­prov­ing your score in sec­tions that you are per­form­ing poorly in,” says Reddy, who re­ceived free coach­ing af­ter top­ping their en­trance exam af­ter his class 10th ex­ams.

“In the three months lead­ing up to the exam I would spend atleast 12- 14 hours a day work­ing to im­prove my score across all sec­tions, par­tic­u­larly the ones where I was al­ways scored rel­a­tively high marks. I did how­ever, take breaks once in a while as I didn’t want to over­work my­self. I could of­ten be found read­ing my favourite Harry Pot­ter books when I was

feel­ing stressed,” adds Reddy. He now plans to join IIT Bom­bay and even­tu­ally work in the field of ro­bot­ics.

DO NOT TRY TO BAL­ANCE STUD­IES WITH WORK

Jab­neet Singh, 26, quit his full- time job as a soft­ware en­gi­neer in Hyderabad be­fore start­ing his prepa­ra­tions for the Grad­u­ate Man­age­ment Ad­mis­sion Test ( GMAT) last year. He cred­its his 750 marks out of 800, one of the high­est grades scored last year, to hours of ded­i­cated stud­ies and re­vi­sion. “I knew if I wanted to get high marks in the exam then I would have to fo­cus on my stud­ies. It’s not pos­si­ble to jug­gle both work and stud­ies at the same time with­out tir­ing your­self out. While multi- task­ing is a great skill, some­times hav­ing the abil­ity to con­cen­trate for long pe­ri­ods is the key to suc­cess. It cer­tainly worked for me,” ex­plains Singh.

Sim­i­larly many stu­dents look­ing to take en­trance ex­ams find it eas­ier to tackle the in­tense prepa­ra­tions by fo­cus­ing only on their stud­ies. Oth­ers de­cide to get ad­di­tional help by sign­ing up for a coach­ing class to help im­prove their con­cen­tra­tion and un­der­stand­ing. “Dis­ci­pline is im­por­tant if you want to crack any ex­am­i­na­tion. Stu­dents should at­tend all rel­e­vant class­room lec­tures, do their home­work and take reg­u­lar tests. Well re­searched study ma­te­rial, test­ing in­ten­sity and struc­tured home- work can be found at many coach­ing in­sti­tutes. This cou­pled with ded­i­cated re­vi­sion on the part of stu­dents im­proves the prob­a­bil­ity of suc­cess in the exam by a huge mar­gin. Con­trary to what peo­ple of­ten be­lieve, coach­ing in­sti­tutes work hard to help stu­dents im­prove upon their fun­da­men­tal knowl­edge of var­i­ous sub­jects so that ap­pli­ca­tion of con­cepts be­comes clear. This helps them sail through the en­trance ex­am­i­na­tions,” adds Sharma.

AT­TEMPT ATLEAST ONE MOCK EXAM DAILY

Be it an on­line or off­line prac­tice exam, fre­quent mock tests have long been con­sid­ered a cru­cial step to­wards pre­par­ing for any en­trance pa­per. From in­stant an­swers to step- by- step so­lu­tions, in- depth guides to an­a­lyse your test and spe­cial video con­fer­ences with fac­ulty mem­bers, mock tests can now eas­ily be taken at home with­out hav­ing to at­tend reg­u­lar classes at a coach­ing in­sti­tute. There are test pub­lish­ers, web­sites and coach­ing cen­tres which pro­vide a va­ri­ety of mock ex­ams in dif­fer­ent for­mats for all en­trance ex­am­i­na­tions to­day. Whether you are look­ing for a mo­bile test for GMAT math or a book of test pa­pers to im­prove your gen­eral knowl­edge skills for CLAT, there’s sure to be a mock test avail­able to suit all re­quire­ments and sub­jects.

“I didn’t have the time to at­tend full­time coach­ing classes. In­stead I just signed up for the books and mock test pa­per pack. This can cost be­tween Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 de­pend­ing upon the in­sti­tute and num­ber of mocks you pur­chase. They re­ally helped clear my fun­da­men­tals in law as well giv­ing me a sense of fa­mil­iar­ity with the style and ex­pec­ta­tions of the exam. I would rec­om­mend at­tempt­ing atleast 30- 40 mock tests in the months be­fore the exam. They are the best way to re­vise,” says Sukoon Khan, 19, from Delhi who ap­peared for the CLAT and se­cured ad­mis­sion at the much sought- af­ter National Law School in Ban­ga­lore.

Un­like Khan, Garg opted to en­roll him­self at full- time classes at Ca­reer Launcher, Bulls Eye and TIME. At the time he was a stu­dent at Pun­jab En­gi­neer­ing Col­lege ( PEC). “The course ma­te­rial was very help­ful and the fac­ulty re­ally helped pre­pare you for the kind of ques­tions that are usu­ally asked in CAT. I would prac­tice and re­vise through mock pa­pers al­most daily,” says Garg.

TIME MAN­AGE­MENT IS A KEY COM­PO­NENT

Ayush Goyal, a med­i­cal as­pi­rant from Kolkata, signed up for Allen Ca­reer In­sti­tute’s two year class­room con­tact pro­gramme af­ter he com­pleted his class 10th. This year Goyal emerged as the national top­per of NEET. Aside from hard work, Goyal is adamant that learn­ing to

man­age your time ef­fec­tively, both dur­ing re­vi­sion time and in the exam it­self, can help im­prove your score. “The classes at Allen re­ally paid off as they taught me how to tackle the ques­tions de­spite the pres­sure of a tick­ing clock. Ques­tions can al­ways be solved if you have am­ple time on your hands. The trick is to know how to an­swer them within the time limit,” says Goyal.

Time man­age­ment and strat­egy is a key com­po­nent of the syl­labus at coach­ing in­sti­tutes. Be it at FITJEE, TIME, Allen In­sti­tute, Bansal In­sti­tute or Res­o­nance, there is al­ways a mod­ule avail­able to help im­prove your strat­egy skills. “Have a plan in mind when you walk into the ex­am­i­na­tion hall. You should know how much time you wish to de­vote to var­i­ous ques­tions. This way you won’t panic,” adds Goyal.

Time man­age­ment dur­ing re­vi­sion ses­sions is equally im­por­tant. “Stu­dent of­ten suc­cumb to the pres­sure of ex­ams. How­ever, if you go about your prepa­ra­tions in an or­derly, well- or­gan­ised and calm man­ner it will be much less stress­ful. I used to al­lo­cate how much I would study each day and stick to my own dead­lines. That way I never felt like the work­load was too much to han­dle,” says Singh. He would also give mock ex­ams while tim­ing him­self reg­u­larly. “My aim was to grad­u­ally im­prove my time in the exam till I was spend­ing an aver­age of two min­utes per ques­tion,” adds Singh.

BE­LIEVE IN YOUR­SELF

Whether you are look­ing to top an en­trance exam or just get through to the col­lege of your dreams, hard work and be­lief is cer­tainly the first step to suc­cess.

Vachya Basak, 27, scored only 480 on her first at­tempt in the GMAT. “My marks were re­ally low and I was ter­ri­bly dis­ap­pointed as they were not enough to get through any de­cent busi­ness school abroad,” says Basak. How­ever, she de­cided to give the exam an­other go in 2010. This time she spent eight months prac­tis­ing reg­u­larly through flash cards, mock tests and GMAT prep books. “I was re­ally ner­vous about ap­pear­ing for the exam again. But this time when the test be­gan I im­me­di­ately be­gan to feel con­fi­dent. I knew my way around the var­i­ous sec­tions and had even solved some of the ques­tions be­fore,” says Basak who scored a 690 in her sec­ond at­tempt. “I’ve come to re­alise that it is very im­por­tant to keep mov­ing ahead and not give up eas­ily,” adds Basak.

For many, self- be­lief and con­fi­dence doesn’t end with just scor­ing good marks in the exam. Garg, who now works as a con­sul­tant with IBM In­dia, says that there is never an al­ter­na­tive to hard work and re­silience, even af­ter top­ping an exam.“I wanted to pur­sue a ca­reer in fi­nance and chose to study at IIM Cal­cutta. But the re­ces­sion has af­fected both re­cruit­ments as well as fund­ing for fi­nan­cial en­trepreneurs. I’ll have to wait a bit longer to ful­fill my dream of set­ting up my own com­pany. I also want to do my bit for so­ci­ety in the fu­ture. Giv­ing up is never an op­tion,” adds Garg.

Khan also be­lieves that noth­ing can come be­tween you and your dreams if you be­lieve in your­self. “If you don’t be­lieve that you can make it then why should any­body else? I know that if I keep on per­se­ver­ing and don’t loose sight of my life goals then noth­ing will stand in my way,” she says.

From per­sonal pro­files in news­pa­pers to meet­ings with min­is­ters and fe­lic­i­ta­tions at schools and uni­ver­si­ties, top­pers to­day cer­tainly have a lot to look for­ward to.“Top­ping an en­trance exam can change a young per­son’s life. It has come to mean a great deal and at­tracts a lot of me­dia and pub­lic at­ten­tion. But one must re­mem­ber that just like all kinds of fame, this too is fleet­ing. Their suc­cess will re­ally mat­ter only once th­ese stu­dents can prove their met­tle at col­lege and then once again in the real world,” con­cludes Sharma.

Stu­dents await­ing JEE re­sults

Ayush Goel, top­per of NEET- UG, 2013, be­ing fa­cil­i­tated at Allen Ca­reer In­sti­tute

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