STUDENT OF THE YEAR
Five simple ways to ace entrance exams. Toppers tell you how.
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