For Pre-University students, who have just completed their all-important board examinations, the world is bound to suddenly appear seamless. With so many options ahead of them and important choices to make in the months that lie ahead, it seems like testing times are far from over.
However, for a large section of students, the exam season has just gathered momentum. We're talking of thousands of professional course aspirants — several arts/commerce courses too hold entrances but they are not as much of a rage —who will in the coming month-and-a-half sit for a series of entrance examinations.
Even the confident ones (who are not thinking of backup options one, two and three) have at least half-a-dozen exams ahead of them. What with the IIT-JEE, the All Indian Engineering Entrance Exam (on May 1), the State CET (for the government quota) and the UGET (for the private quota to many of those brand colleges) being the staple set.
Add to this the more specialised ones, such as NEST for the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research, those of the Indian Institutes of Information Technology and various other State entrances and deemed university exams, and the list is exhaustive.
So, when's the good time to start? “Last year,” the expert in your friendly neighbourhood coaching centre would retort. However, academics and experts who spoke to The Hindu EducationPlus, assisting our attempts to put forth a few tips and pointers for the coming weeks, said that it's certainly not too late to start.
Having just written the PU examination (or equivalent 12th Standard board examination), the concepts are fresh in your mind, so now all you have to do is go ahead and apply them to the format that each entrance test demands, explains Jyothsna Raghuraman, a teacher at a leading coaching institute. “What coaching classes may not tell you is that the process is really simple and does not require much guidance. All you need is systematic practice and solving as many papers as possible.”
For most State entrances, your 12th Standard syllabus is more than enough — the rest of the battle lies in gaining speed, being familiar with short questions, learning how to identify the less time-consuming ones and learning the short-cuts to solving the mathematic problems.
“It's all about familiarity at the end of the day,” Ms. Raghuraman emphasises. And that familiarity only comes with continuous practice, and that's all that most coaching centres offer, rigour and constant testing, she adds.
A II pre-university college lecturer, who takes evening classes to gear students for CET, says that once the board exams are over, he shifts his students from learning mode to recap mode. “Students have a fairly good idea by now about their weak and strong spots in the syllabus. Take a week or so, from now, to strengthen those weak links. Devote just a week to do that, even as you start solving papers.”
Once all the topics are covered well, is the time to start identifying patterns in how you answer the test. Coaching centres, teachers or even your parents can help you do so by timing your sessions, pointing out what kind of questions you're constantly doing badly with and what are the subjects that you need more brushing up on.
Brinda Nath, whose third son is now facing the exam, is a teacher who also has seen her children, and scores of others, make mistakes, learn from them and do well in the exams. “The key is to make those mistakes during this prep period,” she says, adding that the toughest task at hand is for parents to remain calm, and to remind children to not get nervous about the exams.
“I am constantly telling my children, and students, that one exam does not decide your life. I remind them that it is important to have a Plan B, and a Plan C. Having contingency plans, even if you do not have to use them, is important as it gives students a sense of relief, and they are able to concentrate their energies on studying and doing well instead of being preoccupied about the future.”