Study smarter, not longer. The smartest approach to qualify for any competitive exam requires a blend of regular study, planned routine, group discussions, mental peace, and activities.
The major competitive exams conducted in the country include NEET, JEE Main, JEE Advanced, SSC, UPSC, KVPY, and CUCET. While every student knows when to study and what to study, it takes deep insight and experience to understand how to study. In school life, many students are unable to decipher effective learning strategies. Therefore, subject experts and researchers conduct surveys on teaching skills, learning methods, note-taking steps, textbook reading, memorizing, and reviewing. Here are five smart ways to prepare for competitive exams to help you bag sure-shot success. Implement them to tap into your true potential and vanquish your competitors.
Set SMART Goals
The exam syllabus for NEET, JEE, and other competitive exams is vast. Students must set goals smartly. Here SMART refers to:
When strategizing a study plan, students must keep all these key points in mind. It is bad to cram all your studying in a few days or weeks. Space out and create reasonably realistic study plans.
It is vital to drill yourself into various concepts. Scientists name this interleaving. When students practice a single concept repeatedly, their focus on the topic decreases as they know what is coming up next. Mixing up and spacing the concepts apart helps you draw comparisons and understand them completely.
Suppose your memory is like a bucket filled with water and has a small leak. Refilling the bucket while still full is comparatively easier than when the entire water drains out. Often some information might drip out from your memory. Allowing time between study sessions allows you to relearn it and then learn more in the next session. This way you will remember it better.
Watch our video on How to manage school and competitive exams preparation
Refer to Visuals or Create one Yourself
Students preparing for Science exams must pay special attention to diagrams, graphs, and other visual aids. These visuals have the power to really boost your memory for any piece of information.
If you do not find any pictures in your book, creating them can be really helpful. For instance, a simple nerve cell diagram makes it easier to understand the structure and transmission of nerve impulses. Now imagine reading the text without referring to the diagram.
Studying from or creating diagrams does not require artistic skills; you should be able to create a mental model and draw somewhat similar structures with precise labelings. Even cartoon drawings can help recall information. You need to understand which type of visuals suits you the best. Research suggests that students who refer to drawings perform better on a test than those who go through only the text material.
Practise Repeated Retrieval
This learning technique is special because it focuses on the time when you are not studying. In this retrieval practice, a student tries to recall what he/she has learned after the studying session gets over. A student challenges his mind to recover pieces of information it has on a concept without an actual testing environment. Also, taking up small tests before the big test can have innumerable benefits. You can do it yourself or in a study group. Quiz your friends and have them pose questions too.
Research suggests that repeatedly studying previously recalled items won’t benefit retention. However, repeated recall of the topics you have recalled previously enhances retention by significant numbers. The repeated retrieval technique is the key to long-term retention.
Distributed practice is the Key to Success
Often students believe in putting extra effort into studying newer topics the night before the final exam. There are significant chances that you might not even remember half of all that you had studied the next morning. Even if you do remember the details on the exam day, you will probably forget it soon.
Competitive exam preparation is different from your regular school or college academics. Competitive exams require long-term memorization. You just cannot cram all the topics. It takes time to attain perfection that can help you ace the final exam.
Here is when distributed practice comes into play. The technique requires you to distribute your learning into short sessions with considerable space between each session over a long period. Spacing out your key topics is a must to ensure effective learning.
This technique allows a student’s mind to switch from a focused to a diffused mode of thinking. In the focused mode, he actively learns, but in the diffused mode, he waits until the next session and thinks/recalls what he has learned in the previous one. It gives students ample time to understand how things work or their mistakes in the learning process.
Short-term learning → spacing → retrieval → long-term retention.
The entire process can be summarised as follows:
- Initial mastery: A student is introduced to a topic and achieves a basic understanding.
- Spacing: A significant amount of time must lapse after first introducing the material.
- Retrieval: The student retrieves the previously learned topic from memory in a new learning session.
- Repetition: The steps are repeated, and the topic is completely mastered over several sessions.
Test your Preparation
Nothing can be more fruitful than acquainting yourself with the different types of questions that have been previously asked or can be asked in your upcoming competitive exam.
The best allies are sample papers, mock tests, and previous years’ questions papers. Solving these helps you test your preparation level and gives you an examination atmosphere. You can solve sections of previous years’ questions papers for the topics you have covered. Once you complete the entire syllabus, you must sit down for a proper timed test. Inculcating time management is the key to qualify any competitive exam.
Preparation Techniques that Don’t Work
With an idea of the most effective proven study techniques, you must learn about the commonly used practices that are not effective as per research.
- Highlighting and underlining topics on the list. Research shows these two methods do not help improve learning, especially when the syllabus is vast, as in the case of competitive examinations.
- Re-reading over and over is a learning method deemed useless by researchers. However, students must understand the difference between re-reading with utmost concentration and re-reading carelessly. Repetition is the key to learning but simply re-reading isn’t very useful.
- Cramming new concepts the night before the exam only aggravates stress. It doesn’t help in exam preparation. Rather, it is wiser to revise the previously learned topics and strengthen them.
- Studying for long hours at a stretch reduces concentration and is ineffective.
- Studying in the wee hours of the day and late into the night.
- Reviewing a topic repeatedly before moving on to the next.
Competitive exam preparation demands both hard work and smart work. Combine the two by following the five tips mentioned above, and your efforts will pay you back more than your imagination. It is vital to understand whether or not the learning strategies that you have been practising for years are really benefiting you. Similarly, knowing what techniques and practices work for you and the ones you need to work on is pivotal for accelerating your growth.
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How to prepare for competitive exams in a short time?
The following pointers can help students ace the upcoming competitive exams:
Strictly follow a realistic preparation strategy and set goals.
Create a balance in your study plan by keeping topics that you find interesting alternate with those you don't.
Go through the detailed syllabus and refer to the exam pattern.
Self-study and consult your teacher in case of doubts.
Eliminate all distractions and follow a healthy lifestyle to maximize your productivity.
Analyse previous years' question papers to understand the different types of questions you might encounter.
How to deal with stress during competitive exam preparation?
Mental peace is a prerequisite of good preparation. The following activities can help students combat anxiety and stress:
Get adequate sleep for up to 7- 8 hours.
Organising your study area and selecting a peaceful environment
Repeating positive affirmations
Adopting guided meditation to divert your attention from everyday stress.
Limiting your screen time
Maintaining regular physical activity and yoga practices
Have a balanced diet that includes foods that reduce stress, such as cherries and bananas.
Learn in detail about activities that help fight stress while preparing for an entrance exam.
How to begin a competitive exam preparation?
The best way to begin a competitive exam preparation is by going through the selection process. Check out the exam pattern and the syllabus. Create a study plan and start the competitive exam preparation based on the syllabus, time, and your familiarity with the topics. Students can also refer to offline or online assistance in case of doubts. Seeking professional help from subject experts and following their tips can help you crack the competitive exam you are preparing for.
How many books should I refer to while preparing for a competitive exam?
There is no specific recommendation for the number of books a student must refer to for exam preparation. It is important to understand the concepts. You can get clear concepts from a single book as well. However, referring to different books often gives you a chance to come across various applications of the same concept. While a writer uses an example to explain the topic, the other might give examples that an individual can relate to more easily.
How to prepare a timetable for competitive exams?
Students must create a realistic timetable while keeping in mind the following pointers:
Do not keep your study time over five hours per day.
Keep a difficult subject with an easy one.
Set goals for every topic that you would cover in a day.
Break down the study time into several sessions.
Do not keep a session for more than forty minutes.
Keep timed breaks and practise activities that rejuvenate your energy.
How to effectively study from textbooks to prepare for competitive exams?
The following strategy will help you effectively pack more information via power reading and ace competitive entrance exams.
Overview: When reading a chapter for the first time, skim through the headings, sub-headings, introductions, and chapter summary. Your goal should be to get a general idea of all in the chapter.
Key ideas: Begin the chapter and skim through the key ideas. Pay special attention to the initial paragraph, texts in italics and bold, bulleted sections, pictures, and diagrams.
Read the chapter from beginning to end and see the complete explanation of the ideas.
Recall: Place your book aside and write down major points in short. An immediate recall takes about a minute or two. It doubles the retention.
Reflect: Think about the chapter and what you have read. Understand its relationship with other concepts you have learnt.
Review: You must revise and test your preparation on weekends for all you have learned throughout the week. These can be quizzes or quick tests that help you fix the information into your memory.