How to prepare for an examination

sscboardThe Maharashtra State SSC (Secondary school certificate) examinations for 2011 started today. Many of us don’t really know how massive the whole affair is. Here is some statistics about the examination.


Number of students registered for the exam 1,641,396
Boys 905,774
Girls 735,622
No of schools 19,884
Number of exam centres 3,718

Secondary school certificate examination is a landmark in most student’s life. It signifies an end of school and a gateway to the college. As I had written in an earlier post, most students and their parents work very hard for this examination. The various teachers, schools and tuition classes have by now perfected the techniques of writing this examination.

I have been a teacher myself, and have also been a student who has prepared for a typical board or university exam. And I have been pretty successful in both these endeavours. So here are my two bits on preparing for an examination. May be a little late for this exam, but could be useful in the future.

As I had written in this post, I was appearing for a post-graduate exam against all odds and had made a public announcement that I was going to top the university exam. The only thing that helped me keep that commitment was by better planning for the examination.

In the Indian examination system, you are evaluated on how well you can answer in a written paper in the stipulated time. A key to doing well in such an examination is to make sure that the required questions in the exam paper are answered in the allocated time. How does one achieve that?

I have seen time and again, that the time student’s spend on questions is disproportionate to the marks allotted to the question. A simple low mark question would take a long time v/s an important difficult question is left with insufficient time.

So the whole thing boils down to time management during the exam and preparing for that before the exam. (Isn’t that the most important thing in the grown up life too). I approached this problem in a very different way.

First of all, I studied the exam papers for past few years and actually did a statistical analysis of which topics appear for how many marks in the exam papers and the frequency with which they appear. I also studied the pattern of the paper. This way, much before the examination, I could actually predict more than 70% of the questions which would appear in the exam paper with certainty. I also had a very good idea about what the remaining 30% would be.

Let’s say that the total paper of 100 marks is for a period of 3 hours. Out of these 180 minutes, we should plan on having 10 minutes to read the paper and 10 minutes to check the answers at the end. That leaves us with 160 minutes to attempt all the questions. So we have approximately 1.6 minutes per mark.

In any given exam, there are always some questions that I call “High yield” questions. These are the ones which fetch you marks in much shorter time. In a language paper, these are typically grammar questions, in a math paper, these are quick yielding sums, in a science paper these are questions asking for scientific reasons. In these questions, you need to spend a lot less time to get one mark. So one can save time, that can then be used for “low yielding” questions like essays in language paper.

The target should be to complete 40-45 marks worth of answers before the first hour of a 3 hour paper are over. If one is aware of the question paper pattern, one can decide on these 40-45 marks even before he enters the exam hall. That kind of planning will ensure that one does well in the exam.

There are other tips related to how to write the answers that compels an examiner to give marks. I will write about that some other time, may be tomorrow.

Best of luck to everyone appearing for the SSC exam. May you do beyond your wildest expectations. Smile

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2 Responses to How to prepare for an examination

  1. Pingback: How to write an examination to get great marks | Makarands Musings

  2. Dinesh Gajjar says:

    Very good technique for preparation. I am eager to see your tips on how to write paper to get better marks.

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