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How to Ace Competitive Entrance Exams

As students, you certainly know what to study and when to study. Aren’t these lessons imparted in every school? But do teachers and school authorities teach you how to study? It is surprising that during our entire school time, we are never taught how to ‘learn’ effectively. Every day, new research is being conducted on education, teaching skills and learning methods, which we can use to learn scientific ways for note taking, textbook reading, memorizing and effective reviewing, which will come in handy for cracking competitive entrance exams.

Here are 12 scientific study skills that can help you get sure-shot success if you are preparing to ace competitive entrance exams. Use these hacks while preparing for JEE Main, JEE Advanced, AIPMT, AIIMS, BITSAT to tap into your true potential and emerge victorious.

1. Get into the right mood with the help of Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov’s experiment 

The classical conditioning experiment by Pavlov made dogs salivate as soon as they heard the bell ring – in anticipation of food. The logic is—if you study the same subject at the same time and the same place, your brain makes the association and gets trained accordingly. Over a period of time, you just need to follow the clock, and you will automatically get in the mood to study the subject within 10 minutes. Whether you like the subject or hate it, this trick does wonders! And make no mistake, this is a necessity as far as the competitive entrance exams you’re aiming at are concerned.

2. Sync your school timetable and home study schedule

Study the topic taught by the teacher as soon as you come home from school, revise the topic and prepare revision notes. When there is a test in class, use the time before school to quickly memorize questions, brush up facts and learn diagrams.

3. Shorter study sessions work better than long, strenuous sessions

Psychologists have found out that students learn as much in one-hour sessions spread over four days as they learn in one six-hour marathon session. It means that students could cut their study time by at least 30% by using a well-planned study schedule or time table. Consider this: When you study for a limited time, it makes your brain work more efficiently. Most of the IITians report that they can cram much more a day before an exam than a regular day – which just confirms this particular research conclusion. Besides, it is believed that during study breaks, the mind absorbs information automatically, without any conscious effort on your part. Hence, for intense memorization sessions like when you are trying to learn dates and events, names of countries and their capitals, a foreign language or math formulae, you should not study for more than 20 to 30 minutes at a stretch.

4. Do not slouch or study when you are sleepy

Sitting with books when sleepy-eyed is a total waste of time. For me, 3 pm is the time when I get quite slothful – about two hours after I have lunch. For some others, early morning is the time when they just can’t wake up to read anything coherently. If you have too much backlog to cover, just do something light at the time – like clearing your desk, sorting your notes or arranging your school bag to let the sleepy phase pass. Better idea? Take a quick 15-minute nap to charge your mind for your study time.

5. Smart work is better than hard work

The attention you pay to the subject and alertness of your mind matters more than the time you spend on it. For competitive entrance examinations, especially, one does not count the number of hours he/she is spending in front of books; Rather, you need to measure the amount of focused study you’re doing. Most common strategies to keep yourself alert are:

  • Minimize distractions. Get rid of the TV noise blaring somewhere in the room, running errands in between studies, and people shouting in your ears. Of course, you cannot control all your family, but you may adjust your time table to study early in the morning or late at night when everyone else is quiet.
  • Start with the most difficult or boring subject when you are fully alert. Keep the easier ones for the times when you feel lazy to study.

6. Do not schedule similar subjects one after another

It is better to study different subjects one after another rather than clubbing similar ones. It means that studying Physics after Mathematics might not be a good idea. You can sandwich History or English Literature in between and your brain will be able to absorb all three subjects much better.

7. Textbook reading method that works – OK4R

Dr. Walter Pauk has devised the OK4R method, which can help you pack more information through power reading. It is to help you to ace competitive entrance exams. Here is how you go about it:

  • O for Overview: In the first glance, just read the headings, sub-headings, introductory paragraph, and summary at the end of the chapter. It will give you a general idea of what is included in the chapter.
  • K for Key ideas: Now, go back to the beginning of the chapter and try to skim through the key ideas. The first sentence of each paragraph, italics and bold-type text, tables, pictures and diagrams, bulleted sections and itemizations often present key ideas of the chapter.
  • R1 for Reading the topic or chapter from beginning to end: Now that you already know what is being discussed, read through the entire chapter and see a full explanation of the ideas.
  • R2 for Recall: Now put your book aside and write down major points of what you have read and make your notes in few words or sentences. The immediate recall will only take a minute or two but doubles up retention time of the topic you are studying.
  • R3 for Reflect: Now that you have kept the material in the storage unit of your memory it, sift it to put it in your permanent memory. Think about it and try to find the significance of what you have read and its relationship with other topics you have learnt.
  • R4 for Review or Revision: On weekends, you can test yourself on what you have learned throughout the week. In schools, there can be tests and quizzes that help you go through your notes again. These time-to-time reviews or revisions help you fix the information forever.

8. Rejuvenation time

Relax and take breaks during your hectic study timetable. Use this time to rejuvenate yourself, watch a movie, listen to some songs, or play a sport. It will help you stay focused and feel fresh.

9. Plan your study time:

Plan your things accrodingly before you sit to study. Know beforehand an exam what you want to and don’t want to study. Plan things ahead. Know what you are going to cover on which day and how you will be revising before your exam. In such cases, it is very important to get your plan in mind. It can really help you do well in an exam. People who plan from before are able to do much better than people who don’t.

10. Take small breaks:

A few small breaks must surely be taken. Taking breaks is very important. If you study too much at one go, you may not remember a thing during exams. If you are studying all morning, take some hours off during the evening and play a game or something. Before sleeping you can maybe study for a few hours. The whole point here is to study hard but not so hard that you can’t cope with it. Make things simpler for yourself by doing the right stuff!

11. Drink some coffee:

If you want to do well in an exam, you must remember to take care of the small things. For example, drinking enough tea/coffee. Now we don’t mean you have to drink 4 cups of coffee a day. They are not that great for your health. But you sure can drink one cup when you are trying to study and finish something important and you feel dizzy or tired instead. When it comes to tea, there are several options instead such as herbal and green tea that can actually refresh your mind and help you do much better during exams.

12. Keep yourself far away from distractions during competitive exams:

This is one of the important tips for competitive exam or if you are getting ready for an exam. Remember that you should be far away from any sort of potential distraction when you are studying or getting ready for an exam. If the place you are studying has a lot of noise, then you should go somewhere there is peace. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by these petty things. They could really take up a whole lot of time.

13. Study during the early hours of the day:

Difficult topics can be studied in the early hours of the day. The best time to study is in the morning itself. So make sure you have got enough sleep at night so that you can get up early and cover whats important. Sleeping is also very important if you are trying to get ready for a competitive exam. To be honest, it will help you remember a lot of stuff in the long run.

14. Don’t study at odd times:

When we say that you should not study at odd times, we mean you shouldn’t be studying when you are sleepy. If you do that, it would actually become a huge waste of time. For example, people usually feel tired and exhausted an hour or two after having lunch. Post dinner studies must be avoided. If that is one of you, then make sure you to have a proper study schedule later. You must study during those times when you are ready for an exam. If there is a lot to cover, then you can simply prepare the notes from beforehand, get a nap or recharge yourself or something with a refreshing drink and then come back to study. It will definitely work.

15. Read the text thoroughly:

Next what you should do is read the text properly and thoroughly. If needed, read every chapter thrice. Make sure you have seen the headings, the introductory part properly, the sub heading etc. It will surely give you a good idea of what will be coming for your exam.

16. Remember the keywords:

Second, what you should do is remember the keywords. For that, you can highlight them and whenever you are studying, keep them in mind. The keywords are very important and shall be needed when you are getting ready for an exam. They will also help you remember.

17. Save enough time for revision:

When you are getting ready for an exam, don’t forget to revise. It can really help you remember a lot of important stuff during exams. Make sure to revise at least 2-3 times before you sit for an exam. All of this matters a lot. So keep that in mind.

18. Use colour for the books:

Contrary to the popular idea, books that are neat always don’t mean that you are an excellent student. Books may look unused . You should colour the ideas in red, the dates can be kept in blue with the other facts in colours such as green or yellow. With these colours, you will actually be able to revise much better. When you colour your books, you are able to remember things much faster. This is actually a very good strategy and one that can help you in the long run.

19. Get a proper diet:

Exam time is usually very important. So make sure you have a proper diet prepared from beforehand so that you can be ready for the exam in the best way possible. A lot of you don’t pay attention to the diet thinking it is not something to worry about during exams. But if we are very honest with you, then it matters a lot. Diet can really make or break things so you have to be very careful about that. By proper diet, we mean eating enough protein, fats and little bit of carbs. Drink enough water and don’t forget to add vegetables in each meal. That matters as well.

20. Get enough exercise:

Next, you should remember to give your body enough exercise. For those of you who do not know, exercising is really important and can actually take you a very long way. It is essential when you are getting ready for an exam. A month before the paper, you should make sure to get at least 45 minutes of exercise four to five times a week. It will keep your body stress free and help you get ready for exams fast and easy. Those of who have tried this have been amazed at the benefits and we promise, so will you.

21. Don’t be very social:

Also remember to be as less social as you can. Don’t attend too many parties, have too many drinks with your friends or do things that you shouldn’t be doing. Spend that time on studying. Remember every minute counts when you are getting ready for an exam because you really don’t know what you might get. By that we don’t mean you should completely lock yourself up. But what we mean instead is that be a little selfish and focus on yourself. Exams are important after all and you need to be more into your books.

22. Don’t study one tough subject after the other:

One of the worst things you could do while preparing for an exam is studying one tough subject after the other. If you have been doing this for a while, then we can promise you will forget a lot of stuff during the exam. Do yourself a favour and don’t study one tough subject with no gaps in between. If you are studying English, Physics and Mathematics, then make sure to start off with Math then move on to English and finally study Physics. All of that can really help you prepare.

23. Switch off your phone:

Another important thing you must do is switch off your phone when you are studying. Also keep yourself far away from social media around this time. Studying is important and if you can get distracted easily, then make sure that phone is away from you. You don’t have to check any mails, see whats happening on Facebook or Twitter when you are studying. All of them can really waste your time and stop you from studying and since you are expected to study a lot during competitive exams, please ensure you are not into social media until your exams are over.

24. Study hard:

After giving you all these important points, we would like to remind you to study hard. Yes! Keep all of these points in mind and make sure you are studying enough. Don’t distract yourself and pay complete attention to the study material. Working hard is extremely important if you are really planning on doing well in a particular exam. It can really help you a lot. So make sure you are spending at least 6 to 7 hours on studying. And when you do, study solid! Don’t waste a minute of your time.

25. Don’t get stressed out during the competitive entrance exams:

Finally, we would suggest you not to stress so much when it comes to getting ready for an exam. We realize how crucial it is for you to ace an exam. But if you want to do well, don’t worry so much about it. Just study hard and do your best and we promise good results will show. And most importantly, make sure to keep yourself healthy and fit during such times. Don’t hang out with your friends too much or pay attention to things that will not help you do well. Instead, focus on studying. That’s it!

Do you have anything to add to this list? Do let us know your suggestions in the comments section below.

Even parents can help students prepare to ace competitive entrance exams. Read more about it here.

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