The pulse-pounding anxiety. The horde of people you call ‘well-wishers’. Throngs of friends whispering in conspiratorial whispers. And the beaming, but sweating in equal measure, parents. Yes, you’ve guessed it right! I’m referring to the ubiquitous board exams, which are, for most of us at least, the very first public exam we give. By every metric, it’s a watershed moment for all of us, and every ounce of guidance is essential, and we at Toppr recognize that. So here’s a comprehensive piece on what all you need to know, the dos and don’ts, the tips and tricks and my whole experience with board exams in general. For a person who has appeared for not just one but two state board exams, I think I fairly qualify to pen down these few words.  Now, specifically I’ll be referring to Maharashtra State Board exams, after all I’ve appeared for them twice (no, I didn’t fail, that was 10th and 12th 😀 ) and feel can do justice to that. The pattern and skill set required for both the exams are similar, but I’ll be focussing majorly on the HSC examination, ie. 12th boards. Most of the things here will, albeit, apply to SSC, ie. 10th as well. So without further ado, here’s some stuff that I’ve gathered to be crucial and at times, necessary for acing board exams, especially HSC:

Learning by heart:

Accept it or not, but the plain truth of the matter is that when it comes to boards, you HAVE to mug up answers, in many cases, verbatim. However, fret not. More often than not, people have stereotyped what ‘learn by heart’ actually is. It isn’t rote learning in reality. Rote learning, or ‘ratta’ to use the general parlance, is when a person has no idea at all what he is learning but still mugs up answers to get marks. That’s not the way HSC works. HSC expects you to know certain stuff, and highlight that in your answers. Just to be on the safer side, teachers recommend word-to-word answers. However, an otherwise correct with all necessary points written gets equal credit. All in all, remember whatever you can, but the main points are most important.

Classify question types:

Again an important aspect of HSC. Now, there a plethora of question types with the corresponding amount of marks attached to every type of question. Just to illustrate, we have definition type questions. In such questions, the expected answer is supposed to quoted as it is from the textbook and are generally 1 mark questions. Now, try and be smart while writing answers. Just because you have heard people say that long answers get marks doesn’t mean that it’s the truth. Writing a page long answer from a 2 mark question does not get you marks. Rather, you end up burdening the examiner, which is a big no-no. Also, as stated earlier, every question requires a certain way of answering. Some types allow flexibility like 7 mark ones (I call them monsters) whereas some like definitions are quite rigid. A general awareness about such nuances helps a lot in the long run, especially for managing your time.

Study schedule:

I categorically disagree when people claim that to score well in HSC one needs to closet oneself from the world. Neither is studying at the very last moment will get you a good percentage (by good I mean at least 80%+). Keeping these in mind, scheduling your time for board exams is very essential. Let me run you through what I followed for most part. Mind you, this  isn’t the absolute way of going about it but it worked well enough for me. You are the best judge to decide what’s best suited to you. So, starting from initial months ie. during monsoons, keep your studies largely light, restricting to about two hours of study each day. However be regular and steady, that’s the key to achieving big in HSC. Keep revising lightly, but no pressure. Have a healthy physical lifestyle, indulge yourself in a certain sport, watch TV if you like. Basically lead a normal disciplined life. That should be the ideal way to go about till about October-November, say around Diwali. By this time the coaching classes and some colleges will be done with their portion and so should you be.  Now you’ll have to pull up your socks. Gradually increase study hours and curb other activities. Reduce TV time. Come January end, you should be, honestly, singularly focussed on HSC and nothing else. A regime of 7-8 hours of study during these days isn’t uncommon. It’s this final lap which is most crucial. Your entire day should revolve around boards majorly. Trust me, this works 🙂

Home paper solving:

Like as not, HSC is a test of how fast you can write a paper with the required content as well. That’s a daunting task for most people ( ISC and CBSE people for example). The papers that you will be solving in colleges and at your coaching classes, if any, will not provide as much practice as is required. Thus, solving papers at home is necessary. A distinct advantage of this is that solving papers at home is a steady practice. On the contrary, tests at colleges are sporadic. By this, you have a regular amount of practice as well as enough time to flesh out a strategy for attempting the paper, like solving the longest questions first, etc. Like as not, a fixed strategy does wonders in HSC and solving a large number of papers is a reliable way of finalising that. One important note, start paper solving ONLY after you’re done with studying and a fair amount of revision. In my opinion, you could solve a couple of papers everyday in the last month. Another thing. This practice is redundant without proper assessment. So once you have a bunch of papers solved, get them corrected by some teacher, say from your college. Believe me, they are more than happy to assist you.


Time management:

 A cornerstone of every board preparation, it can spell disaster if not worked out well. Now, this is something that can only come from practice and is a highly individual thing. For example, there are people who can write fast with great handwriting and there are those who are slow writers with pathetic penmanship (that’s me!). So it’s indeed the main challenge in board exams. Over the years, we see the trend of lengthier papers being released by HSC and hence time management skills become extremely crucial, if not most important. Best way to tackle this is, again, strategize. Like, in language papers, you could be done with grammar and vocabulary questions first as they are easier and better scoring. Consequently, reserve at least an hour of your time, preferably the last, for composition skills. Prioritize your answering methods and try to extract maximum marks as early into the exam as possible. Another example will be about generally leaving diagrams in the paper to the last. This saves the time you could have wasted in drawing a great diagram (which will get equal marks as a normal one) and rather focused on other theory questions.



 Last but surely not the least, presentation skills. This is one agony that is unique to state board aspirants (:p). A lot of focus and rhetoric is placed on presentation, which to my mind, is exaggerated. At the same time, it’s a deciding factor at the top rung. Taje my word for it, most people who give a board exam are worthy of 80%+. It’s just the presentation that is the deal clincher. Don’t mistake presention for mere beautification. It isn’t just about pretty handwriting or artistic drawings. An illustration is apt here.

Consider a 1 mark definition question. Most people will just write a line or two from answers. Let’s go a step further. Include a formula which is related to the definition as well as a short example. So this combo of actual definition-formula-example is impenetrable and creates a positive impression in the examiner’s mind, thereby leading to lighter checking.

Thus, there’s more to presentation than which meets the eye. It’s about how you set your paper apart from others. Once such small things are taken care of, the examiners will generally overlook minor mistakes. It’s mostly on presentation basis that the much vilified ‘moderators’ sift through the papers and the ones with better presentation get better marks. Again, presentation skills develop over time. Try to experiment with different type of questions while doing home solving. After a point, you’ll crack the presentation bubble.

That’s all from my side for HSC board exams. Keep these things in mind, remain healthy and happy, and very importantly, stay focusse and no board exam can ever stand in the way of your success. An important ingredient of any success is self-belief. Trust yourself at every juncture. If ever you feel down, why, grab a paper and start solving it then and there. Here’s wishing everybody a best of luck from my side!

I’ll be happy to answer any queries in the comments section :).

Along with hard-work and perseverance, the right state of mind is also important to crack any exam.

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