Entrance exams are those hyper-critical events which in many cases can be life-changing. Most students after finishing their school education appear for various entrance exams to pursue their chosen career in fields such as Engineering, Medical, Commerce, Business, Public Service, Defence, etc. Lakhs of students every year appear for popular entrance exams such as NEET (Medical), JEE (Engineering), CAT (Management), UPSC (IAS, IPS), etc. Their formats might vary but most of these highly coveted entrance exams are time bound in format. This means that a 2 or 3-hour exam can significantly influence the fate of your entire career. The second chance in most cases comes almost a year later. Thus, aspirants need to manage the entrance very well.
This blog presents the opportunity for aspirants to learn from the top mistakes made by other students in entrance exams.
1. Reaching Late. Imagine the exam is about to start and you are late to the centre. Your stress levels are high, you are sweating, breathing heavily, your hands are shaking, searching for your seat at the examination centre, and you are already nervous because you are losing critical time. All the years of preparation can go down the drain just because you reached the exam centre late. Make sure you plan your travel. Visit the exam centre a few days in advance, if required. Keep buffer time for last-minute hiccups. Arrive at least 30 minutes before time so that you can spend some peaceful time acclimating yourself to the exam centre environment.
2. Poor Time Management. Most exams these days are time bound. For example, in the NEET exams students aspiring for a career in medicine are expected to answer 200 questions in 200 minutes. One question per minute. Not easy at all. Most students do not end up answering all 200 questions. Thus, time management is critical. You cannot afford to lose any time to wasteful activities such as sharpening your pencil. Carry a digital watch, divide your time into short-duration milestones and keep a check. Many students spend too much time trying to solve a difficult question. Decide on a cut-off and leave the question if it crosses the time threshold.
3. Lack of Exam Strategy. One of the biggest mistakes students make is not having any exam strategy. One of the ways to manage time effectively is to have a strategy. For example, there are three sections in CAT – Verbal, Data Interpretation, and Quantitative. Which section does one start from? How much time to dedicate to each section? Do you attempt to answer each question or answer those that seem easy? There are many such decisions students need to keep in mind while deciding on a strategy to follow on the big day.
Aspirants must have a strategy that works for them. The best way to derive this strategy is by giving lots and lots of mock tests to fine-tune what works for you.
4. Getting Nervous. The highly competitive nature of these exams tends to generate nervousness and anxiety among students. This can be counterproductive. It is important to have a strategy to handle these emotions during the exam. What if you don’t know the answer to the first few questions? If you start trembling, you will spoil your entire exam. Use techniques such as drinking lots of water, deep breathing, loosening up your muscles, etc to keep your concentration going.
5. Not reading the questions properly. Time management does not mean hurrying through everything. Another big mistake students make is not reading the questions properly. For example, numerous students make the mistake of misreading the question: “Which of the following statements is not correct?”, ignoring the “not”, and marking out the correct statements. Such silly errors can prove to be extremely costly in highly competitive entrance exams.
6. Not reading the instructions properly. Most question papers have a set of instructions given at the top. Critical information regarding the structure and format of the questions and the marking scheme is provided. Usually, time is given to students to read through these instructions before the exam starts. However, in the anxiety to jump into the questions, many students ignore these instructions. This can prove to be extremely costly. Students must read all the instructions properly.
7. Not Using Full Time. There is no hurry to submit your answer sheets and leave the examination hall. Remember you don’t get any extra marks for that. However, maybe just to show off, many students tend to submit and leave much before the scheduled end of exam time. Even if you have finished answering all the questions and there is time left, use your spare time wisely. Go through the question paper again, and make sure you have answered all the parts and subparts. Many times, students answer the main question, but forget the sun-questions. Revise your answers and see if there is any scope for improvement. A word of caution – do not overdo it by randomly writing additional stuff just because you have spare time.
8. Not carrying the right things. Make a list of all the things you might need during the exam. As long as they are allowed, do carry them. Things such as water, spare pens or pencils, rulers, erasers, sharpeners, etc are critical items which if missed could jeopardise your entrance exam. Students looking around in dismay when the only pen they carried stopped working is a usual sight during entrance exams. Carry ample spare supplies of all the instruments you expect to use during your entrance exam.
9. Mismanaging the day before the exam. The day before the exam is critical. How you spend this day has a strong bearing on how your exam day will pan out. Do not cram it up with last-minute studying or eating. Spend some time planning the next day. Make sure you wear clean and comfortable clothes. Pack your bag and pencil box very carefully. Plan your travel. Eat light and healthy meals. Keep your mind calm and fresh. Do not overload it with stuff.
10. Mismanaging the day after the exam. The day after the exam is equally important. Most students appear for multiple entrance exams and hence it is important to also manage the day after exam equally well. Do not get into analysing what you did. What has happened has happened. You cannot take it back. Analysing might just dampen your spirits and you might end up spoiling the other upcoming entrance exams as well. Simply make a list of learning from the exam and how you can ensure you don’t repeat those mistakes in the next exam.