Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gearing Up For CBSE Prep - Part 2

In the previous article, we covered the broad timelines and targets for the activities. In this article, we will now see some other aspects of preparing for the exam in the beginning of the academic year.
Stationery:          It is typical for all to pick up notebooks and write notes in notebooks. Students of 10th standard must restrict themselves to notebooks only in school and tutorials. For all other self-study and practice, they must practise writing on foolscap paper. The final board exams must be written on loose sheets of paper. This paper usually has margins on 2 sides whilst margins on other 2 sides have to be drawn. Drawing margins is also a time-consuming activity and takes out about 10 to 15 minutes of time [coupled with the fact that you have to fill in your admit card details on every main sheet and supplement] By practising the self-preparation in foolscap paper, you make yourself efficient in the process.
Why drawing both left margins and right margins is so important???

Once you fold the paper and tie up all sheets, 2cm on either side of the page folding line will get covered and the examiner won’t be able to see what is written in that portion
The other aspect is regarding pens. One should figure out which pen is suitable for oneself and for the paper as well. Some students like to use gel pens whilst some like to use ball point pens. Please remember that the quality of paper given for exams varies from location to location. Moreover, during paper correction, the paper sets move from location to location for checking. So gel pens should be avoided for board exams! Ball point pens are always better but you have to ensure that you select ball point pens with thicker nibs rather than pointed nibs. Pointed nibs are very sharp and may end up tearing the exam sheet when you write [either due to quality of paper or force applied by the student due to exam stress]
Our body and mind tend to get used to certain things; for instance, we are more comfortable with a particular brand of t-shirts and footwear, particular flavor of ice-cream, particular variant of pizza etc. Same way, there will be a  particular kind of pen you may like better. So from the very beginning itself, one must keep 4 pieces of that pen and practise throughout the year with the same set of pens and keep refilling them when they get exhausted. This may sound very trivial to many of you but these are also aspects of preparation.
The next most important part is the diet. One must be very particular about the diet until the board exams are over. Due to rising pollution levels, one simply cannot be sure of what the body may go through due to outside food and water. So it is critical to stick to home cooked food as far as possible and always keep a bottle of filtered water from home [or buy mineral water from outside] I have personally had a bad experience in this that I would like to share with you; in 1997 when I was due to appear from my 12th standard exams, I ended up with typhoid 3 weeks before the exam and was hospitalized for 10 days. My physical and mental stamina dropped significantly. The doctor traced the cause to my cravings for the famous Mumbai Wada Pav and Samosa Pav!
Now some tips for mothers who dote so much for their children and of course we know that mothers are the ones who take care of the diet requirements of the students
The child’s day must begin with 3 to 4 almonds and 4 to 6 raisins soaked in water overnight. Almonds help in improving memory sharpness. When the child wakes up in the morning, sugar levels are low; with the raisins and the sweet water drops, the sugar level shoots up quickly and energizes both the body and mind for optimal performance. A glass of fresh fruit juice [not Tropicana or Real etc] goes a long way in energizing the child in the morning. It is recommended to have 1 glass of fresh fruit juice and 1 glass of milk in the morning always. Whether one takes milk first or juice first is immaterial – let the child decide on the same.
During summers, it is ideal to have a glass of lemon juice with Rooh Afza in the afternoon whilst during winter, citric juices are better. Breakfast should be simple items like upma, poha, khara pongal, idli, dosa, chapatti etc. To make it more nutritious, add some green peas, carrot, corn, tomato etc. Rice component should be higher in the lunch and minimal in dinner. Rather than 3 heavy meals a day, it is advisable to have 5 mini-meals a day depending on the child’s preferences. Junk food like pizza, burgers, potato fries should be avoided as much as possible.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Gearing Up for CBSE 10th Standard Part 1

Dear Students and Parents
This post is specifically for those who are going to start the CBSE 10th Standard academic year from March 2013 for the board exam in February 2014 [Please note that the first post is the same for both ICSE and CBSE. I have simply copied the post I made for ICSE into CBSE]

Yes I know most of you are right now preparing for the 9th standard exam but very soon things are going to change and that is what you need to prepare for. First and foremost, let us draw the timelines and milestones to achieve during the course of 2013

Completion of syllabus of all subjects - Deadline = 31st December 2013
Yes you heard it correctly - your target is to complete the full portion by end 2013 regardless of where you stand in school or in the tuitions that you enrolled for.

Justification: The CBSE exam not only tests you in your subject knowledge but also in your test taking abilities. Most often than not, very bright and intelligent students miss out on those crucial marks because they don't manage to finish the paper on time and leave out questions. So it is extremely critical to take at least 10 Full Length Tests in Jan '14

Now let us look at the amount of time needed per subject overall for 10th Standard [please note that these are average numbers and individual time per subject may vary from student to student depending on strengths and weaknesses]

  • Maths 350-400 Hours
  • Physics 120-150 Hours
  • Chemistry 120-150 Hours
  • Biology 120 - 180 Hours [Depending on how good you are at drawing. Those who are good at drawing need less time to prepare but those who struggle with drawing need lots of extra time]
  • Social Studies [History / Geography / Economics / Civics etc] 120-150 Hours
  • Languages 100 hours each
In general whenever I spell out this road map, students and parents both look perplexed as to how this can be achieved. There is such a severe shortage of time!!! My typical response to that is as follows

Take a step back and sit in a calm and composed manner. Now we will see a model time utilization plan

We are gifted with 24 hours x 7 days = 168 Hours / Week

  • Sleep = 8 x 7 = 56 Hours; Balance = 112 Hours
  • School = 8 x 5 = 40 Hours; Balance = 72 Hours
  • Commuting = 1 x 7 = 7 Hours; Balance = 65 Hours
  • Grooming and Food = 2 x 7 = 14 Hours; Balance = 51 Hours
  • Play = 1 x 7 = 7 Hours; Balance = 44 Hours
Now it turns out that you have 44 Hours of Productive time in a week to pursue your studies i.e. 6 Hours per day.

The moment I say this, a lot of you will be jumping and fuming about that fact that there is homework to be done, classwork to be done, tuitions, homework from tuitions etc etc etc. I accept that point. Typically, the school timetable is such that only 25% to 30% of the portions can be completed in school hours. Tuitions can cover about 40% to 50% of the portion in class and the rest has to be done in the form of homework. Completely valid and justified explanation. In such cases, all that you need to do is subtract time for portion already covered in school / tuitions and budget the remaining time for the rest of the activities

Most common time wasting activities
  • TV: Television is the biggest time wasting culprit today. Both students and parents waste upto 3 hours per day on television and that too during prime time [6pm to 10pm] I fully understand that mothers whether working or homemakers have a lot of stress managing so many activities and the TV does provide some relief and relaxes the mind. However, when the child is at such a crucial juncture, mothers and fathers need to lead by example. Fathers want to see the news, stock market commentary etc but with the advent of smartphones and tablets, all these can be easily followed through the alternative channels. I am not saying don't watch TV at all; it is perfectly ok to watch the TV provided limited time is budgeted for it. Typical tendency is to start with a budget of 1 hour and then it stretches to 2 hours, 3 hours. If the amount of time devoted to TV is reduced, suddenly a lot of productive time comes out. I have observed that many people of all ages, don't mind compromising on sleep but want to watch all the programs at prime time! Sleep is the most important thing for a healthy body and healthy mind not television
  • Social Media and Internet: This comes in as another major time wasting activity today. Students spend more time watching Facebook updates and sending / forwarding mails to each other than using that time productively. Just sit back and think - is Facebook going to help you shape up your life? It is undoubtedly a good tool to link up with friends but there has to be a limit on the amount of time you spend online. Internet is a major addiction for a lot of students and typically it starts with 15-20 minutes for relaxation and stretches all the way to 2 hours
  • Video Games / Tablet Games / Smartphone Games: This is another addiction that is quickly picking steam amongst teenagers. Again the underlying thread remains the same; 15-20 minutes for relaxation and then you are about to beat your old high score or you are hooked on to some multi-player platform and you want to reach the Top 5 levels for that day etc etc etc. Again please think back: is this going to help you in life in any form? 
Now I don't want to sound like the bad cop and Im all for playing and enjoying. The main point is how much time and what activity. Rather than playing internet games or spending time on Facebook, go out and play cricket, badminton, squash, carrom etc - whatever you and your friends like for an hour or so; come back and take a nice shower and just see how much your body and mind get refreshed.

Remember these golden words
: 'If you do not respect time, life will not respect you'

So coming back to topic of studies, whilst the big picture above sounds scary, in reality it is not. 1 hour per day for maths and 1 hour per day for science clears up a lot of things. If one sincerely adheres to this, forget Dec'13 you will be ready completely for Maths and Science by Diwali itself!

The other major factor that I would like to address is negligence in language and social studies. Maths and Science are scoring subjects [because there are only 2 alternatives; either you get it right or you get it wrong] Yes they are important but they are not game changers. The game changers are languages and particularly English. This is the most neglected area whereas this is a subject that can make or break your ultimate score.

Try to put yourself into the shoes of the person who is correcting your paper; everybody reproduces the content in Golden / Navneet / ArunDeep guides; the person who is correcting your paper in English is not concerned about how much you remember from these books; the person would like to know how is your linguistic proficiency

  • Shyam is sick with malaria and hence he won't come to school for the next 2 weeks
  • Shyam cannot come to school for this fortnight as he has been affected by malaria

Both sentences are grammatically correct and convey the same meaning. Which of these do you think will appeal more to the examiner?

  • The postman of Sagar Taluka struggles to deliver letters to villages like Wada, Kundapur etc because the roads there are pathetic
  • The postman of Sagar Taluka has challenges to deliver letters to locations like Wada, Kundapur etc because of adverse road conditions there
Both sentences are grammatically correct and convey the same meaning. Which of these do you think will appeal more to the examiner?

The point I am trying to drive here is that vocabulary plays a major role in scoring marks in languages. There are 2 main reasons why a lot of bright students score modestly in languages.

First is the extra emphasis on Maths and Science over languages
Second is the fact that most of the time is wasted on TV and Social media [and also SMS texting] so there is lack of focus on developing vocabulary.

In order to improve efficiency in English, a student must target learning 10 new words per day.
You just need the following to accomplish this goal
Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis
A pack of blank visiting cards
A marker

Everyday make it a point to prepare 1 flash card with 10 words; write 10 words on one side of the card and the meaning of the same on the other side of the card. Keep this card with you and review it when you are in the school bus, when you use the washroom etc to familiarize yourself with the 10 new words. By the end of the week, you will have 6 flash cards and you can review all the 6 flash cards and bingo; you have learnt 60 new words in a week. In the period Mar'13 to Dec'13 you have about 40 weeks. This means you can enhance your vocabulary by almost 2500 words this year itself.

The other habit that I would encourage you to cultivate is reading the editorial section of the newspapers. It will enhance your GK as well as expose you to different writing styles of authors. It is critical to remember that all advanced entrance exams like GRE, GMAT, LSAT, SAT, CAT, MAT, XAT etc have lots of verbal sections. Even in these exams, the make or break factor is the Verbal section i.e. language related 

Just to give you an example, a score of 45 out of 50 in Maths section of GMAT translates to a percentile of 90 to 95 but a score of 38 to 42 translates to a percentile of 95-99 [details can be found on the official page of the body that covers GMAT i.e.] The main point again is that most competitive exams in life test your linguistic proficiency. The difference between a good score and an average score comes in the verbal section even if they have got higher scores in maths alone!!!

In the next article, I will cover some more tips about preparing yourself for the 10th Standard  CBSE exam and a model time-table for the academic year. The next post will be released in the 3rd week of February