Can every student do well in his or her board exams? Are toppers born or made? Here, a 2007 Class XII topper provides you with the answers to these questions and advises you on how to prepare.
Antariksh Bothale, who scored 98.2 percent in Class XII in 2007, is of the belief that with proper guidance and hard work, anyone can do well in board exams or competitive exams like the Joint Entrance Examination (for admission to the Indian Institute of Technology). Antariksh passed out of the Delhi Public School, Jodhpur and is currently pursuing mechanical engineering at IIT Mumbai. He tips you off on common mistakes, preparing for English, revving up your presentation skills, and more.
Does presentation play a role in board exams?
I couldn't stress on it more! The board examiner doesn't know you personally and doesn't know what to anticipate from an answer sheet. The way you present your work plays a major role in determining the impact you make on the examiner. Good handwriting and neatly written answers easily impress people because their lives become much easier. You might even get away with a minor mistake. On the other hand, an illegible script, with cutting and overwriting, simply puts off teachers!
As a rule of thumb, if you can do anything, which will make it easier for the examiner to check you answer sheet, do it. The first impression gained by a well-presented answer sheet is very helpful. I know people who were good in their subject but got less marks than expected because of bad presentation. There are cases where the opposite has also taken place.
At the end, I will say that nothing I have said can act as a substitute for preparation and practice. All these factors come into play once you have prepared well. No matter how well you garnish a dish, it wouldn't impress anyone if it didn't taste good.
What was the driving force behind your brilliant performance?
The will to outperform myself, more than anything else, was what drove me ahead. My target had always been to simply do better than I have done before. That is what motivated me.
Did you have any weaknesses while studying? How did you overcome those?
As of now, I can't think of any particular weakness. Of course, during the course of an entire academic career, there are lots of ups and downs. There are times when we face minor or major defeats and there are also times of jubilation and celebration. I think it is primarily important to take things in your stride, and neither let success cause complacence nor failure, depression.
How many hours did you put in on a daily basis to prepare for your board exams and the JEE entrance exam?
I don't think anyone is born a topper. Yes, people do have an aptitude for a particular thing, and have innate talents. But apart from that, with proper guidance and hard work, anybody can do well in board exams or competitive exams like the JEE. There are umpteen stories of people who don't clear the JEE in the first attempt. But after a year of proper guidance and streamlined preparation, they come out with flying colors.
English is a tough nut to crack for many. How can students score in this subject? What should they focus on?
A subject like English may seem tough to many because of the relatively high subjectivity in its evaluation. All in all, I feel that two things form the basic foundation for this subject: overall knowledge and proficiency in English, and interest in the subject.
In the Literature section, go through entire stories, essays, and poems well. Don't just read them like you would a story, but delve deeper into the meanings. Analyze the characters and form opinions about them.
While answering questions, a judicious mix of quoting from the book and using your own expressions, is a must. If you quote too much, this may give the impression that you have just memorized the book without actually understanding, and if you write completely using your own expressions, it may convey the message that you haven't actually read the text and are just writing randomly. The best balance is quoting from the book and explaining in your own words.
When it comes to the Writing Skills section, put your creativity to good use. Try to include as many points as you can fit in, gracefully, within the word limit. Take care to adhere to the specific formats.
As far as giving how much time needs to be spent, it will change from person to person. But, as a general rule, you shouldn't leave any subject for the last two months or so. How much time you spend also depends on your own comfort level with the subject, and you can schedule your work so that you spend more time with subjects you find tough.
Any subject, no matter how easy seems, needs you to put in some effort. And with one month left for the exam, and five subjects to revise, you will find it hard to do justice to it. I, for example, found English relatively easy, so I spent the least amount of time per week in studying it. Similarly, for other people, the preferences might change, but you should try not to leave out a subject completely.
Finally, it's best if you inculcate reading habits and try to improve your proficiency in English. Not only will it help you get a good score, it will take you a long way in your career. Students who are in Class VIII to Class IX would particularly benefit from this as they have sufficient time until the exams.
How did you avoid exam stress?
It is quite natural to feel nervous and tense before and during the examinations. A little bit of tension is quite helpful as it propels us to put in the very best effort. I think it helps to talk with people who are close to you, and who are well aware of the nature of the challenge you are facing. The origin of stress is purely psychological, so it is best that we don't let it eat ourselves. For taking the mind off studies, I also found it best to indulge in my hobbies.
What is the secret to your success?
Frankly, nothing that people don't already know. As I wrote earlier, it takes nothing more than systematic preparation, consistent hard work and the proper environment at home and school. You don't need to completely sacrifice your interests nor is there any need to devote all your time to studies.
You scored a perfect score in Math and Chemistry. How should students prepare for these subjects to get high scores? Any particular areas they should concentrate on?
Be it Math, Chemistry or any other subject, if you want to aim at a 100 percent score, no topic is more important than the other. All chapters or portions of the syllabus must be given equal importance so that you can attempt all questions. Practice helps the most, especially in Mathematics.