How to take competitive tests and use your time effectively

In pen and paper test format, you have the ability to take a look at all the questions in one go. This provides you with certain advantages that online test takers do not have. Online test takers can see only one question at a time. The comprehensive view of the entire question paper helps you plan your strategy better.

Despite the flexibility offered by pen & paper test, students tend to do the same mistakes. This is not surprising though as each year the test takers change and for them the same mistake is new mistake. Here are some of the most common mistakes in tests that students make. These mistakes play havoc with their chances of clearing the test and scoring good marks.

  1. Spending excessive time in solving a difficult question thus leaving less amount of time for easier ones.
  2. Leaving few easy questions because of lack of time
  3. Making silly mistakes in easy questions because of lack of time
  4. Leaving out revision because of lack of time

All these mistakes are common. You may not make all of them but some of them. If someone is not making these mistakes, he or she is well on the path of success. Good luck.

However, if you are one of those who can identify with these mistakes, here we are giving some thoughts on how you can avoid them and use your time more effectively. These are simple, yet powerful strategies known to improve the score as well as provide framework for disciplined way of taking tests.

Here is what can be done to improve the efficiency and thus score in the tests.

Spend few minutes in going through the question paper

As soon as you get the question paper, give some time to it rather than start solving from the start. Go through the questions. This will give you a fair idea about the “toughness” of the paper.

Categorize the problems

Categorize the questions in 3 types; namely easy, medium, and difficult. Mark these problems on the question paper in any symbol that you can use. For example, you can use tick mark for easy, circle for medium, and star for difficult ones. Now the question is how you categorize the questions under these categories. The easy ones are those which are easier to solve for you. You know the process and you also know the result that the process generates.

The medium ones are those which you know how to approach initially but depending on the interim results, you will use further concepts to solve. For example, a question on functional equations may come under medium for you because you may know that partial differentiation is way to go, but whether this produces the equation in right form for further work is not clear.

Difficult ones are those which you either cannot solve or have a vague idea about how to approach.

Go in the order of easy, medium, and difficult

Start with solving the easy ones. Solving them first not only gives you a solid start but also initial confidence. The initial confidence is crucial in any competitive test. Many careers are wasted because students lose confidence in the first few minutes of the tests. So start with the ones you can solve.

Once you complete easy ones, attack the medium ones. Some of these questions will open up more as you start working on them and you will find your answer. Some of them will give you hard time and you fail to get the answer. In such cases, try the process of elimination. Usually, you will be able to eliminate 2 guesses. For the remaining two, you will have to work little more. Use values, work backward etc. to eliminate the last wrong answer and select the right. Of course, the process is elimination is more useful in case of single choice. For multiple choice and other types, you have no option but to solve. This can be extremely useful in JEE Main as the questions are all single choice.

For difficult ones, try with the ones which come from your relatively stronger subject. For example, if your Algebra is relatively stronger than your calculus, start with difficult questions from Algebra. You will have higher chances of getting it right than if you start with calculus.

Leave 15-25 minutes in the end for marking, revising etc.

This is the most crucial step. Many students circle the options in the OMR sheet at the end of the test. If you are one of them, leave ample time for marking and revision. If you did it before the time, you can go back to solving the remaining questions.

At all cost, avoid rush in filling up the options in OMR sheet. Any mistake in sequence of questions and wrong filling the answers will do irreparable damage.

Take these steps and see your results getting better.

~ Pankaj Priyadarshi

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