How to study for an exam: Tips from an old exam veteran

How I became qualified as an Expert in Exams?

So, I have been away from my blogging activity for a few days. Not that anyone noticed I am sure. Was preparing for a company online test based on programming in PHP and SQL. I did manage to quickly complete these basic courses on this app called Sololearn in order to sharpen the saw. I am not really much of a web developer. Mechanical Engineering at IIT Delhi takes you towards C, Matlab, Autocad and Pro E. The slightly advanced computer science courses on data structures and web development are available only as electives.

I am very fortunate to have known many interesting people during my days in Collage. Hanging out with engineers at Vindhyachal House, IIT Delhi, to friends from Delhi University, my career motivations gained a broad outlook. I had a Mechanical Engineering degree with low grades but from a great top class collage. Upon graduation, I was hell bent on exploring the world trying to gain valuable interpersonal skills. From learning Finance and Economics during my Masters in Finance at Bocconi University to working in Investment Consulting, Sales in a new foreign language/country and independent Web Development, I feel like I have been a bit all over the place. In other words, I have always been pro learning, often requiring only a nudge to keep going.  And that is exactly  one of my biggest weakness.

Now pessimism triumphs optimism while I write currently. I could have also seen it as my biggest strength. To be highly motivated with genuine enthusiasm upon seeing an opportunity or hope.

Motivation happens to be a major factor to my performance and for me it truly comes only when I have time for myself to think clearly and prepare short and long term plans, spend enough time to think and act independently before I accept a challenge.

E learning or App learning, whatever the terminology for this, is awesome. Studying and Gaming has never been more interconnected. Great job in teaching me the basics. But to really learn PHP and SQL, I knew from my extensive experience in writing exams, that I would have to dig in much deeper.

PHP. SQL Certificates from Sololearn App
PHP. SQL Certificates from Sololearn App





Best strategies to study for an exam?

As you can see, I am not actually much of an expert in studying but I really hope to help some body to do better with a few things I try to follow as part of my preparation. Let us strategies Sun Tzu “Art of War” style. Let us consider the two important scenarios that will determine your fate in the exams based on the variable: Time for the exam.

How to study if you have lots of time?

Here is my basic guide on how to study for any exam.

  1. Create a plan that will allow you to finish studying much before the actual exam.  This should allow you to practice numerous mock or practice tests. The idea here is that you could be anyone, but if you follow a process you can get the job done. The process involves completing study in advance in order to practice enough simulations.  This should allow you to not just do really good in the exam but almost predict your actual performance.
  2. Be prepared to give loads of time for the exam. Regular study everyday is like going to the gym everyday. You build your brain muscles by challenging it every day. Growing up in Kerala a highly literate state in India, I had great opportunities to read and speak English at a very young age. This definitely helped me immensely to study more in lesser time or understand new topics quickly. But to become really good in a topic, you have to put in the hours. If you want to learn programming, even if you are really smart, you would still need to get accustomed to reading the code. The ability to quickly process the information, analyze and answer comes with practice.
  3. Stay optimistic because you are following a plan and not because you did well in one exam. Overconfidence is like this big heavy weight tied to a pulley on one end while you are holding on to the other end. It will not only pull you so high, but will also take you around that pulley and bring you down with full force if you have not meanwhile built enough of your own solid value or weight to create balance.
  4. Handling the competition. Your performance in any exam finally depends on how much better you can do then your peers. The thing to understand here is even if you studied a lot, you should dig deeper. You have to keep up with your competition. Do something that they didn’t do in the preparation as well as do everything they did. For this you need time, try not to optimize time in studying so as to finish your preparation just before the exam. You need to leave some gap to test yourself to make sure you are well prepared. Your performance against the competition depends entirely on how much time you spend during this phase of complete preparation. Where you are completely prepared in advance and are just doing practice tests. By doing this, you get to focus more on how to finish answering all the questions in time.

How to study if you do not have much time?

Why are you even reading this? You should be studying instead of fooling around on the Internet. If you are already decided on studying little, then I can guarantee you that you that there will definitely be some one who will do better than you. That will make you feel really bad later. All because you wanted to study the minimum possible to get the best results. It is just not possible. But what is possible is that you could pass an exam maybe. Lets say you found yourself in an awful situation with a real tough exam. Let us say you have a little time, which needs to be used very productively to understand as much as you can. No fooling around one day before the exam. How do you get started?

  1. Get ready to boost motivation to 100%. You wasted your time away but now you have to be really productive to understand as much as you can ASAP.
  2. Find some one who can quickly teach you so that you can then know what to focus on.  You could try to find some one like the gifted students  from IIT Delhi who have taught batch mates an entire semester subject in a study session. A student already prepared could find the teaching experience to enrich his understanding. Teaching a topic does help to perform even better in the exam. He may at least be able to guide you quickly with the basics and key points to focus on.
  3. Should you finish studying everything or just study a major part of your course work?: Again, I hate you for even considering these options. Based on my own personal experience, I have come to realize that its best to finish studying the entire material.  You never know where the easy questions are going to come from. A topic left untouched can haunt with simple questions that will take your class average higher leaving you feel like a real idiot till the next exams.Try to quickly go through the entire course and then try to focus on the specifics. 
  4. Try to get the big picture and really enjoy the intellectual thought put in the subject matter. Never get satisfied with your studying till the morning before the exam. It is important to not get distracted 12 to 24 hours before the exam. The only way you can save some embarrassment is if you can some how spend really productive time with no distractions at all. This is a very risky thing to do and I do not recommend it. But if you do intend to even try this you need to understand that you should already have loads of studying experience in the past to achieve a feat like this. Not for the faint hearted. Studying without any distractions after a little meditation can really help.

Hope this helped some one somehow. Will try to update more study strategies when I can. Cheers!

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Hi, I’m Vineeth Naik

Liberal part time Blogger and full time Researcher with a broad range of experience, professionally and personally in Austria, Italy, UAE & India. Loves Finance, Business & Technology. Cares about society.

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