‘Testing’ times: tackling a dual ordeal

When it rains, it pours, goes the popular adage. Class 12 or PUC II children will agree, especially this year! With the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), scheduled to take place biannually, starting this year, followed closely by the board exams and 18 other competitive exams — such as NEET and COMEDK — children need to brace themselves for some stressful months ahead.

Unlike the previous years, when competitive exams began a few weeks after the boards, giving students a much-needed breather, this time all exams are happening around the same time. We can only imagine the impact of such back-to-back tests on young adults at the threshold of important career decisions.

How can we help children cope with the pressure? How can we keep their stress and anxiety levels in check? How can we ensure that children are able to give their best in each of these exams?

First, we need to acknowledge that although the exam patterns are not the same, the syllabi of board and competitive exams have a lot in common. In most cases, the board curriculum helps to build a strong foundation for competitive exams. Thus, not giving board exams their due importance amidst the flurry of competitive tests can be detrimental.

Of course, the difficulty levels of the exams are very different. While it may be possible to crack the board exams by rote learning, competitive exams tend to test the aptitude, analytical as well as problem-solving skills of children. In other words, without a thorough understanding of the subject, it’s extremely difficult to ace these entrance exams.

That’s not to say that competitive exams are superior to board exams. For, there is much merit in the traditional practice of blending the short- and long-answer questions; something that multiple-choice questions in a majority of entrance exams lack. So, for students, it’s essential to be well-versed in both the formats.

To think of it, the two varied examination patterns bring forth the holistic aspect of education. The key to excel is to look at them as complementary rather than conflicting elements.

In the age of audio-visual-based learning and engaging e-Learning apps, it’s much easier for children today to gain a thorough understanding of concepts. Moreover, integrated coaching methods can make preparation for the concurrent exams seamless. For instance, once you start correlating topics from the board and entrance exam curriculum, it makes problem-solving much easier, resulting in better outcomes for all the exams.

The secret to acing any test — particularly the dual ordeal of boards and competitive exams — is to follow a scheduled time table and systematic revision plan. Solving previous years’ question papers and taking frequent mock tests help one determine the level of preparedness. And make amends in time. It’s not just about being aware of the test patterns, but also about improving time management skills.

In the nerve-racking weeks leading to the exams, it is vital to be calm and rein in the urge to obsess over the future. Studies show that fear of exams and restlessness can lead to decrease in concentration and adversely affect the overall efficiency of children. Similarly, the power of adequate sleep — at least six hours a day — and good health are often underestimated.

Time and again, despite the best intentions, most parents are known to burden their wards with high expectations. As adults, we need to become pillars of strength, helping children cope better with the mounting exam stress. Our responsibility is to nurture the success of every child.

Future perfect

There’s no denying that the current examination system is not ideal for the well-being of children. Going forward, it would be in the best interests of all stakeholders to adopt a three-fold system: JEE-Advance level (the toughest), JEE-Main level (NCERT syllabus), and Common Entrance Test (CET) by the respective state governments.

Once the educational institutes choose the exam that they prescribe to, it’s easier for aspirants to clear the relevant exam and get admission into their preferred institute. Such a three-fold dream exam system can help children be better prepared for competitive exams as well as board exams, ensuring that they feel less overwhelmed.

In time, the performance in these exams can be used as the basis to study how well the three-fold system has delivered, and thus help frame new educational policies. After all, education is the most potent way to transform the future.

(The writer is Founder-MD, Deeksha Learning)

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