Are you aiming to crack any competitive exam in the coming one or two years? Or, do you know someone from your family, relatives, or friends who have such a goal? If so, then your chances of success would, in general, depend very much on your score in the Quantitative Aptitude or numerical ability section of the exam. After all, the Quant section is one of the mainstays of most of the competitive exams.
Now, what if maths happens to be your most difficult subject?! Or, if you have not been a bright student in Maths in your school/college days… Can you still realize your dream of getting a good rank in your competitive exam? Of course, you can!!
All you would ever need is to have a ‘Success mindset and Success skillset (habits)’ installed in you.
You will also need to have ‘a sound plan for mastering the Quant section’.
And finally, you need to develop a bullet-proof strategy for D-day.
In fact, if you want success in any worthwhile endeavour in life, these are the very same ingredients you will ever need.
Let’s first start with…..
Having a ‘Success mindset’ and cultivating winning habits
A success mindset is a specific set of beliefs you have about yourself and about life in general, which propels you towards any dreams you may have in your life. It will uplift you when you encounter temporary setbacks or failures.
Having a success mindset starts with developing a belief that you can achieve any worthwhile goal you set your mind to. Your past need not equal your future unless you allow it to.
You are not a fixed entity having a fixed amount of IQ. Your talent or ability is not restricted by your genes or environment or horoscope.
You can grow your talents… You can learn any new skill or habit required for attaining your goals or vision. And there is no limit to that constant growth and self-development. The only limits are those you harbour in your mind.
It also means that you take responsibility for what is happening in your life. If something is not working as per your wish, it means that your present beliefs are sabotaging you from attaining your goal. It doesn’t mean you have to quit the goal. You just need to replace your present beliefs with those that bring you success.
Along with developing a ‘Success mindset’, you will need to install ‘Winning habits’ in yourself.
As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
So, which are the habits that propel you towards success? If you don’t know what these habits are, think of a successful person in any field; Or, better yet, search for people who have achieved what you aspire to.
For instance, let’s say you are preparing for the CAT (Common Admission Test for MBA) exam. You can watch the videos of interviews with candidates who have scored above 99 percentile and have secured admission in their dream colleges. Or you can read their interviews.
Find out what their habits are, that have helped them succeed. Make a list of habits that are common to these people. Then, start learning these habits…Over time, you too can model their success.
Put in place a sound plan of action and follow it diligently
Once you have installed the ‘Success mindset’ in you and started building on the necessary habits, you will then need to prepare a ‘Concrete plan of action’. This is going to guide you in attaining your cherished goal; in this case, mastering the Quantitative aptitude.
You may also like to join a reputed coaching institute and buy some reputed books on the topic. These would provide the necessary boost to your preparation efforts.
Now, most students think that once they join a reputed coaching institute, their job is done; that they will automatically leapfrog to success. They don’t give much importance to self-preparation. They think naively that the concepts taught at the coaching institute will remain etched in their minds forever.
Don’t fall into that trap. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Of course, if you are the product, Coaching helps in the development of the product. However, ultimately your success is directly related to the amount of effort you put into mastering the concepts you learn in coaching.
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation. ” – Arthur Ashe
That means, depending on your current level of competence in Quant, you need to chalk out a strategy for one to two years of focussed preparation.
Let’s say you,
Keep a plan of 1 year.
You would also need to decide on the minimum number of hours dedicated to practice, every day. Generally, a daily practice of 2 hours is essential during the initial months. As the exam day nears, you need to progressively increase it to 4 to 5 hours per day.
Next, identify which are the topics you would prepare first. For this, see which are the topics that are the most difficult for you. And out of these, which ones carry a higher weightage based on past years’ exam papers.
During the first three months, learn the concepts of these topics thoroughly. Also, solve as many numericals on these topics as you can, going from easy to slightly difficult.
Also, prepare a chart of the formulae of all the topics. Keep it pasted or hung in front of your study place or bed, so you can see them every day.
Make a habit of spending about five to ten minutes every morning and night focusing on these formulae.
Once you get a grip on the most difficult topics,
Shift your gears for the next three months.
During this time, start solving questions on all the other topics also. Your focus now must be on improving speed without losing accuracy.
Also, try solving questions of a higher difficulty level and check your solutions with those provided in the book. This way, you will know the alternate methods of solving questions. You will also come across many short-cut methods that will save you time.
In addition, learn the various speed calculation techniques for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, etc. Always, practise solving problems using these techniques, so you become excellent in them. Learn to solve the question while reading. As far as possible, try not to use pen and paper.
The strategy to be adopted when only six months are left before the exam
In this period, keep up the momentum you sustained during the previous three months. Also, increase the number and variety of problems you solve daily. Ensure that they are from the previous 10-15 years of test papers.
Focus on multiple methods of solving them. This will let you get a grip on the exam-pattern questions. It will also tell you which methods are more suitable for different types of problems. You will also learn how to arrive at the solution with the least amount of time spent.
Your aim must be to solve the question within 1 minute, in general.
You must also learn to arrive at the solution through options. This will help you a lot in saving precious time during the exam.
It will also come in handy for the difficult questions in the exam. In such questions, learn to narrow down the available options to two. And then, try arriving at the answer through intelligent guessing. It will seem difficult initially…but with practice, you will become better at it.
During the final 3 months before the exam day
Here’s what you need to do…
This is the time when you need to practise lots of mock tests and previous years’ papers… and that too, under the simulated test conditions.
This will help you know your weaknesses which tend to get aggravated by stress. With this practice, you will be able to manage your weak points.
During the final month, keep an aim to complete two mock tests per day, along with analysis of their solutions. Keep up this practice until a week before the exam.
Now that you are battle-ready in terms of your subject preparation, you need to ensure that you leave nothing to chance when it comes to success on the D-day.
So, a week before the exam, you need to slow down your pace.
Learn to relax and unwind. Watch inspirational movies…
Practise short meditation sessions of about 10 minutes, whenever you feel stressed.
Go for a walk in nature; You can also listen to your favourite music; Or, you can do any other activity that helps you de-stress.
You also need to nourish yourself with healthy food. Avoid junk food.
Also, avoid watching violent movies or mindless social media binging or negative news.
You also need to review all the instructions mentioned in the Hall ticket.
Prepare a check-list to carry with you on the exam day.
Visit the exam centre a day or two prior to the D-day… This way, you will get an estimate of the time it takes to reach the exam centre… You will also know which mode of transport you will use and how you can get to the exam centre on time.
Finally, here are,
A few tips for the exam day
Eat healthy food and take a good amount of rest during the previous night.
Do a short meditation and visualization exercise. Have a light and healthy breakfast.
Check all the items needed before you start from home.
Keep all the study material at home.
Arrive at the exam centre, at least one hour before the deadline mentioned in the hall ticket.
Note all the instructions carefully.
Avoid casual gossip with people about how tough the exam is going to be.
Also, control the urge for last moment preparation.
When the exam starts
Don’t immediately rush to solve the first problem you see. If your test is a paper-based one, spend the first 2 minutes glancing through it.
Decide on the priority; that is, which questions you will tackle first, and which ones later. You also need to mark those questions that need to be avoided.
In an online test also, generally, the system allows you to shuffle back and forth between different questions of the same section. So, here also, you can glance through all the questions of a particular section in the first two minutes or so… and then, start solving questions based on the priority you have set.
What if the exam is similar to the GMAT (Graduate Management Aptitude Test)? GMAT is an online exam. And here, you will not have any scope for shuffling between the questions. For such exams, you are left with no choice but to solve the questions as they appear on the screen. Now, if the question happens to be a tough one, just check whether you can narrow down the options given to two… and make an intelligent guess at the answer.
Also, don’t get bogged down when you see other students solving feverishly… Have trust in yourself and your preparation and give it your best shot.
Once the test gets over, let go of your expectations… now is the time to graciously accept whatever result you get. Because, once you have given it your all, you will not be denied the desired result.
“Surrender to what is, let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” – Sonia Ricotti.
Hope this article helps you in your preparation.
Here’s wishing you the very best!