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Last-minute tips to ace Indian board exams

With the ICSE and CBSE annual assessments just round the corner, we lay out subject-by-subject strategies for the perfect score

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A final examination is an annual feature of a student’s life, leading to advancement to the next class in school. The secondary school board exam, be it ICSE or CBSE, is by far the most significant of them, as it demarcates transition to senior secondary, where choice of specific disciplines or subjects is made. This in turn paves the way for academic and professional pathways opening up in the future.

No two secondary boards are the same in terms of choice of subject, number of papers, curriculum, exam pattern or marking system. However, certain strategies have been found to be universally relevant for all Class X board examinees. 

The syllabus is covered, and mock/preliminary or preparatory tests that mirror the actual board exam, time frame and assessment are all wrapped up. Therefore, all of you are aware of the pattern of each paper/subject, the time to be allotted for the various types of questions/ sections, how much to write or how concise you have to be. However, individual subjects must be handled differently.



Language papers focus on usage and literature. The literature aspect comprises stories, possibly including a play, poems or prose. You are in control when you have those covered. Hence, continue to read and go over previous exam papers so that your recall is spontaneous. 

Practising language usage exercises will enhance your proficiency. Review the assessments/tests you have undergone so far to identify the topics or questions that you aren’t fully convinced about, and discuss those with teachers, parents and friends. 


Maths and science

For maths, the continuous practice of the same papers/questions/mock tests has proved to be useful. Sort out any last-minute doubts. Revise the formulas, theorems, constructions, etc. for instant recall. Being meticulous and paying attention to the steps of the problem should be your mantra.

Likewise, focus on reviewing all formulas, definitions, equations and diagrams in science. If you are one of those with a photographic memory, revise from the same textbooks or notes, and keep writing down material that need to be memorised.

ICSE students opting out of maths and science have other subjects to focus on. Here, read the textbooks over and over. At the end of each revision session, jot down the important points from every portion. Review the previous test papers to be fully conversant with the format and time limits.


Social studies

This area usually encompasses history, geography, civics and some economics. With these subjects, once you have studied the books, understood the subject matter, are aware of the answering strategy and have a command of the language, you only need to focus on managing your time. 

For history, get the timelines and events clear in your head, and for geography, look at areas such as diagrams and maps.


General points

Get your writing materials, admission card and so on ready beforehand, and go to bed on time the night before exams. 

Once seated in the exam hall, read the question paper fully. Aim to complete answering around ten minutes before the allotted time so that you can review once to check that you have completed the paper.

All the best!

— The writer is an India-based career and education consultant 

Dealing with exam anxiety

By Sunaina Vohra

Examination is a formal test of a person’s knowledge or proficiency in a subject or skill: he scraped through the examinations at the end of his first year.

There are two points to be noted about the dictionary definition. The first is that it's a child’s knowledge about a subject. It is not a reflection of the child’s intelligence, aptitude or future life. It means it is a process whereby one can assess how well or not the child knows the subject and where he or she can improve.

The second point is how the example given itself is negative, so it just about sums up the dread we associate with the word exam.

Just like a religious or cultural belief, the stress of exams and tests seems to be passed down genetically. Home environments begin to become more claustrophobic and a deathly silence prevails. All normal activities are suspended until the exam period is over. 

Of course the intentions are positive to support and keep the child free from distraction and time-wasting activities. However, it is underlined by heavy expectations of good results and the bottom line that exams are a benchmark of how intelligent your child is and how their future is precariously dependent on his or her performance.

Unfortunately, parents do not realise that education is essential but not the only route to your child’s future success. Examples range from various school and college drop-outs such as: Mark Zuckerberg, Jim Carrey, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey…

No this is not about expending education in favor of pursuing remote hobbies, but about truly honing in the purpose of education and the feared exams followed by the results.

There have been too many innocent victims sacrificed at the altar of exams. Young children unable to take the pressure of exams have taken their own lives. In 2010, a school health survey by the World Health Organisation and the UAE Ministry of Health found that 12.6 per cent of UAE students had considered attempting suicide one or more times. The survey had taken into account answers by 2,581 students between the ages of 13 and 15.

Anxiety and stress cause actual biological changes in the brain of a human being, children included. When you become anxious or stressed, your body goes into flight-or-fight mode to tackle the impending danger – in this case the exam – releasing vast amounts of a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is known to impair the speed of memory retrieval, thereby causing your child to forget or feel blank at the exam. This of course leads to more stress in a vicious cycle. 

The way forward is to bring normalcy to the ritual of exams as a medium whereby a child knows what they need to focus on, the teacher is aware of what they need to explain to the child and the parents on how best to support their child in that particular subject. Exams need to be treated as a normal part of the academic cycle.

  1. Be aware of the expectations you’re setting for your child and calibrate them according to your child’s ability — not what you expect of them.  
  2. If parents are relaxed, the child will automatically feel all is well and stay calm.
  3. Explain to your child that exams are a benchmark of their learning, not a sign of their future success or failure. And act accordingly! 
  4. To ensure better exam performance keep the normal routine at home. Usual family time, sports activities and other extracurricular activities must be continued for your child to be relaxed and feel that exams are a normal part of the academic year. My own 16-year-old paints during exam days as it helps her to relax. A relaxed child is a more focused child and a better performer.
  5. Do not compare your child to his or her peers or to their study habits. Support your child in the manner that works for him or her, not according to your own ideas of what you think will help him or her.
Needless to say, a child who prepares and revises on a daily basis will have less stress than him who leaves exam preparation to the last minute. There is no substitute to advance preparation whether you are giving an exam or preparing for a marathon. In one, the brain muscles need to be prepared in the other the muscles in the body, both need practice.
— The writer is a Youth and Family Life Coach at Athena Life Coaching