On a cool rainy evening we had a chance to catch up with Kishor S V. A student from Sathya Sai Lokaseva Pre-University College in Alike he secured the 35th rank in Engineering and the 48th rank in Medical in CET 2009. The son of Mr S M Vasanna, the Deputy Director of Boilers for the Government of Karnataka, and Mrs Shobha B M, a home-maker, Kishor hails from the town of Davengere in central Karnataka. He also has a younger brother who is currently in the 7th class in a school in Davangere.
His educational background is really something to be proud of and reads as follows
10th : STJ PU College Davangere: 96%
1st and 2nd PU: Sathya Sai Lokaseva Pre-University College, Alike
CET: Physics: 57/60
As we sat with out coffees in-front of us he started talking about how having scored such good marks and after having gotten a good rank he made the next natural choice and that was to join engineering. Almost immediately he started getting a lot of conflicting advice about engineering and medicine. Being thoroughly confused about the choice he sought the advice of Dr Mahav Pai, a skin specialist, from Davengere. The doctor told him that he had been given a unique chance by God to serve others in a noble manner. Giving him a choice between an air conditioned office while staring at a computer for hours together or going out in the field and actually saving and helping people by providing healing. Realising it to be a higher calling and also a childhood dream he eventually choose to study medicine in Bangalore Medical College.
Speaking about the rank that he had gotten he said that he felt he could have done better but was happy with the current rank itself since he knew that his childhood habit of jumping to answers without reading questions completely had struck again and had lost him some valuable marks. Expecting to get a lower rank than what he got Kishor was overjoyed to see that he had in fact managed to get a good rank after all. When asked why he wished to do engineering in the first place when being a doctor was a childhood dream he explained that his plan is to eventually appear in the IAS exams and he had though that it would be helpful for his IAS career if he did engineering but now he was willing to try it with medicine. Upon being questioned about alternative choices in careers he said that if did not make it to the IAS then he would consider an administrative position or that of an educator in the field of medicine itself.
After getting such an intriguing beginning we started to delve into his experience over the past two years, studying and writing the exam. Starting with the preparation he told us that since he studied in Alike, he kept to the routine that was prescribed by them. The routine included getting up at 5am and praying, after which they would indulge in yoga which, he found, to be a lot of fun. After yoga, they would indulge in singing Bhajans and meditate for sometime. These practices, he explained, were all carried out in order to relax the mind and refresh it for a new day of leaning. After this, between getting ready for class and the class beginning of the class they got about two hours to study which he would use to read magazines and newspapers in preparation for IAS. This practice was generally followed by the school prayer after which they had regular classes from 10 am to 4 pm with time in between for a lunch break. After the days classes were over they were given two hours to play games an indulge in any form of recreation they choose. Claiming that he had never been too good in sports he stuck more to games like carom and badminton with an occasional game of cricket or football thrown in between.
After recreation time was over thy used to return for one more session of yoga and then settle down for the evening schedule of self study in between which they would go in for dinner and get back to another 30-45 minutes of studies before they were instructed to turn in for the night. Even though they were supposed to go off to sleep by 10:30pm, Kishor said that on many occasions they would go sit with each other in their rooms and talk the night away. The topics of discussions were diverse and ranged from studies to general feelings about different aspects of their lives so far.
On the topic of preparation for the PUC exams Kishor said that he had joined a coaching institute when he finished his 1st PUC and in the ensuing two months they finished the entire syllabus of 2nd PUC so that when he actually started the classes for 2nd PUC it was more like a revision than anything else. The preparation itself was based more on CET but he did dedicate the last two months before the PUC exam to studying only for PUC and nothing else. Stating that, since the two exams follow the same basic course, it was not a loss as far as time to study for CET was concerned.
He started his serious preparation for CET in middle of December and carried on with it till the exam itself. During his preparation he made sure he concentrated on Maths and Physics more than other subjects because he felt that CET maths was more difficult than PUC maths and lengthy too and Physics because he found it to be very interesting. He also concentrated on the topic that he felt were a little difficult and kept practising them till they became second nature to him. Once he felt comfortable with one topic he would never pick it up again, as it was already done and would never be forgotten, and moved onto the next topic. He did mention that throughout his preparation he did stick only to 4-5 hours of self study everyday. When asked about the few hours that he had dedicated to his studies he said that he felt that to clear CET and get a good rank this much study is enough however it should be kept in mind that that even this would not be enough if you plan on writing the IIT/AIEEE exams. Another important point that would need to be kept in mind here would be that even if you do study for 4-5 hours a day, it would not make much of a difference it you do not concentrate on what you study.
When asked about how he felt about his preparation for CET between his first model paper and his last one he said that the first one was miserable since it felt lengthy and there were lots of wrong answers coupled with a lack of time to finish them in however as he did more and more papers he got faster and better at them. He also compared them to a steady evolution when we asked him if he noticed improvement instantly or over a period of time. When he examined his initial papers he felt that he needed to improve his time management and also his knowledge of questions. Offering an explanation for his previous statement he said that when you do a particular type of question over and over again you get so used to it that you can do it faster so when you see it in the exam and you can save time on such a question. He also said that the more variety you bring into the questions that you are comfortable with the better your chances in the exams. Adding to this he said that the only way to achieve this was to keep practising. Practice lots of question papers and make sure you refer to other books also if you need you should. Speaking more on the subject of model papers he said that they are just as important as the exams themselves. When asked if he found it difficult to identify the mistakes that he was making he said that he did not find it difficult because he would have a lot of discussions with his friends and teachers about his performance and in the course of these discussions he would, invariably, figure out what he was doing wrong.
Citing the importance of the books he used he told us that he found the chemistry book to be absolutely ineffective but the maths book was good and informative about the theory behind the concept especially when he saw that most of the reference books or refreshers would deal with maths by concentrating more on the sums than the theory. The books that he had found particularly useful were Dinesh Publications for physics and chemistry and Bosco CET Tutor for Maths and chemistry. When asked about biology he said that he had not used any reference books for biology at all. He also gave a lot of credit to all the teachers he had in Alike. Claiming that they were so attuned to their students that they could easily tell when the student needed their attention or advice and this sometimes even before the student knew it himself. With words of constant encouragement and motivation they ushered all their students towards good. He also gave special credit to his chemistry teacher, Mr Ramachandra, who made chemistry performance, a generally dry, subject come alive by simply pointing pout to them the everyday example of the things they studied in the books.
Another teacher to get such credit was Mr R M Hegede, a maths teacher, who would the the generally boring subject of maths and turn it into a fun filled class where you could understand everything just because the teacher would make the sum appear simple. Apart from the teachers he also mentioned that the entire group of students there were a support system for each other. They would encourage, motivate and tutor one-another to excellence. Citing one such instance Kishor told us how once when he was stuck with a particular sum in maths, he approached Naveen Baht and Yashwant Marathe for help. All three sat together to solve the question but when this combined effort failed he decided to approach his teacher, who solved the problem in an instant. Once he had the solution with him, the first thing he did was go back to Naveen and Yashwant show them also how the solution was reached at.
There were other instances also which made him feel a wide variety of emotions. He told about the time that he sat for the model exam in Alike and was one of those who scored the least number of marks. Seeing that all his friends had done really well he got tense thinking about how would clear CET if he couldn't even perform in the mock test. However he forced himself not to think about it too much and devoted himself to improving his performance. Where there is bad there is good too... and in keeping with this policy we were told about another incident which made Kishor feel very proud of himself. It so happened that it was the first day at his coaching class and when he saw the level of the students he actually began thinking that they were miles ahead of him. There was a test scheduled for that day and having no prior knowledge of it put Kishor at a disadvantage. He did take the test and ended up topping his class in it. This was not all though, after having seen the result he approached his teacher and pointed out to him that some of the questions were actually wrong and he, the teacher, should give marks to all the students for those wrong questions. What followed next was an argument between Kishor and his new teacher but Kishor was triumphant and the teacher agreed that the questions were wrong and gave everyone the marks. However he did say that if you do model papers then do it under the supervision of a teacher who is close to you as they will be able to provide you with valuable insights into where you can make up time and where you are going wrong.
When asked about the challenges that he faced during his preparation he said that he did have to suffer from some confusion in the exam pattern as the pasterns for both CET and PUC are completely different but the syllabus was similar. He couldn't decide on what to study and what not to study so he simply decided that since he had already covered the portions for PUC he would concentrate on CET more, and it turned out to be a good decision in the end. Other than this, he claimed not to have faced any other significant challenges.
Upon being asked if he ever got tempted to skip studies and do something else like play he confessed that he did do that. When he felt tempted he would sometimes stop studying and go and read books. When asked what kinds of books he read, he replied saying he read a lot of magazines like Competition Success Review and books on Civil Service exams. He also revelled in reading books about the stories of Shivaji and Tantya Tope along with some fiction like Christopher Paolini's Inheritance series, the Harry Potter series and books by Sydney Sheldon. When asked if he ever got bored he promptly replied saying, "When you are in Alike, you never get bored." He did confess that sometimes he would be mentally stressed because of the strain of studies he would approach his father who would tell him that he was a good student and had a good knowledge of his subjects and that he should do the best that he can and leave the rest to God.
After the talk on preparation we asked him about the experience of the exam itself and began with how he felt CET was in comparison to other exams. To this he replied saying the it was very different from the PUC exam and from the IIT exams also. He felt that the syllabus was also very different from that of IIT. When asked about the strategy he used he said that there is only one strategy which can and should be used and that is to divide the question papers in parts. What the student should do is to use the first 10 minutes to read through the question paper and make a mark on each question to which he knows the answer right away. After this he should mark those that would need a bit of thinking and the last to be marked should be the one that take the maximum amount of time to do. Once this is done the student should answer all the easy questions first and in about 10 minutes. There are generally 20 such questions and answering them first buys the student at least 20 Min extra. The second set he attempted were those that needed at least 2 Min of work and lastly those with lengthy calculations
We then quizzed him on weather he got stressed out during the exams to which he replied in the negative saying that if you have practised doing 40-50 model papers then you have no reason or need to be stressed out. In addition to this he said that he did find a lot of similarity between the practice papers and the actual CET papers so he was comfortable writing the exam. After this he told us that it is important that students be clear on what they want to do when they finish the CET, for example those that wish to get into medicine need to concentrate on physics also as it is very important. When asked where he thought students lost marks he said that most students loose marks in biology because sometimes the questions are twisted or concepts merged and when this happens students fail to identify the mix and answers become wrong. Citing maths as the other subject where students loose too many marks is maths since it tends to lengthy. The only solution this would be to practice all kinds of questions and make sure you are fast. When we asked him as to what would he have done had he not made it to the merit list he said that he never thought of it but had once told his parents that he'll do a simple BSc and and finish his degree to which his parents said that if that is what you want to do then you should stop studying so much as you are already past that level. He felt bad about what they said but taking it as positive feedback he endeavoured to study and do well.
As we wound down the talk about CET we asked him if he had any advice to give to the students about to write their CET papers. His advice was: When doing model papers, don't take extra time. Maintain time discipline
Accept your performance and learn from it
Don't take breaks in the middle of a test
Don't keep electronic goods next to you as they tempt you to play and get distracted
Always finish filling in the details of the form in time and don't hurry them up at the last minute as you might make a mistake and you might loose your entire paper
Read the question paper properly and understand it
Mark answers carefully so as to avoid marking the wrong answer for the wrong question
Don't jump to conclusions when you read a question that seems familiar
After his words of wisdom were received we asked him who is biggest inspiration was and he said that it was the toppers of the previous years as he could learn so much from them about doing the exam and know the pattern to study. After this we questioned him about what he felt about the current pattern of CET. To this he said that he was mostly unhappy with it as they had removed negative marking which meant that people would guess and get away with it. He also said that this was the the reason he felt that it sis not judge the student on merit alone. He also said that another factor that led to such a situation was the fact that the question papers were not set in a very competitive manner which made the top of the list very crowded. Citing this for the cause of depression he said that even though two students would have the same marks it would happen that one would get a good rank while the other would not cause the other to feel useless or dejected. The last thing that he mention was that he felt that reservation of all sorts should be removed since they made no sense. If there were to be any special quota's then he wished them to be based on the economic level of the candidate to make things more fair.
Before we ended this fascinating journey through Kishor's CET experience we did manage to get his views about ImproveYourRank. When he heard of the concept he was immediately supportive of the idea stating that he could really have used something like this for his preparation. He also complemented the ideas of Inspiration Corner saying that people need motivation and some needs to motivate the other therefore the Inspiration Corner was an invaluable tool. Showing appreciation for the Doubtfire section he said that sometimes it gets difficult for students to get access to teachers and clear their doubts and in such a case an interactive section like this would be a blessing indeed. As we parted ways he gave us his personal assurance that he would actively participate in discussions on Doubtfire since he was always appreciative of an opportunity to help someone.