Complete Guide to Writing a Smashing Book Review.

Writing a book review is not as daunting as you think. Follow these simple steps to write a perfect book review!

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL BOOK REVIEWER( IF THAT’S EVEN A THING?) NOR AM I CLAIMING TO BE ONE 🙂

With the start of 2018, I want to introduce you to a few tips on ‘How to write a book review’. Since the only thing I can consider myself competent in is reading and writing reviews, I thought I’d take the bait and write a blog post. If you’re in school or college, and are required to write a book review for your English paper or if you’re thinking of starting a blog or a page dedicated to reviewing books, then keep on reading. (Also, please overlook my sense of humor and sad attempt at sounding smart).

Let’s clear a few things right in the beginning. There is no ‘right’ way to write a review. Books are highly subjective and a review is not a testimony to the credibility of the said book. There are a number of books I loved which didn’t get GOOD reviews or in fact quite a number of books I HATED  with a passion that went on to becoming International bestsellers, but that’s the whole point. One shoe doesn’t fit all.

Now how I see it, there are two ways of writing a review;  Personal and Formal. Let’s understand what both formats mean.

  • Personal:  Here, you write whatever you feel about the book. You express your love for the characters, your admiration at how the plot was crafted and genuine applaud to the author concerned. In short, letting your emotions do the reviewing. Now you can do this either on your blog or Instagram page or your Facebook page. You’re taking a more informal approach to the book. Nothing is wrong with using this format. If this is how you’d like to review the book, then go ahead. YOU DO YOU. Of course, you will not be getting into the technical details of book reviewing i.e commenting on the narrative technique, plot, theme, writing style etc. You only focus on how you felt when you read the last line of the book.

Many people who don’t review books as a hobby or as a book blogger, adopt this format.

  • Formal:  Here, things get a little tricky. (Don’t worry, it’s easier than math, I promise). When you’re writing a review as a blogger, you need to be careful of not bashing the author’s work just because the book didn’t appeal to you. By this I don’t mean you should lie or sugarcoat information but instead use a more constructive approach. Let’s take an example:

    You were disappointed at the climax and you were expecting a different result but at the same time you found really interesting quotes in the book, and were impressed by the writing style. You then go on to mention what you didn’t like about the book, your concerns and tips on what could have been different while simultaneously praising the author for what worked for you.

    It’s really important to understand that authors are humans, and cannot produce work that’s going to be liked by everyone especially since we’re dealing with something as subjective as art.  If you’re a book blogger, you’ll get books for review by various publishers and even authors. Remember, constructive criticism goes a long way.

The following points should be remembered while writing a formal book review:

a.) Try to introduce the author and the premise of the novel in the beginning of the paragraph.  Preferably, a short summary of what the novel is about and what you thought of it. The reason behind this is that people are busy and no one really has the time or patience to read through an entire review.  As sad as this might be, with the onset of online reading and social media anything exceeding one paragraph is too much reading material.

b.) The second paragraph should be a more in-depth analysis of the book; what are the characters like, what problems they’re in, and how they try to overcome their problems, etc.

c.) The third paragraph should be about the narrative technique, plot, writing style and theme of the novel including other details such as how the author managed to put together important pieces of the puzzle and present a masterpiece or how it was inspiring or moving to you as a reader.

d.) By the fourth paragraph, you should be on your way to wrapping up your review. It’s more like a conclusion. Your final thoughts and the kind of reader base the novel can appeal to. For instance, if readers of historical fiction would enjoy a YA novel or not, or if crime mystery lovers would like to read a romance novel. Give a heads up to your readers of what they might expect from the book.

Now let’s talk about the format of this particular way of reviewing:

  1. You can either start the review by writing down the essentials i.e Author’s name, publishing house, rating etc followed by the blurb of the book. After you’re done filling in the above mentioned points, you proceed to write the review.  You can take a look at this post to get a clearer picture: Book Review: Option B
  2. OR after you’re done writing the entire review( taking into consideration all the technical aspects), you can write a short paragraph at the end narrating your personal thoughts about the book. I’ll give you an example:

All in all, the book appealed to me in a number of different ways. I could relate to most of the characters and their situations. Although, I was left disappointed by the ending, I think the book as a whole is a good read.

3.) Another way of writing the review is by filling in the details (author name,                           publishing house , blurb etc) at the end of your review.  This means your review starts in the beginning and then towards the end you mention the details. I personally prefer writing reviews this way and have only recently adopted this method.  Click on this review to get an idea: Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra: If you could read just one book, let it be this one.

4.) Usually the blurb for the book is written at the back. You can copy-paste it directly to your review or you can write a blurb of your own. To be honest, writing a blurb of your own requires practice and takes time. This, however, does not mean you shouldn’t do it. It’s credible if you can come up with your own blurbs.  It definitely adds a more personal touch whilst maintaining a formal approach. (The only time I wrote blurbs were when I was interning at a publishing house. IT WRECKED MY BRAIN)

These are some of the tips  I have learnt over the years. Like I said, there are many ways to write a review, but I tried to narrow it down as much as possible. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to follow these steps. You can mix both the formal and informal formats as and when you like 🙂

Please let me know if this was helpful or if there are other ways you like to write reviews. I’M ALL EARS.

Also, happy new year. 🙂

 

Exam Tips: Last minute study hacks.

Last minute tips and tricks to ace exams.

It’s that time of the year again.

Last year I wrote a blog post on acing examinations which was not very specific but aimed solely on how to study. Today I am going to attempt to write and explain to you some of the last-minute exam tips and hacks I’ve learnt over the years and I’m still learning. Since most of you will be appearing for your University and Board examinations, I thought I’d help you ease off a little. And as I always say, do not let these marks define who you are.

  • LEARNING: Most of you might be at the revision stage right now (kudos to you, I have no idea how that feels) but I’m sure or I hope some of you still have to learn the subject material. So how do you do that when you’ve got revision to do?
  1.  You start by picking one topic a day and scheduling it with other topics you have to revise. Don’t learn every thing on the same day. If you’re short on time and studying one topic a day wont cut it then use what I call, “Divide and Conquer”. This means that you study a new topic in the morning and take up another new topic sometime in the evening/night. You revise your subject material in between the ‘learning’. This avoids cramming. Your brain needs time to process new information so be kind and revise instead of continuously hammering your brain to function.
  2. Before you start a chapter, go through the previous years question papers and see if the chapter is worth spending time on. Since time is paramount, you can’t waste it on a chapter that’s only going to amount to 2-3 marks. Don’t come at me, nerds, I know even 1 mark is extremely essential. But you’d rather lose 10 marks than 1, right? Prioritise what’s important. You’ll realize that you’ll be feeling less stressed and are able to study more. If you find some extra-time, go ahead and tackle the 2 mark chapter.
  3. DO NOT STUDY THE ENTIRE CHAPTER. When I gave my boards, I was of the opinion that I HAD to study everything. Every chapter has certain topics that are more important and always have a chance of being in the question paper. Focus more on them.  If you’re certain about a particular question, practice writing down the answers. You’ll be surpised how much time you save in the exam hall. Which brings me to my next point:
  4. Practice writing. I have always advocated using a pen and a paper while studying. Really, it works wonders. Keep making sub-points while you’re studying. Seeing answers written on paper have a higher chance of staying in your mind. I don’t know how it works but recalling answers become 10 times easier. Be creative, use diagrams, flowcharts, acronyms, anything that will help you retain information. You might feel you’re wasting time writing down answers but then when you sit down to revise, it’ll take you less time.(If you followed my advice of writing answers, you’ll already have a set of notes prepared. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? HA!
  5. Something I discovered this year was studying using Youtube. I gave my first year MA exams and was OBVIOUSLY behind schedule. Since I was required to read a lot of plays and novels and all that cool stuff, I realized watching videos on certain dramas helped. For instance, I read and watched, Dr.Faustus. I was not very sure of the context of the play and watching Youtube videos helped. Visual learners are in for a treat with this. I’m sure there are several videos on various subjects out there. Check out Salman Khan Academy, CrashCourses if you’re short on time and can’t find a quick fix.
  • ORGANIZE: I am still understanding what organization stands for. But I’ll try to break it down.
  1.     To-do-list: Make a list of the things you have to study for the day as soon as you wake up. This helps a lot. You kind of get an idea of where you stand and what you need to do. Also, ticking off things from the to-do-list is the single most best feeling in the world. Take it one day at a time. You have to try to stick to the list you’ve made if you want to avoid wasting time. BUT and there’s a big but, do not make a list that’s ambitious. I know you want to make the most of your day but always keep sometime for relaxation. Being well prepared is not directly proportional to 16 hours of studying. Even if you study for 4 hours with breaks in between, you’re doing fine.
  2. Test yourself. I think the best way to find out what you’ve learnt is to attempt question papers right after you finish a chapter. This works pretty well for me. You can dig up previous years’ question papers and see if you’ve understood the material. Again, this might not be the case for you. Maybe you’re better off answering questions after a revision. Great, do that.
  3. Study with a friend. I remember studying with my best friend for my 10th boards and during under-grad and we used to update each other on what we studied. Not only does it give you the encouragement you need, it also makes studying fun. And if you’re someone who is competitive, you’ll make sure you study way more than your friend does.
  4. Take regular breaks. Since you’re studying a few days before the exam, it might not be possible to take breaks often. What you can do is study for 2 hours and take a break for ten mins. No matter what you do, your brain needs time to process. Jumping on to different topics won’t help. I’d rather spend 10 mins watching cupcake videos then cram. (At least, I’ll learn something). I don’t think I need to say this but keep yourself hydrated at all times. Keep snacks and drinks at your disposal to avoid wasting time.
  5. If you’ve been trying really hard to study and are not able to focus at all, leave it for the time being. Just go for a walk or listen to music and come back to it. Forcing yourself is never going to work. If you find yourself still struggling, move on to the next chapter or a different subject. Tackle it again the next day or after a day or two. Sometimes you have to take a detour to find yourself home. *mic drop*
  • FOCUS ON YOUR WEAKNESS:  We all have THAT one subject that makes our insides curl and gives us nightmares. For me it was maths. I HATED IT. I no longer have to study numbers( Thank heavens for that) but I still get jittery when I think about it. Try to devote each day on such a topic. I know it’s hard but that’s the only way you’ll be able to score well. If it’s maths for you, then practice maths more than you would normally do. If it’s history or geography, study half a chapter or a full chapter everyday. The idea is to stay in touch with the subject so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming a day before the exam. If you score very well in all other subjects but don’t score well in one subject, your total goes down drastically. That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
  • STOP COMPARING:  I cannot stress how important it is to realize who you are and what your battles are. Your dreams are different from your friends. You’re not the same. Don’t get bogged down by what your friend is accomplishing or plans on doing. It’s easy to feel lost but losing yourself in the process sucks more. Just do your thing.

Please remember, these exams don’t carve out a future plan for you. Sure, it helps you get into a good college et cetera but they’re not everything. Don’t burden yourself with what others expect of you. Focus on what you want the most and never compromise on your mental state over something as trivial as exams. I say this from experience. Most of the things you’re worrying about won’t even matter in the future. Give your 100%. That’s all.

The above tips are very subjective. One formula does not work for everyone. I hope It was of some use to you. Do you have a study hack I could use? Let me know!

 

Get Interview Ready!

Cracking interviews is hard but preparing in advance is half the battle won.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am still learning how to adult. Whatever I say in this blog post is just a sum total of my experiences while giving interviews. Call it a case study. (You can call it whatever you want).

Congratulations! You finally got the interview call you’ve been waiting for or in other terms losing your sleep over. You’re excited and nervous. While it’s not rocket science that you should prepare yourself before an interview, it is also essential to keep certain little things in mind before your big day. Following aren’t tips but just a few reminders that in my opinion set you apart from other candidates. (You see I spend a lot of time observing people because a.) I’m easily bored. b.) I get good material to write on):

  • Appearance: From what I’ve seen, there are two kinds of people. Those who dress for a red carpet event and those who look like homeless drug addicts. It’s not wrong to dress either way but since we’re trying to make a statement by not drawing unnecessary attention, we should stick to basics. The idea is to look professional. (Put on those nerd glasses for special effect). You might wear something that’s in vogue but if you end up looking like you slept in those clothes, it’s not going to work. First impression is HIGHLY important. Choose subtle, warm tones and if you cannot wear heels do not wear them. You wouldn’t want to trip right in front of the interviewer. (I’ve seen this happening and it wasn’t a good sight). Unless, you’re interviewing for a fashion magazine or something in that field, you’re allowed to be creative.
  • Being on time: I’ve already mentioned the importance of giving a good first impression and punctuality is one of the prerequisites to that. For once in your life, start early. The advantages of reaching early are plenty:  a.) Since there are a number of external factors involved such as weather, traffic, your car breaking down, your uber driver being an idiot etc you have to play it safe. Now is not the time to take risks. So in case something goes haywire, you can still make it on time.  b.) You get time to compose yourself. Go through your notes. Look around. Soak in the vibes. Do breathing exercises. Whatever it is that helps you calm your nerves. c.) You can interrogate the person before you who came out of the interview. It’s enlightening to say the least. You get a gist of what’s about to hit you and you get time to mentally prepare yourself. I think it’s one of my favourite things to do. (Also, when you’re waiting for your turn and it kind of gets dry, you can start clicking selfies. #Adulting  #IHaveNoIdeaWhatImDoing #SoNervous).
  • Organise yourself: We’re all a mess. Well, I am. I never have anything sorted. It’s not humanly possible to have everything in control but there are a few things we can take control of. The company you’ll be interviewing at will give you instructions about the documents you should be carrying. Here, make sure you have everything organised in a file in a chronological order. Get photo-copies of all your documents and certificates just in case they need to keep it. What happens is when you’re inside the interview room and you’re being grilled, you can’t spend time thinking which certificate is where. Not only do you look clumsy searching for the document that should be in your file, you come across as being unprepared. If you know where your documents are, you can easily present it when asked. ( I once dropped the entire file inside the interview room and well the rest is history).
  • Don’t talk too much: No, really. Just answer their questions as articulately as you can. If they ask for an explanation, you can drop that thesis you’ve prepared. There’s a difference between being confident and being cocky. It’s okay to brag here and there as long as you can support your statement. For instance, you might be asked to describe yourself (I loathe this question), don’t say you love food and you can eat 10 chicken nuggets in a minute. No one cares. What you can say is you love food and you love trying out different cuisines and you would like to be a food blogger someday. Avoid giving vague answers you can’t account for. DO NOT say you’re a voracious reader if you’ve only read Twilight or 50 shades of Grey .While I was giving interview for The Telegraph You internship programme, I mentioned being an avid reader and my dream of wanting to author a book someday. I got asked a lot of questions about the types of books I read, the genres I liked and if I wrote a book what would the title and genre be. Employers are smart. They can look right through you and won’t hesitate in calling you out. They are looking for people who can contribute to their organisation and prove to be an asset. Keep this in mind.
  • Prepare some basic questions: 1.) Describe Yourself. 2.) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (Reading a book and crying over the death of a fictional character) 3.) What are your hobbies? 4.) Why do you want to work in our company? (Because you’re hiring?) 5.) How can you contribute to our organisation? You get the drill.

Since I love embarrassing myself on public platforms, I’m going to tell you one of my interview stories. So this HR of a reputed company asked me, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’. My reply will make you cry,’Urm..I haven’t thought of it’. I never got a call from them after having cleared all the rounds. In my defence, it was my first ever interview and I wasn’t too keen on having a future. The question hit me like a ton of bricks and I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I don’t know what I’m going to do after I write this blog post, leave alone thinking in future tense. Alas, that’s life. We have to make scenarios in our heads of all the things that MIGHT happen. Jokes apart, I learnt my lesson the hard way and I’ve got no regrets. Things happen for a reason.You might not have a clear idea of where you’ll be after 5 years but just imagine how you see yourself. Employers love asking this question.

  • Stop trying to be different: Logically speaking, you’re not the first person the employer is interviewing and you won’t definitely be the last. Employers have seen it all. Trying to be someone you’re not is digging your grave. You should just have confidence in who you are and believe in giving the best. At the end of the day, you’ll know you got that job because of your competency and personality. And that, my friend, is the single most best feeling in the world.
  • Do your homework: Study about the company, their clients, their strategies. Another thing you can do is present to them an idea of what you would do had you been in their place in terms of marketing strategies or launching new products etc. This shows that you’re passionate about working in the said company and you’re willing to go the extra-mile without them asking you to. (I haven’t yet tried this but I will when I get the chance). Try this and let me know?

I love this quote from Jim Lehrer:

There’s only one interview technique that matters… Do your homework so you can listen to the answers and react to them and ask follow-ups. Do your homework, prepare.

  • Zero-Expectations: I hate to break it to you but try to be realistic. Don’t get me wrong, you should have huge expectations but only of yourself. You can’t vouch for anything else. Life is not a wish granting factory and somethings don’t go our way. You might have given your best and still you weren’t selected. Don’t lose heart, keep trying. There’s enough sun for everyone. You have something in you to have gotten this far and maybe better and bigger things are in store. This way when you do get the call, you’ll be happier.

There is no specific rule to cracking an interview. It depends on the employer and the interviewee. Subjectivity is a prominent factor dominating interviews. No two people will have the same experience giving interviews at the same company. It all boils down to what you have to offer. The above points are only for reference. Some may work for you, others might not.

If there’s something I really believe in, it is working hard to get what you want. Nothing in the world is out of your reach. You need to be willing to grab it, you need to be ready to sacrifice your sleep, you need to show up everyday. It won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them“- Walt Disney

How to Start Reading

A step by step guide to start reading.

The secret to reading or reading more is extremely simple:

You pick a book and READ. 

No, really. I can’t make this any easier.

I get asked a lot about my reading habits often by people who claim to have read only one book a year or people who can’t seem to get around reading because they usually fall asleep. It’s okay, no judgement there. But if you really want to cultivate a reading habit you have to be sincere about it.

Habits are formed when you continuously work at it. Much like going to the gym or eating healthy in order to lose weight. It is the sum total of everyday routines that you religiously follow. Although reading isn’t as strict.

Know why is it you want to read. Is it because you want a hobby or you want to improve your writing skills or is it because you want to do well on your SAT scores or CAT examinations. Whatever the reason, go forth with it as something that will improve your way of living, expand your horizon while getting your mind off of everyday worries. It’s not something you HAVE to do or you’re forced to do. Reading is a solitary experience but one that is comforting. It is a fun thing to do and besides book nerds are the coolest people you’ll meet.

For you to get into the habit of reading, remember you have to take out time to read. You might have your bookshelf stocked with every bestseller possible but if you don’t deliberately go out of your way to read, there’s not much that can be done..

So now that you want to read and are ready to spend time on it, here’s how you can start:

  • The beginning: Since you’re reading after a very long time or reading a novel for the first time, it is essential that you choose a book that is of your liking. If romance is your genre, go ahead. If you like reading fantasy, pick up a fantasy novel. If there’s a book you read as a child and loved it, why not read it again? As long as the story sparks your interest, you’re good to go. Remember to start with books that are not lengthy or complicated. Go for novels that are fast-paced yet easy to understand. If you don’t want to start with novels, you can always opt for short stories or Graphic novels to give you a kick-start.
  • Time management: Now that you’ve chosen the book of your choice, you need to decide what time suits you best. You can read 10 mins in the morning before going to school/college/work or while having breakfast  or maybe before going to bed. The idea is to read every day; doesn’t matter how long or how much.
  • Reading slump:  Most of the time even though the book that we’re reading has been our choice, we seem to struggle getting through it (also known as a reading slump). Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Pick up another book and give it another try. Or wait for a day or two and come back again to the previous book.
  • Prioritising: Sacrifice watching Tv or sleeping more than necessary or staying on your phone( everyone’s guilty of this).  This doesn’t mean that you should stop watching TV altogether but instead of binge watching 10 seasons, just watch 9. (See, I am making it as easy as I can). Most of the time, I don’t read for days and often times I binge read but it works for me.Here, I don’t mean sacrificing study time to finish a book or neglecting responsibilities but ensuring you squeeze in a little reading time in your busy schedule. As long as you continue reading, you’re good to go.
  • E-books: I’ve realised that I read faster on my phone. I don’t have any scientific explanation for this but I tend to analyse and read ten times faster to the point where my eyes start hurting and burning and I’m half blind (Don’t attempt this, it’s unhealthy). Anyway, the point is if you are like me, you can download books on your phone. This way instead of being on social media you can instead use your brain to soak in some literary knowledge.
  • Travel Companion: Try to carry a book with you everywhere. You might get labelled as a first class nerd but then you should own that label and read even more. On a serious note, it’s not physically possible to carry books at all times, but you’ll realise how much reading you can get done when you’re waiting in your car or bus or have an off period in school/college. For instance, when I was doing an internship, my office was almost on the other side of the city and it took me an hour and a half to get there. So in total, I always had 3 hours of pure idleness. I used to get a lot of reading done. Most days, I used to stare out into oblivion but on other days I used to read.
  • Find a reading buddy: If you know anyone who is an avid reader, join in a read-along with them. You two can read certain chapters together and discuss the plots or maybe invite other people to join in and create a book club. Having people around you with similar interests gives you the motivation you need. Alternately, if you can’t find a reader buddy, join online book clubs or book sites. For instance, Goodreads offers a host of reading suggestions, author reviews, quotes and reading challenges. Seeing people being so passionate about reading will give you the much needed boost. Befriend people, follow what they’re reading and enjoy the whole reading journey.
  • Audio-books: If you still can’t get into the reading habit which is again absolutely fine, you can try Audio books. They’re easier to read since all you have to do is plug in your headphones and listen to it while driving or doing household chores. (I haven’t tried it out as yet but from what I’ve researched, it’s a hit amongst readers and non-readers)

 

Following are some of the books you can start your reading career with (I made that sound so official):

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns and Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Neven
  3. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  4. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
  5. Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan
  6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  7. The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska by John Green
  8. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
  9. On Two feet and Wings by Abbas Kazeerooni
  10. The Good Girl by Mary kubica
  11. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

I have on purpose not mentioned any classics because I personally find them a little intimidating and also because I haven’t read much on the classic front. (I am working on it).

I hope the above tips were even remotely helpful and that reading won’t seem as tedious anymore.

Tips to beat EXAM anxiety

Exam anxiety is a universal problem faced by every student before every exam ever. It’s not a very good feeling and one would want to avoid feeling anxious especially before an important exam.

“Before starting my math exam, I was so consumed by anxiety that I couldn’t even remember what date it was.” –Me during my 12th board exam.

You’re prepared for your final term. You studied everything you possibly could, you didn’t leave out any chapter and you’re thorough with each probable question. But then these little monsters called Anxiety start creeping in and you find your confidence hitting an all time low. You feel butterflies in your stomach or rather the entire zoo, your palms get sweaty, you feel nauseous or worst case scenario pukish. Exam anxiety is a universal problem faced by every student before every exam ever. It’s not a very good feeling and one would want to avoid feeling anxious especially before an important exam. The fear of making mistakes, forgetting formulas, not being able to complete the paper are all too common. It happens to the best of us.

A study suggests that people who are highly anxious tend to perform worse even though they’re well prepared. The good news is you can very well fight anxiety. It’s curable to say the least.

Below are a few tips that might come in handy next time you take an exam:

  • Sleep, Sleep, Sleep: A well rested brain is able to function better. The whole idea of pulling an all nighter does no justice to your mind and body. Never compromise your sleep especially before an exam. You’d rather remember what you’ve learnt instead of staying up late and cramming your brain with information you will most likely forget. A good 6 hours sleep is a must.
  • Breakfast: I cannot stress how important it is to have proper, healthy breakfast before you leave for school/college. Get up early walk around  a little and treat yourself with food that is rich in fibre and carbohydrate. This gives the body the energy it requires. Losing out on energy leads to lower concentration levels which means you might start to panic and that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid, right? Go eat that apple.
  • Don’t discuss: I remember studying every chapter before my geography exam and the morning before the paper, I started discussing it with a friend. My confidence which was high at that point of time was ruthlessly shattered in a few minutes because I wasn’t able to recall the answers to some of the questions asked by my friend. Note that it wasn’t because I didn’t remember but because  I got too overwhelmed which led to delay in recall. This lead to even more anxiety. Moral of the story is there is no need to discuss anything when you reach school/college unless there’s something important. Keep to yourself and try to take deep breaths and relax.
  • Revising: The most common mistake I made and I observe most students make is trying to revise everything the morning before the exam. It is a very daunting task, takes a lot of time and is intimidating. Failure to cover all chapters leaves you with a sinking feeling thereby leading to doubt and worry. Instead while you’re studying( a day or week before the said paper) make notes of all the important points. Just a brief summary of the chapter in your own words. This method has two advantages, a.) It helps in easy memorization, b.) You have your own notes prepared and it’s a lot easier to go through them by just looking at the points.
  • Be prepared: Here I am talking about being well equipped with the stationary you will require during the exam. You wouldn’t want  be to panic because you don’t have a pen that works. It will not only cause more anxiety and stress but you will lose out on a lot of time.Always keep an extra pair, just to be sure. Bonus points if you keep everything ready the night before. This avoids unnecessary stress in the morning.  It is also very important to reach your school/college early. For those who have different study centres, it is imperative that you take a field trip to figure out where your classroom is. This will help you to familiarise yourself with the classroom setting and your brain will be well rested.
  • Set realistic goals: While it is important to set high expectations of yourself , it is equally important to be realistic about it. This doesn’t mean you should not expect a good score but that things might not always go your way. Building castles in the air seldom takes you anywhere. You cannot expect 100% result every time. All that matters is that you gave your best shot. Don’t think about getting a 98 or 100 but about doing better than what you did. Remember, one test won’t alter your life. By having a clear mindset, you will be able to study better.

 

Some other tips you should remember:

  • Write down your anxieties. Studies have shown that those who write down their insecurities performed better than those who didn’t. For every negative trait, write a positive one.
  • Listen to music that is soothing and calming. You can do this while you’re on your way to school/college. Music always makes me relax. Keep reading the notes you’ve prepared while simultaneously listening to soft music. It really helps.
  • While in the middle of writing the exam, attempt questions you’re most confident about. This gives you the boost that you need. Then proceed towards questions that you find hard or tricky. Also, since you don’t have forever to complete the paper, don’t waste too much time on one question.
  • Avoid getting distracted by the person sitting next to you who is writing ten times as fast as you are and who just asked for another sheet of paper. It’s okay. Maybe she has a train to catch, you never know. Concentrate on your work.
  • Take breaks if you get too worked up. Close your eyes and try to calm down.  Think about things that help you relax. Think about your pet waiting for you at home, or think about how much you’re going to sleep once you reach home. Learn to de-stress.
  • Give your best. Don’t let anxiety take all the credit.

 

Do you have any tips to beat anxiety? Comment below!

How NOT to procrastinate

Procrastination sticks to us like bees on a beehive. However, it is not impossible to over-come procrastination. You just have to persevere and be patient with yourself.

We’ve all been there. The dread , the unapologetic behaviour, the anxiety and mental stress of delaying what’s to be done. Procrastination or putting off of things to be completed later is something we’re all too familiar with. Whether it is studying after an hour which turns into an entire month till you reach the deadline and decide to die instead or living with constant guilt of producing a below average work. It’s okay. It only goes to show you’re human. But don’t you think fighting off procrastination is better than a shitty assignment? Well, thought so.

In this post, I’m going to talk about some tips that have worked with me in eliminating procrastination. These suggestions, however, are very subjective. You might find it useful or they might not work for you. But there’s no harm in trying, right?

  1. Identify your triggers: Maybe the reason you’re procrastinating is directly related to the number of things that distract you. It can be anything and everything that draws your attention to things that are less important or even trivial. Getting rid of social media worked best for me. If you’re hungry or feeling sleepy, grab that snack or go take a nap. Just complete everything that is stopping you from opening your books. Try throwing your phone away. (No, not literally

  2. Create your own environment: Each one of us have a study style. Most are productive when they’re studying alone in a quiet room without any interruptions while some work best while listening to music. Learn when your productivity is the highest and work to create your studying space. This will prevent you from putting off studying. If my study desk is a pile of shit that I don’t require, I proceed towards getting that shit sorted. This helps me think clearly.
  3. Force yourself: Once you have eliminated all the procrastinating pit stops, you can now move ahead to the most important step. In order to brush off the shadow of procrastination, you have to push yourself into completing the task. Remember, beginnings are always the hardest. Once you stay put for 15 minutes, you will have developed a flow and you would find yourself getting the work done.
  4. Handle the monster first: This means delving right into the subject that is the most difficult to do or the thought of which is making you put off studying altogether. When I was in school, I used to dread studying mathematics which used to result in me putting off studying for hours till it was very late. Tackling the subjects you dislike or that which bore you first helps in getting it out-of-the-way. Adopting this strategy helps you in avoiding further procrastination thereby creating more time to work on other subjects as well.
  5. Divide and break down: This means breaking down your work in different sections to avoid getting overwhelmed by the huge chunk of black and white information. Breaking down helps us to concentrate and focus more while dividing assists in compressing the content and making it easier to grasp. If you’ve broken your chapters into little parts and it still isn’t helping, shorten it even more. Keep doing it till studying doesn’t intimidate you (even if you study only a page, it’s a win). Also, always study for 30 minutes and then take a break. This helps in retention.
  6. Treat yourself OR don’t: It is essential to focus on what you will do once you complete the set task. This might be enjoying a bar of chocolate after completing a chapter or going with friends for a movie or even using social media for an hour without any guilt. Bargaining with oneself makes us look forward to the outcome more than the process of doing it. This is called positive reinforcement. Similarly, if you, for instance, manage to complete your essay, you will not do the dishes or make your bed. Negative reinforcements sometimes work very well in completing the task.  If reinforcements don’t work, then try punishment as a method. Take away something you look forward to if you’re unable to complete that essay like not using social media for more than 15 minutes or staying at home for the weekend. Talk to yourself and make deals. See what works best for you.
  7. Set Goals: Having a dream or an ambition often motivates us to get the work done. Goals make us more productive because we’re determined to achieve them. It can be as simple as getting a good grade in your history paper or getting selected for a debate at school/college. Anything that excites you even a tiny bit to get out of bed. Although following up is important. You have to walk the talk. You cannot expect to be a good sports person if you spend all your time being a couch potato.

 

 

There are a few other things you should keep in mind: 

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’ve procrastinated to a point of no return, don’t fret. Just let it go and make tomorrow more productive.
  • Do not wait for the right time to get the work done. Now is as good a time as any.
  • Try not to be a perfectionist. Most of the time it is essential to finish the job rather than putting your energy on tiny details to make it look, “perfect”.  You can always go back and brush up on the details once you get everything else done. Sometimes, just sometimes, quantity matters more than quality.
  • Get a study  buddy. Nothing is more motivating than a friend who is in as deep a shit as you. This way both of you can cry tears of joy and pain and ultimately push each other to study.
  • Work hard. Nothing in the world comes free and you definitely don’t want procrastination to be your biggest regret.

 

 

I hope the above post was of some help to you. What are the different ways in which you beat procrastination? Comment below so that I can know about them, too!

It’s OKAY to be lost.

Figuring out life, one step at a time.

“When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.”
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

If there was anything I could tell my eighteen year old self, it would be this; IT IS OKAY TO FEEL LOST. IT IS OKAY TO NOT KNOW. EVERYTHING (almost everything) HAS A WAY OF FALLING INTO PLACE.

You’re about to appear for your final exams and then starts what they call “The real world” where you’ll leave the school life and become a college student. Everything will change. You won’t have the same friends you went to school with, your body along with your mental state will undergo timely transitions and you’ll find yourself enjoying things you disliked and disliking things you loved. It’s common. It only goes to show you’re evolving.

By now you must have decided on the course you’d study, where you’ll apply or whether you’ll study abroad and all that stuff. But what if you don’t know what you want to do?  You still aren’t sure about the subjects you’ve studied or where your strength and weaknesses lie. You hear people throw around words like ‘passion’ or ‘dream’ and you can’t help but question your very existence. What were you made to do?

To be honest, you first have to understand that not all of us are always sure about what we want from life and that’s absolutely fine. (On some days, I can’t even make up my mind about what I want to eat.) There are some who have it all figured out. Kudos, good for them. This doesn’t mean you’re not sincere about having a career or if at all you’ll have one. Life is about exploring yourself and the world around you.

Don’t adopt the ‘herd mentality’ by doing what everyone else is doing. There’s room for all of us. Figuring out what makes you “happy” is the key. If you look forward to a particular subject or you had full attendance in a specific course, it only goes to show your interest in it. It’s important to ascertain the easiness that comes with studying a subject. For instance, if you love memorizing facts you might want to consider studying History or if the human behaviour fascinates you, then psychology is the subject for you. If putting things together and organizing is your forte, Event Management awaits your arrival. (These are just hypothetical examples). What I’m saying is notice when your enthusiasm level accelerates and when the idea of studying a particular subject makes you look forward to studying or even attending class for that matter. This is PASSION to me. Anything that excites or makes me feel confident is passion. You can have passion for multiple things. You might be excellent as a manager but also a competent chef. Best of both worlds? Hell, yeah!

It is, however, not compulsory to enter into academics after school. There’s no hard and fast rule to go the traditional way. Ditch becoming a CA or an Engineer if you don’t want to. Your future self will thank you for taking a smart decision. The dynamic environment has brought about a number of advances in the kind of career you can choose. Gone are the days when commerce and science were the only streams you could select. These days you can earn a living by clicking pictures or even baking for that matter.

All this sounds very doable and exciting but here’s the harsh reality; Most of the time due to unexpected reasons you don’t get to study what you want to no matter how hard you try or you don’t get admission in your dream college. Don’t lose hope. Try to find an alternative. Something that is even a tiny bit similar to what you initially wanted to study. The idea here is to not give up and persevere through your college days by not letting the spark inside of you die. Hard work always pays off. ALWAYS.

(Pro tip: Give your best even if you are not fond of what you’re studying. Good result is a very strong incentive for you to do even better. Been there, done that.)

Remember how you feel at the end of the day, whether you feel satisfied and at peace or you feel like the world around is going to collapse, depends solely upon the decision you take. Being lost helps you unravel aspects of yourself you didn’t know existed. Isn’t it a good thing? So next time you’re feeling lost, believe that you’re being redirected towards something bigger and better.

 

 

9 Study tips to ace your exams

DISCLAIMER:  Before I begin, I’d like to make it clear that I’m no expert or know-it-all when it comes to effective studying but the following are a few tips or hacks that helped me during my university exams in college. If you’re someone who studies at the last-minute, then keep on reading! Also, all the tips are very subjective. Some might work for you, others may end up being a total fail.  It all depends on the kind of learner you are. 

 

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First things first, it is extremely important that you don’t panic. I understand that’s not possible but stressing out makes it all the more difficult. You have to take an exam in 2 days and you haven’t started studying or even worse you don’t even know what’s in the syllabus. So what? Try to relax , take a few deep breaths and forget about what “could” happen. Focus on the task in hand which is figuring out what you have to study.

 

  • Stop Procrastinating: STUDY. KEEP YOUR PHONE DOWN AND STUDY. It’s crunch time and you hardly have any time left. You should understand that you’ve wasted your entire year on TV shows and eating  and now is the time to get your act together.

 

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  • Study smartly: If you’re a Calcutta University student, you’d be familiar with the pressure and load that the syllabus entrails. Do not get intimidated and be practical. It is not humanly possible to study everything (unless you have a photographic memory then why are you even reading this?). Choose the topics that you think are important. Usually the professors inform you of the chapters that are more significant than the others. If you’ve accidentally paid attention in class then brownie points for you! If you didn’t, like most of us, then figure out what needs to be tackled first.

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  • Study Partner: Having a friend or a study partner or a study group makes studying a lot more easier ( I wouldn’t say fun because let’s face it you have an exam in two days). If you’re stuck, your friend can always help you understand the topic in a better way. I realized this worked best for me because I knew I wasn’t alone and also constant motivation and break from rigorous studying.  Here’s a little picture for motivation 😉

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  • Refer to previous years’ question papers: One of the most essential studying tips is referring to past years’ question papers. Understanding the question pattern is half the battle won and looking back on earlier questions gives you a decent idea of what the probable questions can be. I’m sure you did this for your board exams back in school so just continue with this tradition.  I’d suggest looking back at last 5 years’ questions.

 

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  • Understand more, cram less: Mugging everything from the page number to the index of your book without understanding is NOT going to fetch you marks, leave alone getting good grades. Cramming is an ineffective study method. You’re not a parrot who is to repeat everything in exact form. Try to grasp the content that you’re seeing, make your own interpretations and remember the key points. It not only saves time but helps you broaden your mind about the subject. If you’ve understood the topic well, you can write.

 

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  • Time Management: The most common pre-exam mistake we all make is studying for hours at a stretch. Stop it right away. Take a topic, study for an hour at first. Try to finish majority of the portion in that one hour. After that, take a break of say 5-10 minutes and then continue again. Start another topic, study for an hour and take a break. The break helps you retain what you have learnt and allows your memory to take in more. It is essential to stick to your time schedule. You learn faster and retain better. Remember the break should not be more than ten minutes. (Utlilise your break by checking every social media possible because social obligations)

 

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  • Write and Learn: I’m aware that writing and learning a few days before exams is impractical but it has helped me immensely. I’m a visual learner and I prefer jotting down everything I’ve learnt. Writing down what you’ve studied means putting down all the key points from your memory. I think it’s a great exercise as you find out how much you’ve learnt and at the same time you have effective notes prepared that you can leaf through on the big day!

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  • Mnemonics: “A system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assists in remembering something.” What am I even talking about? Well, Mnemonics means associating things to a particular pattern or events or names that assists in memorizing better. It improves memory. If there are sub-points that you need to remember but are having difficulty retaining then you can associate them to an event in your life or any pattern. Let’s take an example:

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