There are, as many say, only two seasons in Dhaka: the wedding season and the admission season. Both herald new beginnings while inducing anxiety, but it is safe to say that only one of these seasons is fun to experience. Exam stress is bad, but admission season stress is on another level entirely. The novelty and uncertainty of having the next four to five years of your life depend on an exam of an hour or two are terrifying, to say the least. That is why it is essential for candidates to be prepared not only to do well in the exams but also to ensure their health, both physical and mental, is in check.
First and foremost, one must ensure that they are not putting all their eggs in one basket. While it is helpful to be focused on getting into one specific institution, it is also necessary to have backup plans. No matter how well you have prepared, things may not go as you have planned, which is when you switch to plan B. It is always better to make a list of your top five preferences and then focus more on the top three. This way, you will have options to fall back on without overworking yourself. However, if one intends to sit for a greater number of admission exams, one needs to make sure to have enough time to prepare for each because although there might be some similarities in the formats, no two exams will be the same.
Following a routine is essential when preparing for admission tests, because it helps a student to stay focused and channel their energy productively. “I have always preferred a well-planned method of studying. During my admission phase, I used to maintain check-lists on regular basis and made sure I finished my targeted tasks within time,” says Zareen Subah Khan, a freshman at IBA, University of Dhaka. Following a routine does not have to mean studying all day long, you can follow a routine just to be organised and measure your progress. An aspiring candidate, Raiyan Faiyaz, agrees and adds that since there is a huge number of question banks to be completed, following a routine is the best option for him.
It is unlikely that one person will be great at everything, so it is useful to figure out your strong suit and use it to your advantage. For instance, if an exam you are preparing to sit for has three sections: Math, English, and General Knowledge, and you are good in English but your math skills require more work, you would want to study in a way that allows you to minimise the time required to answer the English section. Timing yourself when solving practice tests at home is a good way to keep track of how long each section takes you, and answering the section that you are the best at, at the beginning of the test, will also help build your confidence to go through the rest of the exam.
Admission season demands that one study long hours, but candidates should also remember to not overwork themselves. Instead of cramming three months of content into a month of preparation, it is always better to pan it out over a slightly longer time. That way, you are less likely to panic and may have more time to relax and focus better on your preparation. When asked how long she studied for each day during admission season, Zareen said that she initially studied for two to three hours a day, but as the exam dates got closer, she adjusted her schedule to study around six to seven hours a day. On the other hand, Raiyan responded that he used to study for five to six hours a day when he started preparing for admission tests, almost six months ago, but now studies for two to three hours a day to brush up on previous topics.
There had been delays in public exams and admission tests since the pandemic broke out in 2020, and its impact has not been entirely positive for aspiring candidates over these three years. When asked about how she dealt with this, Zareen mentioned how she felt anxious and frustrated due to the uncertainty surrounding the admission tests back in 2022 and mentioned that any plans regarding the future seemed futile at the time. However, she did not lose focus, and with time, it got easier to deal with the tension. Raiyan adds that he completed his A levels around six months ago and most of his classmates from school have already completed a semester in their universities abroad, which does make him feel left behind and slightly concerned for his future, but he does not let that slow him down in his pursuit to achieve his goals.
Sitting for admission tests is a daunting task, and in Bangladesh, it is often considered the most important part of a young student's life. Given these circumstances, it is easy for one to forget that admission tests are only a part of their life, not their entire life. As Zareen says, "The fierce competition is difficult to overcome, but you must be consistent, build your strategy and stick to that. Instead of worrying about what and how other people are doing, you should remember that you are doing great in your own way". Yes, success feels great. However, that does not mean that students should not allow themselves some moments of failure. Things may not always go the way you plan them to, but you must not lose faith. Just remember that planned efforts will not go in vain.
The writer is a fourth-year BBA student majoring in Finance at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka.