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8 sure rules to acing NTSE

NTSE is contested by best and the brightest of all students from across India. People spend months preparing for the exam with little success, because they forget the basics. Below we provide the 8 sure steps to acing the National Talent Search Exam (NTSE) or for that matter any competitive exam. 

Rule 0 - Practice is useless without Analysis

At the outset, let me give you the bonus rule or rule 0 to winning at NTSE. We all know that practice is important, so we study our current and old text books, practice question papers and sit in extra classes etc. But what most of us (99% of all students based on my experience) forget is that practice is useless without Analysis. After you practice, you need to analyse. What I mean is that you need to know what are your strong areas, where do you take more time, where you are ahead of competition and where you need to work. What will you leave out in the exam and what you will definitely do. That is analysis. You need to analyse your performance in the NTSE practice. 

the secret to prepare for ntse


Rule 1 (practice) - To crack NTSE, focus in your class

Most teachers are going to give me some browny points for writing this but this is true. When you prepare for NTSE, you take coaching classes, you read extra books, you discuss with friends and you give test papers. But the easiest and most important thing to do is to focus in the class. Focus on what your teacher is telling you in class. NTSE is based on your school curriculum with most of the things coming from Grade 9 and Grade 10 text books. So pay attention to what is being taught in the class. It saves time and a lot of effort. Plus, your teachers can help you prepare better

Rule 2 (practice) - Right amount of focus on right things

Again a place where 99% of all students, even the brightest ones, end up messing up. In fact, usually you mess up big time if you do not get this rule right. So all of you know that NTSE has 2 sections, MAT and SAT (if you did not know that, you should click here to learn all about NTSE). MAT will have 90 questions and SAT will have 90 questions. Each question in SAT carries 1 mark and each equation in MAT carries 1 mark. My point being that NTSE paper setters have decided to give 50% weight to SAT and 50% to MAT. Then in your preparation time, why do you change it to 90% and 10%? 

Since this is so important, let me illustrate a bit more. 

NTSE -> SAT -> Social Science -> History -> Ancient History -> Harappan Civilization (please count the 6 levels between Harappan Civilization and NTSE).

NTSE -> MAT -> Directions (please count 3 levels between Directions and NTSE)

Directions is 3 levels about Harappan Civilization in NTSE paper (just be weight awarded to it) but you give a lot more time to studying Harappan culture and completely ignore your direction sense. Why dear friend. Why. My request is to give time to topics and sub topics in proportion to their weight. Do not ignore something. If you think you are very good with Directions (MAT) then practice a bit more and improve your speed slightly. Trust me, it will help. I know that I cannot change that 90-10% split to 50-50% but please at least get it to 60-40%. It is for your own good.


Rule 3 (practice) - Give tests. More the better

Give full length tests, give part  tests, give mini tests, micro and nano  tests. Just give NTSE practice papers and tests. Tests help you simulate exam situation. They give you real feedback. They give you the best idea of your preparedness. This is the fastest way to be exam ready. So please give tests. If you have less time, use it to give tests.

The thing to take note of is to give the right tests. Tests that simulate NTSE. Tests that are not too hard and not too easy. They should give you an idea of NTSE. Find tests like that. 

Rule 4 (analysis) - Spend 2 to 7 hours in analysing each test

That is right. Spend 2-7 hours per test. I have worked with students and when I ask them how much time do they spend in analysis, they reply happily "15 minutes". Guys, spend time in analysing your tests. Go over every bit of detail minutely. Analysis tells you what you need to study and why. Without analysis, you are groping the dark, hoping that you will find the door. Analysis will point you in the right direction. Spend 2 to 7 hours analysing a full test. If you spend more time, please do tell what you learnt. I would love to share it with everyone else here. 

Rule 5 (analysis) - Analyse at sub topic level

While preparing for NTSE, do not look at History. Look at Harappan Civilization or at least Ancient History. Do not look at MAT, focus on Directions, Data interpretation, Sequence and series etc. We have broken down the entire NTSE curriculum in granular sub topics ( 6 in MAT and 28 in SAT). Please look at your performance at a granular level. Only that will tell you where you stand. You can not be poor in MAT. May be you are too slow in Directions. Similarly, you can not be poor in Physics. May be you do not understand electricity and less than 5 questions were asked from electricity last year. So this level of granular analysis will help you focus your practice. 

Rule 6 (analysis) - Record scores, time taken, questions offered, questions attempted by sup topic

At the end of your analysis, you need to know that you have a high accuracy in Mechanics (88%) and you take less time per question (say 45 seconds). This is a great topic for you. Make sure to do all the questions on mechanics in the exam. And say you end up taking 5 minutes per question on Mathematical Induction then that is a topic best left during the exam. 

Often it is difficult to find these level of details. Then try and do the best you can. If you cannot keep an idea of time, at least spot accuracy rates. With NTSE Brainstorm, we record these and other details and help you analyse better. 

Rule 7 (analysis) - Always work on cumulative performance over time

Say, you gave a test on Monday and you did 9 out 10 questions correctly in Directions. Your accuracy is 90%. Now you give a test again on Wednesday. Say this time you got 6 out of 15 correct. That means an accuracy of 40%. That is a lot of fluctuation. But which one is really your level, 90% or 40%? If you look at your cumulative performance, that is 15 out of 25 questions, your accuracy is 60%. 

My point is, that it is not your performance in 1 or 2 tests but your performance over 4-7  tests that tells you the real you. So keep a tab on your performance over time. It may even tell you if you are improving or not. We use a lot of advanced statistics to do that analysis for our students as part of NTSE Brainstorm

Rule 8 (analysis) - Understand why 

If you got something wrong, understand why. Which part did you not understand. If you got something right, again understand the why behind. Why did you get it right, was it a fluke ("I will attempt all Bs tonight)  or there was serious thinking involved. How and why are important questions to ask when you analyse your test. Please take time with every problem.

If you follow these 8 rules and the bonus rule, you are all set for NTSE. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this. If you have questions, feel free to raise them here and I will try and respond. If you think what you read was useful, help spread the word. Good luck

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