Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How to prepare for entrance examination?

One of the question which I get from the stufents is about how to prepare for entrance examinations. So decided to put down my thoughts on this.

In entrance examinations, the outcome simply depends on how many correct answers you have given. The correct answers depend on your memory i.e., whether you can memorize the stuff, or whether you understand the concept. Most of the examinations need both skills.

A student should only bother about maximization of the performance. In order to ensure that you can maximize, it important to equally emphasize the entire syllabus. You should be ready for any kinf of question distribution in the paper. Key principle for preparation is to study those topics more which you understand/remembet less. A simple technique could be what is given in next para. Itvbecomes possible due to availability of large number of older questions paper and questions banks.

First of all, get the questions papers and questions banks from last few years. Now, start solving the questions. If you remember/understand and can give the correct answer, move to next question. In case you cannot, go the the book or other reference material and read at least the section completely related to the question. If you can give the answer now, you have added to your memory or understanding. By the time, you finish few question papers, you must have revised quite a good stuff which you were not remembering/understanding well. The method ensures that you do spend your time judiciously on refreshing your memory/understanding of the portions where you need to. Whatever you already remember/understand is skipped saving you critical time.

Basically you are strengthening your memory/understanding of your weaker spots. This leads to more uniform learning and your chances of getting success in the examinations is far higher by spending much shorter time in preparation. The more you do, the better you become. Only initial few questions papers will be tough as at that time you will be ironing out all your deficiencies. Later by practice you can build speed.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The art of nonlinear reading - How to read research notes/papers/books?

Reading a text can be linear - you start reading from page 1 and go to 2, 3, and so on till you finish the text. Novels, Stories etc. are read in this fashion. The sequence does matter as they represent the evolution with time.

When we read a paper, book or notes given by a student, our objective is to understand what the text wants to say. For this kind of technical content, there may be paragraphs which we need to read twice or more; some of the paragraphs need not be read as we already understand what is written in them. Reading the content in an order decided by us is what I call Non-linear reading. It is suitable for studying the research papers, books, notes. I found it very useful for studying the notes/papers given to me by students.

There exist a third category of reading - skimming. In this we just skim at fast pace through entire content just to get an idea of what the text is all about. This does not help in understanding it,  but to decide that whether I should spend time in reading it.

Since the text is usually organized in paragraphs, we can decide the read a para at a time. One can repeat a para if needed. Viewing the index at the beginning is very helpful in deciding what section to be read first. Within a section, we can use skimming to identify which para to study first. I found that this technique allows us to understand the content in perspectives. I could find lot of flaws in papers written by my students when I used non-linear reading, as it seems to allow us to also have a big picture of what we are discussing in the paper.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Every mistake, flaw identified is an opportunity to improve.

In my posts, I have talked about various tips to improve performance. All these can be arrived at by almost anyone by using simple principle. This most important and should have been mentioned first. On daily basis, whenever you find something wrong, or an error, or make a mistake, try to find what can be changed in your habits, procedure, mechanisms so that such wrong/mistake will not happen. This makes you agile and adaptive to continue improve oneself for a desirable life.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Meditation

I thought of writing about it after observing that how people under perform due to stress, take non optimal decisions in given situations. The technique is simple. One need to spend some of the time with himself or herself. One can sit at any location, any stable posture and close the eyes. In fact, the idea is that the environment around you should not stimulate any of the sensory organs. Thus, a peaceful place (no sound), closed eyes (no visual info), any fixed posture (usually padma-asana or any other stable posture will be fine, no spatial awareness through compound functions of senses, no touch and taste), environment devoid of smell is desirable. One need to observe what is going on in mind without interfering with the chain of thoughts. Sometimes, thoughts ceases to exist, that is also fine. This provides the time to your mind to relax and give an opportunities to process the thoughts and ideas which cannot be focused upon in normal routine. It is like clearing backlog. This detachment exercise helps your mind to observe the better options in a given situation and decide a better option than what you can normally do. In order to keep the mind in this better state, doing the practice at regular intervals is advisable. The interval can be adjusted based on the stress levels and lifestyle.

One can also observe the breadth inhalation and exahalation without trying to control them, in their natural form. Idea is basically, do not try to control anything but become aware of whatever is happening.

Another form of meditation is where we do'nt let loose the mind to have its own chain of thoughts. When you want to focus on some work, you can be interrupted by sudden urge to finish something else. When you shift your focus on the other work, you forget to come back and the original work is left unfinished. One need to discard the signals/request for doing something else when you are doing primary work (the work on which you want to focus). You can do it by saying it that you will do it later. If you realise you are doing something else other than the primary work, you can stop and tell yourself that it will be done later, and shift yourself to primary work. An example of this is when you are studying and a phone call comes. You can either continue with the study and tell yourself that phone call can be taken up later. Most of us will take the phone call and then forget what we were doing. Usually the moment you realize that study is your primary work, you can abort the call with reminder to take it later and move back to study. With practice, one can learn to divert the distractions and keep focus on the primary work (in this case study :-) ).

Friday, February 28, 2014

Effective way of discussion.

For quite sometime, during discussion with my students, I used to listen to them. When I am not clear, I used to ask questions about it. I was not comfortable with this method. Usually as the students are not experienced, and sometimes they are working on a problem, which I have not been involved deeply, it was difficult to comprehend what the student wanted to say. This usually will lead to situation, when  the comments and suggestions, new ideas will take more number of discussion meetings on same aspects. During discussions, taking one's own notes - scribblings, which indicates what is discussed, specific question, their relationship with each other, is useful. These notes allows oneself to get a snapshot of the whole discussion. One can de-focus from details and form a bigger picture, ask better questions. One can identify the missing links. Once these are easier to identify, it is simpler to decide on what should be done next. This allows the students to get much better feedback. So, the key is take your own notes and use them for quick recaps at various stages for an effective discussion. One can identify also the undefined stuff, missing links, vague arguments also in this fashion. These inputs once given back to students, can provide better guidance to the students' research.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Can we modify our habits and attitude?

One of the possible techniques of modifying the habits and attitude can be reminding oneself of the correct way of doing something, or not to do something. Every time you deviate from what should be done, you remind yourself of the correct way. This trains oneself and after a time, you tend to do what you were suggesting to your self. Although, it is possible, when you are doing it right, you do not remind yourself of the correct way. One day you may again endup doing it incorrectly. For important things, you can remind yourself everyday. This ensures that you will always do it correctly. For non-important thing, you will achieve a balance where you do it most of the time in right fashion and sometimes incorrectly and then you remind yourself.  For example, when you drive and you realize that you have not fastened the seat belt, you should remind yourself that one should fasten the seat belt before starting to drive. After sometime, you will come into habit of fastening the seat belt.Similary, if you remind yourself everyday, that you should not waste your time, you will end up following it. This reminder comes in category where you should provide suggestion to yourself regularly and not when you find that you are not doing it.

This technique of behavioral modification will not work, if you cannot observe that you are doing something in wrong way. In case, your friends or others tell you what is wrong in your actions, you can listen, decide on whether to take or discard the input, and then suggest yourself.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Finding truth using arguments

I have seen almost everyone arguing about one thing or other. People argue for various reasons. Most of the time, I have found, whether knowingly or unknowingly people argue to feel better, by winning the argument. I am somehow uncomfortable with this. Should we argue only for sake of winning an argument. During school days, we used to participate in debates. One used to get "for" or "against" a certain issue for proposing the arguments. Once, you have been given a "for", a thought somewhat gets implanted, that I need to justify and win this argument.

Arguments can also be seen as method to gain insight into different viewpoint and to build an evolving hypothesis to find truth. But in order to use arguments for this purpose, the persons involved or listening to the arguments, need to get detached from the arguments. They should be willing to adapt new arguments, relinquish older ones. When one listens to lot of arguments, there can be confusion. It is essential that argument worth looking into should be filtered. Usable arguments can be grouped in multiple clusters depending on the hypothesis they favour. Some arguments are isolated and if they are violating fundamental axioms, should be discarded. As the arguments evolve, usually few hypothesis will remain. By evolving the hypotheses, we can come closer to truth which we are seeking.