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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Figure out what your "best" is - Ask your counsellor Q&A column

[The following column written by me appeared in the Deccan Herald Education supplement of October 14, 2014]

Dear Madam
I am doing my postgraduation in Gulbarga University (Gulbarga). My problem is in studies. I forget easily What I study and my mind feels disturbed during exams. Please give me a solution.
Pavan Pralhad

Dear Pavan
Anxiety due to, and during exams, is common and many people experience it. Know that you are not alone. And a lot of that anxiety is due to the fear of the outcome. We feel scared of what will happen if we don’t get “good enough” marks, and that fear fills up our mind space with worry, instead of the material we need to be studying and remembering. I had written an article exactly on this issue some time back, and it can be found on my blog at what your fears and worries around exams are. Express them and maybe put them down on paper. Essentially find a way to store them in some place other than your brain so that your brain is freed up for what you are studying. Writing down your fears and worries on paper often helps to free yourself from them.

Also try and understand if your fears are rational and what really would happen if you don’t do that well. Remember, if one door closes, another one will open, but provided you allow it to. Also remember, that you need to study to learn, not to get good marks. So study from the end objective of understanding, not remembering. And if you understand something the chance of forgetting it is much lower.

Hope this helps. All the best.

Dear Madam
I am studying in class 10 in a CBSE school. I am able to learn and understand all subjects except maths. I have been working very hard for maths for one year and yet I am not able to do it properly during exams. I easily forget theorems and concepts, but this doesn’t happen with other subjects. I am planning to take PCM in 11th standard. And I am afraid - how can I study PCM if I am not able to do maths properly? I am very interested in taking PCM. Please help me.

Dear Sudeshna

Again, you are not alone in feeling intimidated by maths. Something about the subject seems to get people to either love it or be scared of it, not hate it! I think it has something to do with the fact that since it is a subject in which you can score 100% marks, people feel pressured by it. The important thing to remember is that you need to do your best and that need not necessarily mean getting 100%. “The best” means different things for different people – for some it may mean getting 100% and for others it may mean getting 75%. It is for you to define what your “best” is and then to strive to work towards your “best”, not the “best” as it defined by someone else. Maths is also a subject which has the potential to get most affected if you are stressed because you may end up making a careless mistake. In any other subject a careless mistake may mean just a wrong spelling or something small like that, but in maths it may mean you get the whole answer wrong!

Maths is all about effort and understanding, and not about mugging. You will find that as soon as you are able to put your fear of maths aside, and free up your mind space from worrying about it, you will be able to relax and actually enjoy the subject. So don’t worry about the result. If you make a mistake take some time to understand the mistake and learn from it. After all what is the worst that can happen if you make a mistake? It is just a mistake, not the end of the world, or the end of your career, or a killer of your ambition. Sometimes we are scared of things because we attribute more meaning and significance to them than they actually deserve.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Dear Madam
I am presently studying in 9th standard in a CBSE school. The reason I am writing this is because I am really confused about what I should pursue in the future. I am inclined towards architecture and law. Can you please tell the other courses related to architecture and law? I am unable to decide which course I should take. My parents are putting a little pressure on me, especially my father. Please help me in zeroing in on a course.
Nidhi Athreya

Dear Nidhi

For a 9th Standard student, I find you remarkably focused on your future career. I think you still have plenty of time to decide on what your future subjects should be because you don’t need to make your choice till the 10th is over. Unfortunately, I am not a career counsellor and so I am not in a position to guide you on what subjects you should choose for your career choices. However, I do feel that if you stick with the maths and the sciences all your career options remain open for different career choices. Also for architecture, you must have a flair for drawing and a creative bent of mind to really excel in the field.

You need to be able to answer for yourself as to why you have shortlisted architecture and law? The route to both may be different in some ways but understanding the reasons for your choice will help you in your decision-making. Is it because those are the popular careers amongst other members of your families? Do you know someone in those professions? Have you been intrinsically interested in them or are you merely following what your parents are wanting you to do? Have you done anything outside of your regular school work which has told you that those professions are of interest to you? It may be helpful for you to try and intern with a lawyer and an architect over your vacations to get a real feel for what the work entails.

Take your time to decide. You still have time on your side so don’t limit your options right away. The fact that you are thinking about it is creditable so now make the best use of the time you have to explore these options while still giving yourself the chance to make other choices as well. All the best.

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