This article on the effective preparation for CLAT is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, Co-founder & CEO at iPleaders.
8 Easy Steps to Prepare for any Competitive Exam with Objective Questions and Negative Marking
This works great for anyone, but for people who are trying to prepare in one or two months for an exam like CLAT, this is the easiest and surest way to crack the exam.
Remember that this method is not a magic pill, but I have not come across a better and quicker method to drastically improve. It takes hard work, and lots of people who are allergic to systematic, strategic hard work will never implement this. This is a method of winners, the best people already implement some loose or less systematic version of this. The beauty of this method is that it is so easy and simple that everyone can follow it, but very few actually do so. If you are not ready to work hard, if you have the discipline needed to be successful, don’t read this article any more – it is not of any use to you anyway. However, if you have a burning desire to succeed, if you have no choice but to crack this exam and make it happen, and you realize that there is very less time read this and implement this immediately. This method will shave off months from the required preparation time. One month is enough to implement this if you can work for a few hours every day, You can do it over a year if you have the luxury, but the faster you do it, the better the results.
Let’s get started
It all starts from the past years papers. You must first get sufficiently large number of past years papers, which can thereafter be analyzed by you to understand What exactly is being assessed in the exam.
Get as many past years papers as you can get. For CLAT – since CLAT has been happening only since 2008, there are past years papers which are easily available. This is enough sample size for a good analysis, also, get old NLSIU, NALSAR NUJS, NLUD and NLUO papers. In total, you should get at least 30 to 40 papers in order to do what I am going to tell you to do next.
For some exams, like the All India Bar Exam, you have only a few papers (4 at the time of writing) to analyze, No problem, make the best of what you have, Try to see if there are any similar exams, Very often, judicial services exam objective component is very similar to AIBE – so get those papers if you want. Find mock tests sold by preparation services – they would be useful for this purpose too.
When you have gathered enough past years papers, it is time to start the analysis, For this, you have to start solving the papers one by one. However, just solving is not enough – right after you are done solving, comes the analysis part.
You check which questions you were able to answer correctly, For this, you can use some answer keys available in the market. Sometimes these answer keys may have wrong answers, so be careful – check with others. One easy Way to find out if you are right is to post a question in an online forum and inviting people to answer, The answer is not enough, ask them how to solve, the reasoning behind the answer as well, You can do this on the CLAThacker Facebook group – it is quite active for this purpose, You can even ask someone for answer keys, they float around on the internet – but just make sure that they are net wrong.
Now you simply see which questions you get right, and which ones you got wrong. However, this alone is not enough, even within the questions you got right, you must see which ones took too much time to solve.
How do you know if it is taking too much time to solve? You have 200 questions usually in CLAT to be solved in 120 minutes, This means you have no more than 30 seconds to solve most English questions, less than a minute to solve Maths questions, less than 10 seconds to solve GK questions, about a minute to solve both legal reasoning and logical reasoning questions, Verbal reasoning questions can be and should be solved very fast. You must not lose too much time on things like comprehension passages.
I know this sounds ridiculous, but this is what you need to achieve over time, and people can do it. You need to learn how – otherwise you’ll not manage to crack CLAT.
While preparing, and initially as you are analyzing the paper, take more time than this – it is fine, Take 3 or 4 hours instead of 2hrs to finish a paper – no problem, However, record the time you are spending on different types of questions. And if you are taking too much time to solve certain type of questions, note that. It is a problem, and the only way you can start handling these problems is by being aware of them.
Now you create three lists, Headings of the three lists will be: solved correctly and quickly (List 1), solved correctly but not quickly enough (List 2) and could not solve correctly (List3)
Identify each question type, and give it a name. For example, in a comprehension passage, it can be something like this:
Comprehension – factual question
Comprehension – what was the theme of the paragraph
Comprehension – analytical question
Comprehension – appropriate title
You can even write a question or two as an example of the question type. Make sure the name is descriptive enough so that you can easily understand what the name stands for later on.
After you have done this with lots of papers (at least 10), you will probably end up With a very long list of types of questions that you can solve quickly and correctly, question types taking too much time to solve, and questions that you are not solving correctly consistently. This is a very very useful list. Preserve this list.
What do these lists signify?
List 3 has the questions that you need to start working on immediately. Take one type at a time and improve your ability to solve. Go to teachers, or friends who are good at these subjects to learn how to solve these correctly and quickly, Clear up your basics by reading a textbook, Identify why you are making whatever mistakes you are making, Find out shortcuts and better techniques to solve these types of questions.
By the time you are going to write CLAT, if you are still not able to figure out how to solve these types quickly, you will still benefit from this exercise, as you leave those questions in the paper, and the time you therefore save will be used to solve other questions which would come under List 1 or List 2.
List 2 has questions that also need your attention. You can not afford to spend too much time on a question – as that takes away time from you and you could not attempt the questions that you probably find easier, thus reducing overall marks, If solving a 5 marks comprehension passage is taking 10 minutes, it is better to leave those 5 questions and use that time to solve 10 logical reasoning questions that you know you can salve at 1 minute each.
While preparing for these type of questions you need to find out how they can be solved faster, You can also increase your speed at solving just by trying to solve them faster, If you take 20 minutes to solve 10 questions, and you need to solve them in 10 minutes, consciously try to make yourself superfast and try to solve them in just 5 minutes, No problem if you get a few answers Wrong -keep the speed high and keep practicing, If you do this many times, your brain will learn to solve these types of questions at a high speed, You can solve the same question paper again and again, each time trying to be faster than the last time, but going through the entire mental process of solving the question, Ask you teachers how you can solve certain types of questions faster.
List 1 has the types of questions you can solve easily. This is important to know especially in an exam with negative marking. These are the questions you must attempt during the exam, More types of questions under this list (apart from what is already there – more will be added through practice over time – question types will move on to here from the other lists as you work more on your preparation), the higher are the chances that you will crack the exam and de very well.
Remember, this is an extremely smart way of preparing, and it works like magic.
Just a few days before CLAT, you should do this exercise again. 7 days before CLAT would be a good idea. Practice at least 10-15 past years papers (estimated time needed for 15 papers and analysis 50 hours) and create this list again. Give your exam according to these lists. List 1 questions are high priority, you must solve them. Avoid questions which still remain in list 3 altogether. If after solving list 1 questions you still have time, go on to solve list 2 questions. This also ensures that you would not lose marks on negative marks as well.
Introducing Speed Reading
Have you ever thought about this – why did you never improve your reading speed since you were probably 10th or 12th? You can learn to run faster, you have learnt complex activities like swimming, releasing clutch as you accelerate, even dance salsa if you are interested – but despite spending thousands of hours reading since you were a kid, your reading speed does not improve. Why?
Is it because you have reached the maximum potential of your reading speed? This is the time for some statistics.
The fastest readers can read 1000 words per minute (wpm) or more with a very high level of comprehension, but they represent only 1% of the readers of English language. The majority of readers, however, reach around 200 wpm with a typical comprehension of 60%. Surprisingly, the fastest readers in the world are those who are both deaf and dumb – as the way they read is a little different from how most of us read and they are able to read at least 5 times faster than the average reader without any special training. We shall come back to how this is possible at a later stage in this article.
The good news is, if you are reading at 200-300 wpm like most college students, you can improve it drastically with minimal effort. How would you like if you can read twice or thrice faster? Imagine saving time during the competitive exams by reading way much faster than everyone else. Imagine finishing the reading that takes you 6 hours now in just 2 hours. And multiply the time you save everyday with the number of days you shall live more, and that should give you some idea of what benefits can speed reading bring for you.
Speed reading can be achieved through various practice exercises along with a sound understanding of how we read. While I shall introduce you to the concept and tell you some ways in which you can develop your reading speed, it is upto you to learn it and practice it after that. Knowing the secret of speed reading is only as useful as knowing the gymming regime of Salman Khan – it is really useful knowledge and privileged information to which few have access, but if you do not put it into practice in your own life despite knowing, it is not going to make any difference to you. No working out, no muscles – no practice, no speed reading ability.
Reading involves two sorts of functions – seeing and processing the information inside your brain. It has been found that while our brain in incredibly fast in processing information, it is our seeing function in most cases that is slow and hinders reading really fast. In other words, the processing in the brain is fast, but the information input coming in is slow, so much so that our information processing capacity remains largely under-utilized. This also means the easiest way to improve your reading speed is to increase the speed at which you see.
Understand how we see when we read
Your eyes perform rapid movements from point to point as you read. Saccades are short rapid movements between each fixation point. Your eyes extract visual information only during a fixation. Each of the saccades ends with fixation, which is like a temporary snapshot of the text within your focus area. Each fixation will last 1/4 to 1/2 seconds if you are not trained in speed reading.
To demonstrate this, close one eye, place a fingertip on top of that eyelid, and then slowly scan a straight horizontal line with your other eye – you will be able to feel distinct and separate movements and periods of fixation.
When we ‘see’ a sentence, we are actually seeing many fixation points one after another – the number depends on how long the sentence is. There are three inefficiencies in the way an average reader sees a sentence:
- We do not see the fixation points along a straight line: What is the shortest distance between two points? A straight line between those points represent that distance. Naturally, we can read fastest when we see all the fixation points on a straight line. When our eyes move, however, in a zigzag movement instead of in a straight line from fixation point to fixation point, it takes a lot more time to read as our information input through seeing significantly slows down.
- We have low vision span with each fixation: The high speed readers can see more with one fixation point, thereby requiring fewer fixation points per line. This can be achieved through practices aimed at increasing your visual span.
- We keep regressing: Most readers trace back to see if they read something right, and whether they missed anything, even if they read everything perfectly OK. Most people identify this as a result of poor attention. The truth is that your brain registers what you are reading and things make sense soon enough if you keep reading instead of regressing. Regression is to be discarded and by doing this alone reading speed can increase upto 30%. Regression is just a bad habit – there are easy ways to overcome it, and we shall discuss those.
Finally – there is something also wrong with how most people process the visual information they receive in their brain. This is why the deaf and dumb can read way much faster. Our cognition of words happen like this: we first see the letters, then We form a sound inside our head. As We pronounce it, our brain recognizes the sound and associates the same with the concept the Word represents (meaning of the word). This is known as subvocalization. You can not read any text without pronouncing it – therefore your maximum speed of reading can be the fastest speed at which you can hear – the fastest speed at which the auditory part of the brain can distinctly recognize words.
Therefore you see a Word, then your brain pronounces it, and then your brain understands the meaning. Compare this to seeing the picture of an apple – in that case your brain immediately recognizes the apple. It does not subvocalize to understand the word. Therefore, you can see pictures and understand them faster than you can read – think of watching movies. When you watch a movie, especially the scenes with exceptionally high number of visual stimuli like fight sequences, you get a lot of visual stimuli that you process very quickly.
Therefore, the ultimate goal of learning speed reading is breaking the subvocalization paradigm. this is why deaf and dumb students read way much faster than the average students, they never learn to pronounce Words, and therefore they learn to read visually. The auditory part of the brain does not come to interfere in their cognition of the words they see. On the other hand, as kids we learn to read aloud first, and then we follow the same procedure to read as we grow up – faster, silently in our head but still pronouncing every word we read.
It is possible to get rid of subvocalization by exercising, but it is a tough art to master and can take at least a month’s regular practice. The best and the fastest readers in the world are all visual readers, and do not subvocalize – they can read way higher than 1000 words per minute. If you have read about how Swami Vivekananda used to read an entire page with a glance, perhaps now you’d understand how that is possible.
While you can set a goal of overcoming subvocalization over time, the easiest thing to do immediately is to improve how you see words, which can increase your reading speed upto 3 times of the current reading speed with an hours practice.
So do you have an hour of uninterrupted time to spare? then sit down with the following things to do an exercise that can increase your reading speed immediately:
- A book of enough number of pages to last for a while (at least 200) that can lay flat when open, and which has only one column of text in every page. It will be best if the page size is A4/fullscape or something bigger.
- You need a pen.
- And a timer (stopwatch with alarm or kitchen timer is ideal).
You can start by determining your current reading speed though that is not really the most important thing. If you want to track your progress, you’d know by the end of this exercise that you are reading faster anyway.
If you are interested in measuring it, then first calculate your current reading speed now. You’d then also measure the speed again after the exercise is over. You can find the procedure to easily measure reading speed in the box. Otherwise, if you are like me and have interest only in the progress and not in exact calculation of how much you progressed, save time and effort and just proceed to the reading exercise straight away.
Regression, alignment of fixation points, and the duration of fixations can be minimized by using a tracker and pacer. Have you ever used a pen or a finger while reading, moving it under the lines as you read – to help yourself concentrate better? That is exactly what a tracker and pacer is! It is used for the purpose of tracking – using a visual aid to guide fixation efficiency and accuracy and you already know this from experience! While trying to improve reading speed, a tracker and pacer is extremely important.
You can improve reading speed at least by 30-50% just by using a tracker and pacer. For all purposes of various reading speed practices, using a tracker is always a must. It helps you keep up a uniform speed as whenever you see your hand slacking, you know that you are slowing down.
You can not also intuitively go back and regress as your eyes always must follow the tracker and the tracker and pacer must not trace back. For the purposes of this article, we will use a pen. Holding the pen in your dominant hand, you will underline each line (with the cap on, or even with the cap off – just don’t make marks on the page as you move the tip of the pen under the sentence), keeping your eye fixation above the tip of the pen. This will not only serve as a tracker, but it will also serve as a pacer for maintaining consistent speed and decreasing fixation duration.
You may hold it as you would when you write, but it is recommended by some speed reading masters that you hold it under your hand, flat against the page.
1) Learn the technique
Practice reading for the next 10 minutes using the pen as a tracker and pacer. Underline each line, focusing above the tip of the pen. We are not trying to improve your brain’s processing speed, so comprehension is irrelevant right now. The purpose of the exercise is to increase your ‘seeing speed’. We want to train your eye to see faster and more efficiently so that you can increase the amount of visual input to your brain. Comprehension will come at a later stage.
At this point of time, DO NOT CONCERN YOURSELF WITH COMPREHENSION. Right now, you just want to see the words faster and faster without understanding what you are seeing. As you read, look at each line to a maximum of 1 second, and increase the speed with each subsequent page. You can tell the speed by noticing how fast your hand along with the tracker is moving. Read, but under no circumstances should you take longer than 1 second per line, otherwise the purpose of the exercise is lost.
You have to understand this exercise first and be conversant with the process before you start doing the exercise really effectively, just like doing a physical activity well, like swimming, or a particular gymming exercise.
How do you know what is a second? Say in your mind: Bhagalpur – that takes exactly one second.
2) Practice for maximum speed
Repeat the technique, keeping each line to no more than 1/2 second (2 lines for a single Bha-gal-pur”). Some will comprehend nothing, which is to be expected. Maintain speed and technique-you are conditioning your perceptual reflexes, and this is a speed exercise designed to facilitate adaptations in your system.
Do not decrease speed. V2 second per line for 3 minutes; focus above the pen and concentrate on seeing everything within the limited time. You may fail to do so initially. Still, keep trying. Move your tracker fast enough – and then try to follow up with your eye. As you keep trying, you shall eventually be able to do it. In most of the workshops I take, 70% of the students can start doing this exercise properly only after 10 minutes of trying.
The most common mistake while doing this exercise is to slow down the speed of your tracker. Please do not do that, move it very fast, at the speed required, otherwise there is no hope of learning speed reading. In a class, I can see students are doing this and alert them. For your practice, you can ask someone to keep a check to see whether you are slowing down while practicing. It is possible to be vigilant yourself as you practice, which is how I learnt this exercise myself.
After practicing this 2nd step at least for 20 minutes, you can try reading for comprehension. You shall read significantly faster than your original speed with full comprehension. Do not get satisfied here and stop, otherwise you shall lose this improvement very soon. please practice the same for the rest of the hour at least. This will train you eyes to see faster than ever.
Also, keep practicing for 15 minutes everyday for the next one week, so that the habit of speed reading becomes second nature to you. This effort will be hugely rewarded all through your life as you save thousand of hours in reading time – which you can spend elsewhere doing other things you enjoy!
A few other techniques worth trying in order to reduce subvocalization:
While the above technique may help you to see faster, it does not deal with subvocalization. By adding some other tricks to the basic exercise above, one can start overcoming subvocalization.
As you do the above exercise, keep humming a tune or a song you like inside your head, all the time as you read. Next, you can count 1 to hundred and backwards as you read. The purpose of these exercises is to keep the auditory part of your brain busy as you read, so that it is forced to read using your visual part.
As usual, it takes a while of trying before you can do this exercise effectively. Keep trying to read and sing/speak simultaneously. Initially you shall fail and will be sometimes reading and sometimes singing/speaking – but after concentrating for 10 minutes you should start to get it right – you shall notice the difference when that happens.
There are various other exercises that can make a difference to your reading speed, but the ones described above are the easiest ones that give maximum benefit with the least effort. Almost everyone I taught could read at double their usual speed after two hours of practice – but it is important to get the exercise right. You would need some willpower to do it – as this is a lot about unlearning how you have been reading for years now apart from reading faster.
Ramanuj Mukherjee is a lawyer by profession, and naturally he has to read a lot everyday. To save time and do more, he mastered speed reading. Since then, he has taught speed reading to hundreds of students in various workshops and classes. You can refer to spritzinc.com for more practices and speed reading lessons.
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Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skill.