Study Strategies and choosing Careers
Study strategies by Banjara Academy is derived with three decades or more of experience. An array of skills dealing with the steps of organizing, taking in new information, retaining information and recalling information when applied to learning, results in success of meaningful learning and acquiring good grades make up Study strategies. Effective reading, writing, time management, motivational and concentration techniques play a vital role in learning. General study skills are techniques which can be learned in a short span of time, can be applied to most fields of study.
Make a list of the ways in which any particular subject will be useful to you in life (regardless of the career you take up). Check with experts if you are not able to do it by yourself. Understand that even the most boring subject has relevance to your real life, and you are studying not just for marks but to enhance your knowledge and capabilities.
Visual, sound (auditory) and smell (olfactory) distractions can bring down your concentration and concentration. Ensure that the TV, roadside traffic, people walking around are not visible to you, that sounds of the TV or people talking don’t filter in your room, and that the smell of tasty dinner cooking is not floating into your nose.
Avoid caffeine i.e. tea, coffee, colas, particularly when you are nearing your bedtime. Trying to keep awake by drinking these beverages may give you momentary boost but they can be habit forming, and not very beneficial in the long run. When exams are nearing, it is better to reduce your intake of these drinks.
Airy room for study table
Air, available free of cost 24/7 can be a boost to your concentration, focus and attention span. Sit in a place which is airy, with fresh air coming in from the window, or a fan running at a slow speed. When taking a break also spend time at a place which is open, airy and fresh. On the other hand be aware that polluted air, smoke or dust can be harmful to your learning process.
Seen how cats and dogs stretch all their limbs leisurely, particularly when they get up from sleep or after sitting in one place for a long time? The same can be very useful to you too. The body gets numb when you sit in one place and study for a long time. Get up, stretch your hands and legs, twist and fold your fingers, even exercise your face muscles, and….. learn to smile more!
The place where you sit to study should preferably be exclusively for study purpose only. If that is not possible, e.g. if you study on the dining table, put a separate colored table cloth only when you are studying. DO NOT have your mobile phone with you. Avoid other gadgets or items cluttering up the table. Have drinking water with you.
Distractions written down
When you sit down to study, you will inevitably get some distracting thoughts. You may have some unfinished tasks, you will feel like talking to a friend etc. Keep a paper and pen handy, and jot down what are the things you need to do or follow up. Then relax knowing that once you finish your studies, you will not forget to catch up with those activities.
Hydration during Study Time
Keep a bottle of water and a glass in front of you. Keep sipping (not gulping) water every few minutes. It takes care of dehydration, improves attention span and reduces sleepiness. Supplement it with some healthy juices now and then.
Stretches during Study Time
Set an alarm for every fifteen minutes. Stop reading when the alarm rings, close the book and your eyes, sit in a comfortable position with hands and legs free, and do slow deep breathing for at least two minutes. Open your eyes slowly, wipe your face and get back to reading.
We all have different attention spans, and it varies depending on how tired you are, which subject you are studying, and what time of the day it is. Check out your attention span, and do not force yourself to continue studying beyond that time duration. Get a quick break, refresh yourself and continue your studies.
How comfortable is the chair where you sit and study? Your feet should be firmly touching the ground, the upper part of your legs should rest completely on the chair, and the back should be vertical. You can have a cushion, but not one which is too soft or deep. Check if you need support for your elbows, or if you need to put your hands firmly on the table.
Check the place where you are sitting to study. There should be bright light, but the light should not be directly on your face as it causes eye strain. See that bright light is falling on the book, without your shadow on it. You will be able to read comfortably and for long periods of time.
Try reading a lesson aloud to yourself. Compare whether your intake and retention was better than the lesson that you read softly. If yes, it shows that you are an auditory person and will be able to study and remember better by reading aloud Group study Study with a friend (if you can ensure that you will do ONLY studies). Read together and describe what you have read and understood to each other. Ask questions from your friend and ask him/her to ask you questions about the topic. Review what you had studied together the previous time.
Chill-ax: The more under tension you are, the less will be your intake when you try to learn. Sometimes we are aware of our stresses, sometimes we are not. There are no clear symptoms to measure how much tension we have acquired. Some of us are very cheerful externally, but inside we may be very tense and on edge. Factors other than exams may be adding on to our tension. At times it could also be our deep involvement with other activities – like an upcoming sports match, for example. Relaxing the eyes: ‘Tratak’ for relaxing the eyes has already been mentioned (Google it for different ways of practicing it). Dipping your face into a bowl of water and allowing the water to splash over your eyes also helps. Periodically close your eyes and very softly and gently rub your fingers over your eyelids. Even a simple act of closing your eyes for a minute and sitting calm before you resume reading, can be quite relaxing.
Career Counselling & Guidance
Engineering Yes, but Which Branch?
In India engineering is a uniform four year course called B.E. or B.Tech. There is not much difference between the two, and B.Tech acquired an air of superiority because it was exclusively offered earlier by reputed institutions like IITs, NITs etc. So there is no need to worry which one to choose. But those who qualify for JEE, CET or COMED and are looking forward to a career in technology have to take the next decision–how to select the right branch of engineering . Many go blindly into Computer Science or Electronics, without even exploring other alternatives. Some students are particular to choose a college which has good “campus recruitment.” But neither of these are correct reasons for selection of branch, because: There is no “ideal” branch and there is no “best”college.
While it is true that computer science graduates are still the first to get (fairly well paid) jobs, you will notice that may IT companies recruit engineers from other branches too, as long as they have good grades and are passing out from a reputed institution. Also, no one can predict how the IT industry will be doing in the next 40-50 years which is the minimum working life of a fresh graduate. Already one can see the writing on the wall, with IT companies no longer being the most lucrative or offering many jobs.
Similarly, colleges advertising that the most reputed companies come to them for campus recruitment are not necessarily the best, and the job s offered by the ‘reputed’ companies may be in their call-centres or other very mediocre jobs that are hardly of the level of the extensive training the candidate has received.
Similarly there are other confusing situations, like Rohith whose confusion was doubled when his uncle dropped in to wish him best of luck and asked “which stream of engineering would you like to take up?” Rohith, who was good at playing games on the computer and surfing the net, replied without batting an eyelid, “Computer Engineering.” His uncle then asked, “would you prefer Information Technology, Information Science, or Computer Science branch of Engineering?” Now Rohith was stumped. He didn’t know the difference between the three.
His uncle then asked, “Are you not interested in instrumentation or medical electronics?” Rohith was totally speechless. He was hearing about these fields for the first time. The final confusion hit him when his uncle informed him that there are more than thirty branches of engineering offered in Karnataka through CET. He started wondering whether he will be able to make a wise choice at all.
Kishore was even more confused because he had a dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer, and was now thinking he will move into that field, only to find that Aeronautical Engineering is offered by very few engineering colleges in the state at the undergraduate level, and he was not sure of their credibility. At the same time he saw advertisements announcing aeronautical courses through Aeronautical Society of India, and he was not sure whether they are recognized or not.
The time is coming when most students, and their parents, wake up to the dilemma of taking these important decisions. They are not sure what to choose and why. Seeing the list below one may not be able to understand what to select.
Engineering branches offered in Karnataka.
Architecture, automobiles, biomedical, biotechnology, ceramics, chemical, civil, computer science, electrical & electronics, electronics & communications, environmental, industrial engineering & management, industrial production, information science, instrumentation technology, manufacturing science, mechanical, medical electronics, metallurgy, mining, polymer technology, printing technology, silk technology, telecommunication, textiles,transportation.
If none of these apply to you, then ask yourself whether you are the “pure technology” type, or the “management” type. If you would like to study further into technology, then you should be careful in choosing the subject of your choice, so that you will enjoy going deeper into the subject. Specialized fields like automobiles, telecommunication, biotechnology, metallurgy offer opportunities for deeper studies.
On the other hand, if you are likely to move into management, it may be advisable to get into any of the basic streams of engineering such as mechanical, electrical, electronics, industrial engineering management, or manufacturing sciences. These branches will give you the proper foundation and the flexibility to take up the management of a wide variety of industries.
Those interested in the IT sector should keep in mind that Computer Science Engineering or IT engineering are not the only avenues to get in. The sector employs many mechanical, electronics, instrumentation engineers too.
If you are aiming for going abroad for management studies, cracking the CAT for MBA in India, appearing for Civil Services Exams like IAS, or joining the engineering branch of the military, the type of college you join, the extra-curricular activities, the exposure to the outside world, are as important as the branch of study you select – and if you have been in a good academic environment your chances of cracking some of the highly competitive entrance exams after your engineering degree will be much higher.
Keep in mind that many engineers branch out into totally unconnected fields. There are engineers today who are top-notch bankers, police commissioners, stock market experts, behavioral scientists, ministers, and of course – the President of India. Regardless of the type of work they are doing today, none regrets having studied engineering. That is one of the greatest advantages of engineering education in India. It prepares you for taking up challenges, sharpens your analytical skills, induces team spirit, builds up your confidence levels, and generally lays the foundations to excel in whatever you choose to do.
Keeping this in mind, make sure you select a good college, not just based on the number of “campus recruitments” they have, but on the basis of infrastructure and quality of faculty. Do not restrict your choice to colleges in large cities like Bangalore – there are some excellent colleges located in far flung places too.
- Do not get taken in by peer pressure, or people talking highly about a particular field having great “scope.” You will be working a minimum of forty years in your chosen career, and the scope may go up and down many times during that period. Firstly check out whether you have a specific interest in a specialised field
- You may love working in a hospital environment and seeing patients being healed, then medical electronics or biomedical engineering is for you.
- Your family has affiliations to a particular trade e.g. clothing, or transport. If so you can opt for silk technology, textiles, or transportation engineering, since you will get openings through your personal contacts.
- If you have a love for a particular subject, say chemistry, then you may opt for Chemical Engineering, ceramics, polymer technology.
By Ali Khwaja
Overcoming Unexpected Setbacks
Recognition of institutions is a very strict process in our country, and it ensures that quality of education is maintained. But at times students are left high and dry when it turns out that the place where they have studied is not recognized by the authorities. If the de-recognition comes in after going through the course they obviously have no choice, but often students are misled by colleges or institutions who claim to have recognition, but actually they do not. It is worth the while for students to check from the authorities themselves (AICTE, UGC and most other licensing bodies have websites giving this information).
Those who are caught in the web of being trapped in a course that is not recognized, may take the following steps:
- Analyze whether they are actually learning something useful from the course that will open doors for private industry jobs. Depending on whether they have already covered a major portion of the course or are just at the beginning, they may drop out and look for alternatives. They may ensure that they get back at least a substantial amount of the fees they have paid (and seek the help of Consumer Court if necessary)
- Explore alternatives, which may include: losing a year and joining a recognized institution, or appearing for 12th standard through NIOS (website www.nios.ac.in) thus saving a year, and then moving on to any degree course
- Enrolling under the Open University system for a degree course (no minimum qualification required, except an entrance test which is not very tough). Bangalore University and a few others give the same degree certificate to students who pass through distance learning, as they give to regular college-goers, and these degrees are recognized for post-graduation as well as all government employment including Civil Services.
- If one is not particular about higher education or government service, one can take up a vocational course in fields ranging from IT to hospitality, travel, technical writing, software testing, mass communication, marketing, special education, counselling, etc.
- If the candidate has completed 10+2 with 60% marks, he can attempt to be selected as an Airman in the Indian Air Force, wherein he can earn and learn. The defence services give ample opportunities for higher studies, and many airmen have completed up to post graduation while in service for 20 years, opted for early retirement, and are making excellent careers in the private sector.
Some students get very distressed when they have to suffer for no fault of theirs, due to de-recognition of their course or institution. If they have the resilience to understand that whatever they have studied will not go waste and will be useful in some form or the other, they can make a fresh beginning (even if they have lost a year or two). Having had the setback they are likely to be more focused and knowledgeable about which career would suit them better, and hence become more successful in the long run.
One can also explore a courageous alternative to stop full time academics and join a job to gain experience and get first-handle knowledge of the field the person may be working in for the next 40-50 years. Such a student may take two precautions: (1) do not go away from academics completely. Take up a distance learning or part-time program, even if it is a short-term certificate course, and (2) ensure that the job is giving practical learning and is not just a routine monotonous and repetitive one. Even if the job pays very little, as long as there is something to learn, the time spent is worth it. In this case smaller unknown or start-up organizations are preferable to long-established strong brands.
In the future it is not just the paper qualifications and the degrees that will determine the progress and career of a student, either in India or abroad. If students take proper steps to overcome their trauma and find the right direction, and systematically upgrade themselves in a field where they have aptitude and ability, they will find that a very bright future awaits them.
By Ali Khwaja
Improving Memory and Concentration
No one has a good or bad memory. It depends entirely on how interested we are and how much effort we are willing to put in. Remember how you remember very old incidents that are very dear to you?
Some tips for developing better memory:
- Bring down stress levels in general
- Relax, particularly on occasions when you need to remember important things
- Survey the topic, familiarize yourself
- Use the method called SQ3RT i.e. Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review and Test
- Remove obstructions and barriers to clear reception
- Check how good is your auditory, visual and sensory intake
- Do not hesitate to ask, clarify, then roll it in your mind
- Rationalize the facts and figures
- Check out how the information can be useful to you in future
- Make very brief notes of essential points
- Recall periodically, talk about it to others
Concentration is the ability to train the mind to focus all its attention exclusively on one point. It comes naturally to some people, while others have to work to build them up. Concentration ability can be acquired by any of us.
Simple tips for improving concentration when you study:
- Try to focus on underlying meaning of what you are about to study – how is it going to help me?
- The better your listening, the better is your concentration
- Develop the power of good observation, make mental notes
- Creative and critical thinking helps – compare, contrast each topic and point
- Have a good systematic and steady reading habit
- Start with warming up: browse, jot down points, discuss
- Thought stopping of something bugging you – psyche yourself to get back
- List out and allocate timing for other things you have to do so that those thoughts don’t keep bugging you.
- Meditate, or close your eyes, listen attentively to all sounds exclusively
- Look at objects in room, close eyes, visualize each of them, and then bring your mind to your book, let all other objects disappear from your view, and let your eyes focus only on the book.
- When your concentration is slipping, close the book, look at the farthest point visible to you, and start staring at one point far away. Focus till everything disappears from view. Then slowly bring your eyes back to focus on your surroundings. This is an ancient technique called Tratak.
- Divide the portion into smaller manageable bits – take breaks
- Give yourself incentives and rewards when you concentrate for reasonable time
Getting The Best Out Of Lectures
- Listen carefully to lectures, and try to get the gist of the topic
- Bring your mind to subject, refer to the book earlier so that it is not new and unfamiliar when being taught
- Note only points, make abbreviations of words. Don’t get bogged down by writing long notes and losing track of the lecture
- Put question marks against doubts, leave space for writing your comments or clarifications later when you do your revision
- Read the notes and fine tune them immediately after lecture, and before you forget what was taught.
- Use methods of highlighting, underlining and colouring to make visibility easier and to make your notes more readable.
- Associate the topic to real life situation and to its benefits to you in life later.
- Read your notes after one day, one week, one month
- Test yourself by closing the notes & answering random questions.
By Ali Khwaja