By Rajan Narayan

SUCCESS in life increasingly depends on success in exams. You not only have to pass the school leaving certificate exam but have to get very high marks, if you want to get admission to HSSC. Even students of Don Bosco who failed to get 50% of the marks were asked to leave and join St Michael School started by Babush Monserrate.
Students have to get very high marks in the HSSC to get admission to even science art and commerce courses. The cut-off percentage for commerce is as high as 80% in a reputed college and of course the passport to medicine and engineering colleges is the NET and the IITG. Even for courses like the BBA or post-graduate courses in management, you need to appear for competitive exam.
Exams are primarily a test of knowledge and memory. When it comes to absorbing knowledge you have to use all sources of knowledge. Do not limit yourself to your textbooks. The worst option is to rely on guides and coaching classes. The coaching classes limit your knowledge to the limited goal of passing the competitive exam. They function on previous years’ question papers. They rely on the law of probability. This is because the same questions are repeated year after year.

APPARENTLY, the famous scientist Albert Einstein was asked why he set the same question paper year after year. The scientist replied that the question may be the same but the answer could change. This is because in a dynamic world of new inventions and developments, the same question would have different answers.
You have to be able to train your mind and your memory. To train your mind you need to be open to knowledge from all sources. My generation had limited access to knowledge. We were confined to textbooks prescribed. And the interpretation of the text books by our teachers.
Now students can log in to Google. They also have access to the educational websites of the top institutions in the world in their subjects. During Covid-19 the smartphone became the main source of teaching and learning. Whatever the source of information and knowledge you have to have total focus. Do not try to get things by heart. Your mind is not money bank for whom you can train. Don’t read or absorb knowledge only with your eyes and ears. All your sensory organs should be involved in the learning experience. It has not only the bookworms and the toppers who make it big.
Those who get 100 out of 100 in the IIGT exams are not parrots. They are young men who have been able to train their minds to focus on acquiring knowledge. The requirements of the workplace are changing. Even IT companies are now looking for soft skills. This includes your confidence in yourself. Your ability to lead a team. Your ability to think and come out with out-of-the-box solution is the most rewarded talent.
To be able to focus completely you have to devote time and energy and the fullest attention to whatever you are studying. You must shut out all other background noises. It does not matter whether you have a very good study room or have to study in a street lab. The ability to focus completely is what distinguishes the toppers from the failures.
You also have to train your memory. This does come from reciting the lesson loudly. You will not necessarily excel in arithmetic if you recite the tables. You have to understand what you are reading. You have to understand what is being taught to you in the classroom. You have to have the courage to ask questions to your teachers. You need to see clarification in what you learn in your books. Your objective should be real knowledge and not just book knowledge.

IF you concentrate you will be able to not only remember the words but the thoughts and the ideas. The most important part of learning is to understand the idea behind a particular concern. For instance, GST has replaced excise and sales tax. You have to understand the principle of GST to be a successful businessman.
Sundar Pichai of Google recalled at a recent interaction with IIT students that he was focused on technology. Sundar started his career with the first commercial version of Email. Converting knowledge into inner vision is the secret to the success of all big companies. It’s not only the technical know-how but the to-how that is important. He may be brilliant at developing software. How good are you at fixing problems with software? You can develop a new generation of air conditioners. But you must know how to maintain and repair them. Particularly in the Indian context where nothing is thrown away. We are not yet a use-and-throw society. Who can afford to buy a new model of mobile or car every year.
When it comes to training memory I would suggest that you try to absorb the facts in your mind. Learn to train in your mind to store the knowledge you acquire over the years. Just as you can retrieve information from the cloud you should be able to download information from your mind. By the time I was 30 I could efficiently store information in my mind. I could download specific information on various subject from my mind. For over 40 years I have been dictating all my articles and editorials to my secretary. I have done so without any notes. I have dictated this article based entirely on my personal experience stored in my memory. When people see me dictating without referring to any notes they think it is magic, that I am a genius.

ANYBODY can do it. It is just a question of training. There was a time when I used to make elaborate notes. When I started making the notes in my mind. Just as though a small laptop can hold a world of information and knowledge so also the mind is an unlimited memory bank. The keywords should be able to trigger the flood of information from the mind and the memory. To be able to build up a good and strong memory you have to constantly refresh you mind. You have to constantly stimulate the mind. You can do so by challenging your mind. Never say you can’t do something. Learn to cope with challenges.
My entire life has been a saga of challenging myself. The biggest complement made to me is I am a compulsive over-achiever.

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