Over the last 50 years, Vidyalankar has coached literally thousands of toppers across scores of exams. While star students come from various backgrounds and have different studying techniques, we have come to realise that these students share some common habits. But before we reveal what these students do, it is critical to note that students who perform really well at exams are not necessarily the most intelligent; more often than not they just work harder than others and work in the right direction. Read on to find out what separates the best from the rest!

Toppers plan before they execute
Most students make the mistake of jumping right into the course material without having a structured plan of how to go through the material and prepare for the exam. The longer the preparation period, the more susceptible students are to begin without a plan. Students avoid making a plan since it requires time and a significant amount of mental energy. However the best students will tell you that they painstaking plan their preparation for the entire duration up to the final exam. This provides two advantages: (1) Drafting a plan gives structure to your preparation. This allows you to focus on the actual material rather than worrying about if you will actually be able to give enough time to each section and (2) It forces you to think about what’s really important from the perspective of the final exam. Thus it ensures that you focus only on what’s important rather than getting caught up in the details of parts of the curriculum that may not actually be important.
They have great discipline (and patience!)
Making a great plan is only half the battle. The other half is actually executing it. The best students are smart about how they inculcate discipline. They minimize distractions (yes – this means that you shouldn’t learn with music on) and learn to say “no” to distractions when they need to study. They also reward themselves from time to time if they have been able to follow their plan or on reaching milestones. Other tactics that help bringing in discipline are creating a daily time table and making your study plan public – so that others can hold you accountable if you don’t follow it! Of course, you don’t have to follow your study plan to the tee. In fact, in most cases you will need to make modifications to it depending on how well you are grasping the concepts, family commitments and external factors. But the goal should always be to follow the plan as far as possible. One more thing – during the course of your preparation, you may feel frustrated about the slow pace of progress. But remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Great students understand that impressive results are not possible in a short span of time. They have the patience to see their plan through and they have the wisdom to start early. Of course, if you believe that you aren’t making any progress at all, you should probably get your plan vetted from your course instructor.

They practice obsessively
On the surface, it may seem that the ones who perform the best are geniuses. Now while this may be true in a few cases, doing well is 99% perspiration and only 1% genius. Toppers try to solve all questions that they can lay their hands on. They practice as if they are possessed. The more you practice, the more experience you get in applying the concepts learnt. However, toppers don’t just practice hard – they practice smart. For instance, they take as many simulated practice exams as possible – sometimes even up to 30 simulated tests. Some even go to the extent of solving the simulated practice paper at the same time as the final exam so as to ensure that their brain gets habituated to performing at peak levels during the time of the exam. Also, one needs to realize that the results don’t show proportionately to the practice done. Often, students face a learning curve. What this means is that in most cases, you may see little improvement after say, solving the first 100 problems for a topic. But then a stage comes when all the experience collected suddenly begins to yield results. So be patient and don’t give up!
They seek out advice from other toppers
There are two kinds of people – those who learn from their own experience and those who learn from the experience of others. Toppers are mostly the second kind of people. They understand that by leveraging the experience of past students who were successful, they can avoid making the mistakes they made and perform even better. Further, they know that they are only as good as the company that they keep. They make it a point to surround themselves with other students who are at least as good as them if not better. This forces them to push themselves harder. Another tactic that great students employ is that they actively seek criticism with regards to their preparation strategy. This allows them to avoid potential blind spots and sets them on the path of continuous improvement.

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