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HSC exams: Tips to master language subjects
Shilpa Shet
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February 08, 2007

There are some subjects you are uncomfortable with, and other that subjects you find tough. But check any student Web site or online group and you will probably find that one of the most loathed subjects is -- surprise -- English!

Yes, the compulsory language subjects needed in the Higher Secondary Certificate examinations are hated by many students.

"Apart from those who want to make a career in languages, there are very few who study enthusiastically for these subjects," says Kaveri Shah, a 12th standard science student of Wadia College, Pune. "Over the past year I went through my English lessons may be once or twice."

Hence, any help that students can get on the language subjects is generally welcome.

Says Mary Sequeira, an English teacher with St Joseph's High School, Mumbai, "All the students have to do is go through their language chapters regularly throughout the year. They won't need much revision before the exams. Most students make the mistake of looking at it as something that is not important in their career. They are wrong. English is very relevant to our profession these days."

She suggests the following tips:

~ Increase your writing speed

Languages involve a lot of writing. It is important to enhance your writing speed. You can do this by going through a chapter and then writing down excerpts or a summary of the chapter. That will also help you memorise critical elements.

~Theory is important

One major mistake most students make is to think the just content of the chapters is critical, says Sequeira. "It's not the content but the principal or the theory behind the chapters that is critical," she explains. Hence, don't just memorise the poems -- you also need to memorise the style, the poet's specialty, the key essence and the contribution to language.

~Brush up on your grammar

There are two broad aspects in most language papers -- prose and poetry. In each of these, your grammar will be put to the test. Each language has multiple choice questions or descriptive parts that focus only on grammar. The best way is to practise from as many past question papers as you can.

~Improve your vocabulary

The lexical aspects dealing with the vocabulary, largely related to prose, have the highest weightage. To enhance your vocabulary fast, you can create a book club with three or four of your classmates. Each one of you need to divide the text book equally amongst yourselves. Scour the book for all difficult and important words and keep a target for the number of words per day. Spend at least two hours doing this to cover each section. That way you can cover the entire syllabus in a short time. The critical aspect here is to identify someone whom you trust sufficiently and value as a peer.

~Keep it relevant

Some students end up writing just to fill up the pages. Experts say this may irritate some paper checkers. "If you remember four out of five points in a particular answer, write just that," says Sequeira. "Do not try to increase the answer by writing something completely irrelevant."

~Stop gap

Some students use language subjects as 'fillers' in their study routine. A 'filler' subject is a subject that you study between your other critical subjects. For example, if you are scheduled to complete three chemistry chapters today, you can take a break after two chapters for an hour and study an English poem. There are some students, though, who feel that this might break the tempo of the original subject. Try it once and see if it works out for you.

~Question and answer sessions

Many students struggle in language subjects because there is very little in terms of expert guidance available once lectures stop. If you have not attended language lectures regularly and are struggling with understanding key concepts, gather about 15-20 like minded students, and request your language teacher to conduct a brief session where he or she can answer all your queries. Remember to go prepared with questions.

~Consult past papers

The pattern for language papers does not change very often. Remember to go through as many past questions papers as you can. Try this Sample Paper for model questions.

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