How to Prepare for Competitive Exams?

12 minute read
How to Prepare for Competitive Exams

When it comes to gearing up for a competitive exam, it is a common possibility that sometimes your preparation might not match the level of performance. But you should not let this demean your efforts. If we stay aligned with our quest for the desired result, we will never be deprived of success. When you are planning to appear for a competitive exam, half-hearted efforts and mere speculations will not take you through. You can only clear an entrance exam with tireless endeavour and rigorous hard work. To help you on your quest to nail any competitive exam, here is an ultimate guide elaborating the key tips and tricks on how to prepare for competitive exams.

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101 Guide on How to Prepare for Competitive Exams

Preparing for a competitive exam, we are generally aware of what to study and when to study. The only thing that we are not sure about is how to study. It is quite a surprising fact that we actually do not know how to ‘learn’ effectively. So, we have formulated a list of scientific study techniques on how to prepare for competitive exams that you must incorporate to ace any test with flying scores.

How to Prepare for Competitive Exams

Also Read: Success Mantra for Competitive Exams

Ivan Pavlov’s Theory of Conditioned Learning

In a psychological experiment, the renowned Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov made dogs salivate for food by making them wait for the bell to ring and studying their anticipation. A similar technique can be used while preparing for competitive exams. If you study the same subject at the same time and at the same place, your brain picks up the habit of grasping concepts and learning effectively. Over a period of time, all you need is to follow the clock and your body will automatically get in the mood to study within a couple of minutes.

Sync your Coaching Timetable and Self Study Schedule

Gearing up for a competitive exam is not always about taking coaching or tuitions. In a rush to compete with other students in your coaching or match the pace of the tutor, you often forget to master your basics and ignore the habit of self-study. This can highly impact your chances of clearing a competitive exam. Therefore, you need to ensure that whatever you’ve studied in your coaching is being revised back home with an attentive mind.

Also Read: GRE Coaching

Shorter Study Sessions are More Useful

Empirical studies have shown that an average concentration time span of a healthy human is 10-20 minutes. Thus, expecting productivity out of long strenuous sessions can be exhausting. Plan shorter study sessions of 45 minutes to 1 hour and in between each session take a tiny break to let your mind absorb all the information. However, the time span is not restricted and may vary as per your concentration power and ability to focus. When going about how to prepare for competitive exams, the technique of formulating shorter study sessions can do wonders to your preparation.

Recommended Read: How to Study for Long Hours

Avoid Slouchy Study

Sitting with books when you are feeling sleepy is a total waste of time. It exhausts your precious time and hampers your mental ability with undue fatigue. Preparation for competitive exams can be properly done when you are physically and mentally active. For many students, the hours after lunch can be quite slothful while others might feel drowsy late in the night and there are many who can’t wake up early in the morning to read anything coherently. What’s the best way to fight your laziness in these phases? Get up, do a little exercise or freshen up or have some water. You may always take a quick 15 minutes nap to recharge your mind for your study time.

Smart Work vs Hard Work

It is not about the number of hours you are spending in front of your books but instead, you need to measure the amount of focused preparation you’re doing. Avoid wasting your time on unnecessary topics and try to cover the maximum in the least amount of time. Also, it is advised that you start with the most difficult or boring subject when you are fully active while keeping the easier ones for the times when you feel lazy. In order to find the answers to how to prepare for competitive exams, it is important to understand that your approach to studying a subject matters more than the amount of time you are giving it.

Must Explore: Hard Work is the Key to Success or Is it?

Do Not Schedule Similar Subjects Together

Clubbing similar subjects together like Mathematics and Physics might not be a good idea because you might get stressed studying too many intertwined topics which can also lead you to mess up both the subjects. Therefore, the best strategy is to sandwich a lighter subject like History or English Literature in between heavy subjects and your brain will be able to absorb all the three much better.

Know All About Subject Combination!

The Mantra of OK4R

The OK4R method has been devised by Dr. Walter Pauk and helps you to pack more information and knowledge through power reading strategy. Here’s an illustration to help you understand the process of how to prepare for competitive exams with Pauk’s Power Reading Technique.

Plan Your Study Time

Planning plays a crucial role in determining your success in a competitive exam. It is important to plan your time and study pattern beforehand. You can either plan as you prepare every subject or you can create a complete timetable listing the topics and concepts you need to cover. This way you will able to sort out the concepts you need to learn and those that only need revision.

Related Read: How to Concentrate on Studies

Rejuvenation Time is the Prime Time

Rejuvenation is a key element of exploring the best ways on how to prepare for competitive exams. Take crisp breaks during your hectic study sessions to allow your body and mind to relax. This can be done by watching your favourite movie, listening to some songs, play a sport, sit with the family, enjoy your time with your pets etc. Other than these, you may always do some exercise or yoga and meditation.

Keep Yourself Hydrated

It is important to keep yourself hydrated because continuous studying can be tiring and exhausting. You can have a cup of coffee, tea, lime water or juice to pamper your body and allow regular supply of energy to your mind. Do not engage in unhealthy drinking or overuse of coffee and instead go for alternatives like herbal and green tea.

Eating Healthy

Many students ignore the fact that having a proper and healthy diet during competitive exams can help them learn better and remain focused during exams. Incorporate enough proteins, fats and a little bit of carbohydrates in your diet. Eat healthy vegetables and fruits and minimise the consumption of fried food.

Distance the Distractions

When going about how to prepare for competitive exams, distractions of any form are one of the most common and biggest impediments that students struggle with. Remember to distance yourself from potential distractions (even the pettiest things) because you may end up wasting a lot of resourceful time.

Choose the Correct Time

You can study better when you are fresh and energised. Studying early in the morning is one of the oldest principles followed by many. Also, to get up early you are expected to sleep on time and get enough of it. This will help your body in staying active and healthy.

Add Some Color to Your Books

Contrary to the popular notion, keeping your books neat doesn’t always mean that you are an excellent student. You can always use coloured pens, highlighters or adhesive sticky notes to mark important topics or concepts. This aids you in revising concepts and remembering them much better in the long run.

The Reward of Revision

In our ultimate guide on how to prepare for competitive exams, revision is the utmost mantra you should always remember. Cover all the relevant topics at least 2-3 times and revise them thoroughly once before the exam. The rewarding quality of revision is that it strengthens your long-term memory and helps you master the core concepts.

Do-not-Disturb Mode

Another important thing you must do is to keep yourself away from social media and random notifications when preparing for competitive exams. You can only crack your exams and score well when you are consistently focused and have this desire to achieve your maximum potential.

Stress is Negative

Finally, we would suggest you to not to take unnecessary stress during your preparation for exams. We completely understand how crucial it is to ace a competitive exam, but stop worrying too much about it. Prepare well, study hard and do your best and we promise good results will happen.

Also Read: Productivity Improvement Techniques

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How to Prepare for Government Exams?

For government exams, there are some crucial tips and tricks that can prove useful during your preparations. While the essential techniques for readying yourself for any exam remains the same, government exams can demand extensive preparation because of their vast and all-encompassing syllabus. Take a look at the key tips to understand how to prepare for competitive exams especially for the government recruitment tests:

Prepare with Previous Year Question Papers

There is a consistent pattern noticed in government exams that they often repeat or resemble the types of questions that were included in the question papers of the previous years. You can find these previous year question papers online and go through the pattern and question types as it certainly assist you in designing the right strategy on how to prepare for competitive exams for government recruitments.

Stay Updated About Current Affairs

Often the government exams have a crucial section on general awareness which assesses the candidate’s knowledge of world affairs. To stay updated with the current affairs is quite a tricky task but there are helpful ways to ensure that you know what prominent news and happenings to keep a tab on. Read a newspaper daily or get a news application in your smartphone which can send you updates throughout the day.

Take Wisdom from Toppers

You can always learn from those who have been successful in acing these exams as they will give you the right advice to stay ahead in your preparation schedule. These tips will eventually help you in combating your anxieties and worries about the exam as they will come from those who have gone through the same phase.

Focus More on Your Weaker Points

While making a study plan, make sure to analyse which topics and concepts you need to strengthen as well as those sections that you must devote more time to. While exploring the techniques on how to prepare for competitive exams, it is essential to know where you need to emphasise more focus and time and the topics you just need to go through.

Don’t Mug Up But Use Fun Ways to Understand Concepts

While studying for government exams, there can be many lengthy topics under the syllabus which you might not be able to comprehend. But, mugging up is never the right strategies for how to prepare for competitive exams, thus it is imperative that you curate your own fun ways to learn those concepts, be it through visualization, watching youtube tutorials or by writing them down and revising them from time to time.

Highlight the Important Topics

Rather than covering an extensive syllabus, go through previous year question papers and highlight those topics that have been consistently asked in the exam. This will help you save your valuable time on those concepts or sections which might not appear in the exam.

Must Read: How to Prepare for Bank Exams

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Bonus: 10 Ultimate Tips to Ace Competitive Exams

Thousands of students join the bandwagon aspiring to join top universities and colleges in the world every year. Well, the road is not that cosy. The candidates have to funnel through competitive exams, group discussions and interviews to get selected to pursue their dream course. Here is a list of much-needed tips for students who are keen to know as how to prepare for competitive exams like GMAT, GRE, SAT, IELTS or TOEFL and want to conquer a seat in their desired university or college.

Know Everything about the Exam

Before you step into the process of how to prepare for competitive exams, the first and foremost thing to do is to know your exam. Identify the details about the exam, the selection process, eligibility requirements, etc. because you can only shape your path once you know the prerequisites of your goals.

What is Your Preparation Strategy?

After you’ve grabbed all the information about the exam, it’s time to formulate a preparation strategy which you will follow in order to achieve your goals. Usually, competitive exams have a set format of written tests, MCQs, group discussion and interview, which will help you create an effective plan for your exam preparation.

Arrange Study Material

Once you’re aware of the requirements and pattern of your competitive exam, you need to collect the support study material that you’ll use to master the concepts and sections of an exam. Study Materials can include coaching notes, competitive guides and books, online tutorials or previous year question papers.

Also Read: Competitive Exam Books

Find Smart Ways to Use Your Mobile

Technology can have a lot of positive impact on students preparing for competitive exams. Electronic gadgets like mobile phones, tablets have become an integral part of our lives. These friendly devices can actually assist you in effortlessly preparing for all kinds of subjects/topics which are necessary for your competitive exams. Do you want to know how to prepare for competitive exams with the help of technology? Use informative videos, audio playbacks, interactive mobile applications, eBooks, mobile presentations and seminars.

The Habit of Writing

Even though writing is a time-consuming activity, it is a useful and most productive technique for learning. Most of the students agree on this fact, that writing what you’re studying helps you to strengthen your learning process. Moreover, preparing your handwritten notes dramatically also improve your command on the subject. So, while learning the process of how to prepare for competitive exams, always keep in mind that once written is never forgotten.

Know All About English for Competitive Exams

Solving Previous Years’ Question Paper

This is one of the most common suggestions you will get while preparing for competitive exams. But why do you need to solve previous years’ question papers? Applying your study into application can help you understand the problem better and find the relevant solution. Similar is the case when you’re solving previous years’ question paper because it makes you familiar with the exam format and how well do you know your subject. Other than this, you also become aware of the potential questions and how to go about them. Always try to attempt these papers with utmost seriousness as the idea is to create the real examination hall environment as far as possible.

Test Your Vocabulary

Whether you’re going for the GMAT, GRE, SAT, IELTS or TOEFL, you must be aware that Verbal Reasoning and Writing are important sections that test your English-language proficiency. You should work towards increasing your vocabulary and improving your English not just to ace the competitive exam but also to acquire a command over the language.

Also Read: 50 Difficult Words with Meanings for GMAT and GRE Preparation

Brush Up Your Aptitude Skills

Aptitude section is a key component of any kind of a competitive exam which tests your ability to perform a specific task under a given set of situation. GMAT, GRE, CAT or SAT are some of the major competitive exams which test your aptitude skills, logical reasoning and thinking performance. Aptitude questions are generally MCQs and will have to be answered within 30 seconds or less.

Update Yourself on General Knowledge and Current Affair

Current Affairs and General Knowledge play a vital role when you’re going for Civil Service or Defence examinations. However, when you’re preparing for a professional degree and to enter in the world of current development, it becomes very important to have an idea about the environment and the progress happening around you. The section of General Awareness is created to examine a candidate’s knowledge about world affairs and latest happenings.

Motivation is the Key

Now that you certainly know the key elements of how to prepare for competitive exams, keep yourself motivated. Last but definitely not the least, motivation is the key-driving force behind the success of a student. Well, it’s not possible for every individual to crack a competitive exam at the first instance. You ought to have the patience and courage to get through the exam you are vying for until you have achieved the desired outcome. 

Also Read: How to Score Good Marks in Exam


How many hours should one study for competitive exams?

It is advisable to study for 6-7 hours.

Which is the hardest exam in the world?

Government exams in India such as UPSC is one of the hardest exams to crack.

We hope you’ll follow the above hacks on how to prepare for competitive exams to tap into your potential and emerge victorious. You can also reach out to our experts at Leverage Edu who can help you prepare for varied exams such as GMAT, GRE, TOEFL or IELTS to ensure that your goal to study abroad stands out amongst the hordes of applications.

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  1. Brilliant Article about Prepare for Competitive Exams. Your tips and ideas are simple but very helpful and useful. THANKS for helping us.

  1. Brilliant Article about Prepare for Competitive Exams. Your tips and ideas are simple but very helpful and useful. THANKS for helping us.