NTSE (National Talent Search Exam) is one of the most prestigious national level exams in the country. It aims to honour and help students with academic talent and high intellect by providing them scholarships for the duration of their academic career.
Students studying in Class X in any recognised Private or Government school, as well as NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) and State Open Boards, are eligible to appear for this examination. It is conducted in two phases:
- Stage 1 – State level, conducted by respective States and Union Territories. The syllabus is based on the prescribed State Board textbooks for Class X (as well as Class IX for certain states)
- Stage 2 – National level, conducted by NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) for students who have qualified Stage 1. The syllabus is based on the prescribed CBSE Board textbooks (that is the NCERT textbooks) for Class IX and X
Both the state and national level examinations consist of two papers – the MAT (Mental Ability Test- comprising fundamentals of verbal and non-verbal reasoning.) and the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test – contains questions on History, Civics, Geography, Economics, Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology).
There is no negative marking in Stage 1, but there is one-third negative marking in Stage 2 (one mark for a correct answer, zero for unattempted, and negative ⅓ for a wrong answer).
NTSE tests your conceptual knowledge, applications of what you have learnt and your analytical skills – the knowledge you acquire, concepts you learn, misconceptions that you clear and the fundamentals that will be essential for your higher studies – need to be woven together by these analytical skills and your intellect to arrive at the solution to a given problem. Note that knowledge of concepts beyond grade 10 is not required – to solve advanced problems, all you need to do is practice exhaustively and think logically.
Here are some tips for preparation and acing the exam:
- Understand the exam syllabus – It is extremely important that you know the syllabus and read through it at least once to know exactly what to study so that you don’t get blindsided during the paper. This is especially true for the social sciences section of the SAT – questions are often picked from obscure facts in textbooks that seem unimportant, so it is imperative to read everything in the prescribed syllabus. Refer to the State Board textbooks for Stage 1 and NCERT textbooks for Stage 2.
- Practice using Reference Books and Past Papers – Find good books that have ready reckoners for concepts, a question bank with different types of questions seen in past papers, as well as past papers and mock tests. Solve topic wise questions first and then get around to past year papers – more the number of questions you solve, the better your preparation will be.
- Analyze your performance –
- Analyze your strengths and weaknesses after every question bank and test you solve – this will help you determine areas and topics where you need improvement.
- Focus on both the MAT and SAT sections independently, do not let your performance in one lag behind the other.
- Check answers and clarify doubts immediately after you solve mock tests and past papers (so that you don’t repeat your mistakes). Build accuracy while answering questions, especially when preparing for Stage 2 (due to the danger of negative marking).
- Additionally, pay attention to reading the question and its options properly, answering with accuracy and time management while solving papers. Try to improve your solving speed while practising to ensure you finish the paper in time.
- Exam tips –
- A common technique to manage your time during the paper is to go through all the questions in the paper before solving any – divide them into easy, moderate and difficult categories – and solve the easy (also quick) one first, then the moderate, then the hard ones. This ensures that you do not lose out on easy marks because you didn’t see the question at all or couldn’t solve it despite knowing how to.
- Do not spend too much time on any one question in the paper – go ahead and solve other questions, then come back for another try at the question you were stuck on.
- For Stage 1 papers, try to attempt all questions – there is no negative marking, so sometimes guesses (calculated or otherwise) may work in your favour. If there is a question that you don’t know at all, eliminating options may work. However, try not to leave questions for guesswork by ensuring you prepare well.
- For Stage 2, focus on accuracy because negative marking can significantly lower your score. Guesswork is avoidable, and calculated guesses/ guesstimates are risky at best.
- Sleep well before the exam to ensure that you can focus completely on giving your best in the paper.
- Do not stress too much about the exam – a little nervousness is alright, good even, to keep you alert and focused, but stressing and overthinking before the paper can be counterproductive and can hamper your performance. Stay motivated and believe in yourself.