My classmates teasing me that I am in love with a boy. What should I do?

Just forget the incident for the time being and don’t give too much importance to your friends. The more you react and show how annoyed you are, the more your classmates will trouble you. So ignore them and behave as if their teasing does not affect you at all. There is no need for you to feel guilty. Interact with your friends with your head held high. Your confidence will silence the gossip mongers.


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Ten down

I wish to take sciences but I have got less marks. What to do now?

I do not think that you should be so worried. Other than those 10 marks, you seem to have done as well as you regularly do through out the year. Keep calm and wait for the results to be announced. Until the marks are announced, stay calm. Just in case you aren’t allotted the science stream, speak to your principal and class teacher to let them know of your keen interest in science and lack of inclination for the other streams. I am sure things will work out for you. Positive thinking is most important for you.


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Make no bones

How do we tackle the mess at home?


It would please your grandmother if you her as much affection and support as you can. She shouldn’t be left to feel neglected or even rejected. Try and help your mother too. This should not be a problem, as one does not study every minute of the day. So use your break time to help your mother with the household chores. Spend time with your grandmother and make her comfortable during her confinement. This will make you and your brother feel good and bring about an atmosphere of peace at home.


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Do you think I can trust a boy again?

I can understand your concern. At the present moment, I would suggest that you go slow as you have not met this person but only talked to him over the phone. You are still young and studying; involvement in such relationships may lead once again to another negative experience, which may affect your studies adversely. There is no harm in continuing correspondence with this person without committing yourself to anything until you meet him and also make your parents meet him. The question is not whether you can trust, but whether you can make a proper judgment about his personality and him as a person, because (1) you have not met him and (2) you are still not ready enough to make such judgments.


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Against the tide

How can a student risk being a non-conformist in school and still retain high levels of confidence to do well in life?

Non-conformist does not mean non-performer. A student can be a non-conformist but be a very good student, scoring excellent marks or even average to above average marks. A non-conformist is one who does not agree or conform to all the rules and regulations of the school and when questioned is able to convincingly explain his stand. This is possible only for a person who has the self-confidence to put across his points of view very clearly even though they may not conform to the views of the school. I hope you now understand what was written in that report.


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How do I win friends?

 Yes, you do need friends with whom you could share your joys and excitement. For someone as talented and intelligent as you, making friends will not be a difficult task. Jealousy could be one of the reasons why your friends do not share information and books with you. You may have to do some introspection. Ask yourself whether there is something about you that puts them off. Do you have a haughty posture? Do you keep to yourself? Do you help others In studies when they ask you a clarification? Do you give the impression that scoring marks is all that matters to you?  Try and find the answers to these questions. Expect nothing from friends and be willing to give them everything. You will soon discover true friendship.


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Remaining focused

I am a student of class XII and my problem is that I have a low concentration level. No matter what I do, the study-hard phase doesn’t last more than a few days. Then I can’t put my mind to studies. Please give me some tips to improve my memory as well.


If you can concentrate for a few days very well, you can do so for many more days. The ‘study-hard’ phase that you talk about is indeed strenuous and hence, continues only for a few days, after which exhaustion sets in. The best way to handle this is study hard consistently, with adequate rest in between. Normally, a person can work with full concentration for about one to two hours, after which he needs a break. After studying with full concentration for a certain period of time, you find that your grasp of the subject is not as good as it was, or some external environment etc distracts you. At this point, stop studying and take a break of five to seven minutes. This way you will feel fresh and study with concentration. As for improving memory you can do the following:

  • Read a lesson once fully and understand the underlying theme clearly.

  • Then divide the lesson into six or seven units, which are complete in themselves.

  • Now start reading these smaller units with comprehension and extract the main theme out.

  • Make a few questions on the passage that you have studied and try answering them.

  • Write out what you have learnt and see if you have covered all the points.

  • Go over the written material with the book material and fill in the gaps.

If you go through all the above seven steps, you will see tremendous improvement in your memory power.


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Beating anger

My problem is that I lose my temper very easily. I am also rude to people at home and at school. Needles to say, no one likes that kind of behavior and my mother stops talking to me altogether for several days on end. I want to improve. How do I do that? Are my parents responsible for my behavior?


Remember that your mind is yours and you alone can have control over it. If you really do not want to be rude or lose your temper, it is in your hands to do so. However, I have a few tips to offer which, if you practice seriously and with commitment, can help you get a grip over your temper. Normally, one gets angry in response to some development. When  something happens that normally makes you lose your temper, don’t react immediately, but count backwards from five to zero, then close your eyes and take a deep breath five times. Then open your eyes and you will find that the immediate urge to respond with anger would have disappeared and you too will feel  somewhat calmer within. Practice these few steps by imagining a frustrating or anger-inducing situation. After a few weeks you will find that you are able to control your temper considerably.


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Life of an Indian student in a foreign land

Student do feel intimidated by the thought of landing in an alien land. Most institutes have an airport welcome arrangement. A representative of the institutes receives the student from the airport and then takes him to the university and the temporary accommodation, ensuring that students feels at home. Then there is the international office that assists students in finding appropriate accommodation, providing details on relative costs. The international office helps the foreign student get in touch with fellow students keen to share accommodation. The change in study patterns would need some preparation. Foreign universities expect students to be analytical in their approach.

Instead of just applying formulae and information, you will be expected to reason out and come up with a theory of your own. Critical thinking and questioning is appreciated, unlike in India where reproduction of classroom lectures could also fetch your marks.

Zero in on an institute with tremendous caution. Select an accredited institute. Check its credentials and performance in the subject of your choice. See if you can afford the costs involved.


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Knotty Problem

How can I choose other subjects along with biotechnology?

On the face of it, yes, your interests are varied. Therefore, it is natural for you to be confused. But one can already see a synergy-all your pet subjects except for photography revolve around the living world, flora and fauna. If you retain all these interests along with the one subject area that you choose, it might actually turn to your advantage. Even photography might prove to be a big help in your research work. If you are very keen to take up biotechnology, and are weak in mathematics, you can take up life sciences at graduation level in college, say botany or zoology. That way mathematics will not be hindrance. After three years of graduation, you can sit for the All-India entrance exam conducted by JNU, New Delhi, for participating universities all over the country. While your subject area will be biotechnology, you will still be able to contribute to veterinary science or forestry or maybe even herpetology through your research in biotechnology.


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Headed for the Woods

I want to join the Indian Forest Service. Is a course in forest management essential for that? Please give details.

Qualification in forest management is not essential for entry to Indian Forest Service (IFS). The Union Public Service Commission, that recruits candidates to the service, considers graduation in botany, zoology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and veterinary science. The exam notification comes in February and the examination is held in August, every year.

You will have to appear for two compulsory subjects i.e., English and general knowledge, two optional subjects. Certain combinations are not allowed in the exam, like agricultural and animal husbandry.

Besides the written exam and interview, one has to appear for a physical fitness test. Make candidates have to walk a distance of 25 kilometers in four hours, and female candidates have to cover 14 kilometers in the same time.

After a training schedule in Indian Forest College, Dehra Dun, and at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy, Mussourie, one is appointed as assistant conservator of forests.


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Top Cop

I am in my second year. If I want to join the police services, what subjects should I take up, and how should I prepare for the entrance exam?

Recruitment to the Indian Police Services is done by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), over two stages: preliminary, or qualifying stage; and the main stage. This entrance test is common for IAS, IPS and IFS, P&T, and a host of other central government services.

The choice of subject at graduation level or the choice of the optional subject for the examination doesn’t make a difference for selection to the IPS. Many students choose new subjects thinking that certain subjects are more scoring. But it’s usually better to opt for a subject you have been studying all along.

Since you won’t have much time after the results of the preliminary exams are announced, it would be better if you start preparation for prelims and the main examination simultaneously.

 The preliminary exam is objective type, and has two sections: General studies of 150 marks and one optional subject of 450 marks. For general studies, you should read thoroughly NCERT books of history, economics, political science and geography for classes XI and XII. You should read, at least, one newspaper everyday, maintain a diary and make entries in different sections like sports, state, politics, economy and so on. Go through the dairy regularly. In fact, you should begin this exercise from this year itself.

For the optional, select the subject that you would be taking for the main exam. In each topic of that subject, get to the basics, so that you can answer the objective-type questions of the prelims, as well as the subjective queries in the main exam. For the mains, you should develop the habit of writing long answers and improve your written expressions. This is important for the two optional subjects that you will have to take up, as well as English, regional language, as well as the essay that you will have to attempt. Show your answers to a lecturer and get feedback. At the interview stage, your power of judgement and your understanding of the world around you will be assessed

There are chances though, that in the next few years there will be radical changes in the entrance method, following the recommendations of the Alagh Committee to UPSC. It’s possible tat by the time you do apply, the subject-specific tests may have been replaced by psychometric tests.


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Alien Tongue

I am a student of class XII and I am keen to learn a foreign language. What is the appropriate stage to learn a foreign language? Can one get a job on the basis of a foreign language?


From the perspective of knowing a different country or culture, you can start learning a foreign language as early as class V. your age will not prevent you from grasping the basics of a foreign language. Early learning encourages one to move beyond mere literacy and read the original works of literature. In fact, institutes like Max Mueller Bhawan (for German) and Alliance Francaise (for French) rather than follow a translation approach, encourage you to communicate in the new language from day one.

However, from the job perspective, it is better to study a language once you are clear about your career objectives. Direct job opportunities in foreign languages are limited to teaching at school and college-level or at foreign language institutes. You can also take up translation. But as a translator, the chances are that you will come across more work for translating personal documents or instruction material for some machine. The more challenging task of translating literary works will be available only if you are exceedingly good at the language.

Then there is the job of interpretation. The new age economy is opening up avenues for interpreters, who have good spoken language and communication skills, in travel and tourism, hospitality, public relations, event management, and so on. However, in most jobs, foreign language is a time-consuming and costly affair. You will tend to forget it if you do not constantly practice that language or use its vocabulary regularly.


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I have appeared for the standard X Board exams and hope to study science and clear the MBBS entrance exam. Please tell me how to prepare for the various prestigious medical entrance exams. Should I join a NEET preparatory coaching class?


Start preparing for the medical entrance examination right after standard X. you need to equip yourself with the textbooks of classes XI and XII, a few extra theory books (for that extra edge)and MCQ (multiple choice questions) books. Students worry about studying simultaneously for medicine and the Board exams will harm their Board results. These fears are unfounded. After all, mastering the CBSE course means that you have cracked 70 to 80 per cent of the NEET. It is only the remaining 20 to 30 per cent that requires extra work through the help of additional books. So how do you go about preparing for a medical entrance exam? Well, choose a topic. Read about it in the CBSE textbook. Then study the topic with the help of additional theory books to enlarge your knowledge base.

At the end of the exercise, solve the multiple choice questions. Even if you have perfected the standard XI fundamentals, revise them during the summer holidays preceding class XII and during all holidays. This will reduce the pressure in the crucial last one month between the class XII exams and the NEET. Don’t start off with the additional theory books. Self-study is advocated to avoid wastage of time and energy. In case you feel the need for extra coaching either through regular class or correspondence, choose the institute with care and caution. Enquire about the institute’s faculty and performance and speak to former and current students of that institute.

Adopt a systematic and rigorous study regime. What is needed is a virtual combing operation. Leave nothing to doubt or luck. Leave no topic untouched and no MCQ unsolved.


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Matters of Maths

I am a second-year arts student. For quite some time I have been confused about what career to take up but am now gradually coming round to the idea that management would be quite an exciting proposition. My problem is that I am pretty bad at mathematics. What should I do? I have scored average grades in mathematics at the standard IX and X levels. Do you think I can improve my mathematics within a year?

You have enough time to practice and improve your mathematics. Proficiency in mathematics is definitely required for the Quantitative Aptitude (QA) section of the Common Admission Test (CAT) of the IIMs and for the entrance tests of other B-schools. QA covers high school mathematics. QA tests check for threshold quantitative skills that are needed to be an effective manager.

You need to be clear about number theory, percentages, ratio and proportion, profit and loss, geometry, mensuration, basic algebra, quadratic equations, and permutation and combinations. Start off by learning the basics such as tables up to 30, squares, cubes, square roots and reciprocals. Practice the art of mental calculations. Go through your high school books, and try solving all the exercises.

Consult a friend who has been good at mathematics and ask him for more practice books. You could also make that friend your mentor. If you have the time, you could join a reputed coaching institute for that organized effort and consistent practice.


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