Managing Boards and CLAT / AILET – by a CLAT Topper and a Well-Wisher
Winter is coming (pardon the GoT reference) and so are your pre – board and board exams. The studying/testing phase that you will enter in late November will last all the way up to May, 2020. So, with that being said, the million dollar question a lot of you must be agonising over pops up – how do I, as a student, juggle my boards and CLAT prep so as to not bomb either of them? Read on to find out how.
First things first, we need to come to terms with a few basic fundamental truths about all of this. Let’s deal with them in a point – by – point format.
1. Contrary to popular perception, it is not tough to balance your boards and your entrance exams. Yep, you read that right. Realise this – the apparent difficulty of managing boards and entrance exams is more hype than reality. This country’s education system is plagued by a hype mentality. Schools, teachers, parents and our very own peers unknowingly feed the narrative about board exams being a do – or – die situation and demanding far more of your time, effort and energy than what is absolutely necessary. That is simply not the case. Now, please don’t take this as me arguing for a lax and casual approach towards your board exams. That is not the point I am trying to put across here. All I am trying to stipulate is that boards aren’t as tough or demanding as you might currently perceive them to be and it’s very much possible to handle both ISC/CBSE exams and your CLAT/AILET prep.
2. Pre – board exams DO NOT matter. I know this statement of mine will drive school administrations up the wall, hounding for my blood, but it’s the truth. Your selection/rehearsal/pre-board marks will have no value when it comes to your higher education prospects. For college admissions in India, it’s your board marks or entrance test marks or a combination of the two that matter, not your school exam scores. For college admissions abroad (particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States), it’s your predicted board marks and aptitude test scores (along with personal statements, references, etc.) that matter. So, please, take a chill pill. DO NOT let your school feed your anxiety. Scoring a crappy 60% in your pre – board exams is the same as scoring a whopping 95%. Both are meaningless percentages on a sheet of paper, with no value whatsoever. A decent score in your pre – board exams is all that is required. Don’t stress it.
3. The key to managing both board and entrance exams is time management. Your success in the crucial months to come will depend largely on how efficient you are with your time. We all get the same 24 hours every day. It is up to us to decide how to best utilise them. Look up any ISC/CBSE or CLAT/AILET topper’s interview online and you’ll find them emphasising the importance of managing one’s time throughout the interview. Mediocre students merely spend time, the great ones use it. I will deal with time management in detail as this post progresses.
4. Procrastination is your number one enemy. I know that as young, restless individuals you will experience a natural revulsion towards the boring and mundane activities of studying and testing. Add to that fact the 1-2 month(s) break you will be given by your schools for your board prep. What do you get when you cross a teenage kid with a sudden surplus of time? Answer – Procrastination. You must not give in to the vicious cycle of instant gratification you will find yourselves tempted by during the coming months (especially during January and February). Procrastination is dangerous and will mess up your board and entrance exam preparations royally. Don’t put off till later what you can accomplish now. Binge watching Black Mirror on Netflix is indeed enticing but that’s not what you are supposed to be doing right now. Take care of the work first, you can always relax once you’re done for the day.
So, with those four fundamental truths out of the way, we can move on to the more detailed portions of this post where I will elucidate just how you can juggle two very important, yet diametrically opposite, examinations of your life and end up rocking both.
Now, before proceeding further with this post, I will make a few assumptions related to your current levels of preparations and aptitude.
1. I am going to assume that by now (November, 2019), you have mastered your basic, fundamental concepts across all five sections of the CLAT paper and that you do not require theory – based classes anymore. This assumption is necessary as your ability to balance boards and law entrance prep is directly dependant on how strong your fundamental concepts are. If you still struggle with your basics, then please reach out to OPUS counsellors or faculty immediately.
2. For my second assumption, I am going to assume that you have completed most, if not all, of your physical prep material (e.g., OPUS books, test booklets, etc.). CLAT and AILET are two tests which epitomise the proverb ‘practice makes perfect’. The more problems you solve, the better. If you have not worked through your books and test booklets, then please do so as soon as humanly possible. Leaving unsolved material for later will not fulfil any productive purpose and, in fact, will only be a source of panic and worry as entrance exam season rolls around.
3. Thirdly, I am going to assume that by now you have taken a few mocks and sectional tests on the online portal and have a somewhat fair idea of where you stand vis – a – vis other students, your strengths & weaknesses, your time management, etc. Mock tests are of supreme importance when it comes to preparing for any entrance examination. Not only do mocks familiarise you with the actual test itself, they also help you come up with your own strategies regarding time management, attempting the paper itself, etc. Mocks help you assess your aptitude and help you identify your knowledge gaps. Sectional tests, though slightly less important than full – length mock tests, are also essential to your entrance exam prep as they help solidify your concepts and build up your problem solving speed. I highly recommend that you take 5-6 mock tests and solve through a majority of the sectional tests before January, 2020.
WITH THE ASSUMPTIONS OUT OF THE WAY, LET’S MOVE ON TO THE MAIN BODY OF THIS POST.
First things first, you are going to need a routine which clearly outlines how you plan on dividing your precious and scarce time between boards and entrance test prep. There is no standard template for this type of a routine as every student is unique and different in his/her level of aptitude. For example, if you are confident with your board exam subjects, then you may be able to devote a bit of extra time to your CLAT/AILET preparation without compromising on your board marks. However, if you feel that whilst your CLAT/AILET prep is strong but your board prep isn’t (science stream students might encounter this issue), it might be advisable to spend a bit more time on your board prep instead of your entrance test prep. Please note that you must devote SOME time to both boards and entrance exams on a regular basis and not focus on any one exclusively.
SO, HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH A WORKABLE, REALISTIC ROUTINE?
Answer – You introspect. Spend some time with your CLAT/AILET material and figure out which sections you are strong in and which ones need more effort. You need to have a very clear idea about your strengths and weaknesses. Take a mock test if you are unable to properly identify your strong and weak areas. Once you have identified the sections which need and don’t need more effort, you should plan out how you are going to be studying.
Whilst making your routine, you ought to follow the 70-30 rule. The rule says that a smart aspirant should devote 70% of his study time to his weak areas and 30% to his strong ones. There is no point in spending unnecessary time on your strong sections as it will yield no benefit whatsoever. For example, if you are proficient in the legal section, then please don’t practice hundreds of legal reasoning problems every week. It won’t help you in any way. Instead, use the time you are saving by cutting down on legal aptitude prep on your weak areas (maybe mathematics or logical reasoning). By building up your aptitude in your weak sections, you will be able to secure those oh – so – precious marks in the actual paper. Even a boost of 5-6 marks can mean the difference between securing WBNUJS, Kolkata and NLUO, Cuttack.
AT THIS POINT, LET ME ILLUSTRATE HOW A SAMPLE STUDY ROUTINE LOOKS.
Example – Student X is a student of OPUS who shall be appearing for the CLAT and AILET in 2020. She is a top ranker in her school but struggles slightly with CLAT/AILET prep. After some careful thinking and introspection, she comes to the conclusion that she is weak in logic (analytical aptitude specifically) and mathematics but incredibly proficient in English and legal aptitude. Her general knowledge is good enough. She decides that during her boards study break (January and February) she can devote 2 hours to entrance exam prep on a daily basis without compromising on her ISC studies. She comes up with the following routine:
ISC + Logical Reasoning
100 questions drawn from analytical aptitude topics (e.g., puzzles, series, etc.)
ISC + Logical Reasoning
100 questions drawn from verbal reasoning topics (critical reasoning, logical connectives, assumptions, etc.)
ISC + Mathematics + Current Affairs
50 questions drawn from a mix of math topics.
1 month CA supplement along with CA MCQs.
ISC + Mathematics + Static GK
40 questions drawn from a mix of math topics.
10 pages of the Static GK book thoroughly.
ISC + Legal Aptitude + Current Affairs
50 legal reasoning questions.
10 pages of legal GK.
1 month CA supplement along with CA MCQs.
ISC + English + sectional tests
80 questions from topics such as RC, vocabulary, sentence correction, grammar, etc.
Sectional tests on topics covered during the week.
ISC + relax
Watch something on Netflix, go out with friends or family, and relax.
In addition to this routine, X resolves to take a mock test every two weeks to track her overall progress. She has created a workable routine and set realistic goals for herself. This routine should ensure that her ISC syllabus is covered (along with multiple revisions) and that the quality of her CLAT/AILET prep is not compromised.
Once her board exams start (March, 2020), she can easily tweak her routine to make more time for her ISC subjects by simply reducing the number of questions she’s set for herself by 50% and by taking full – length mock tests only when time permits.
Obviously, this was just an illustration. You will have to come up with your own, personalised study schedule. A good study schedule should have the following characteristics –
1. It should be realistic. Please do not set unrealistic goals for yourself. You won’t be able to achieve them and will end up feeling demotivated. You know yourself and your abilities best. Create a study schedule accordingly.
2. It should cover all of your board exams subjects and all five sections of your law entrance paper. Try to distribute your time proportionately and wisely.
3. It should give you some time to relax and clear your head. Studying for long stretches without a break will seriously mess up your memory retention and inevitably mess up your prep. Please allow yourself an appreciable amount of free time.
4. It should ensure that at the end of your study phase, when CLAT and AILET roll around, you are fully prepared and ready to tackle them.
Now that I have demonstrated how to create a daily study routine for yourself, I will delve into each of the five CLAT/AILET sections and offer you some general tips on how you can study for them effectively.
- ENGLISH –
The English section of law entrance papers (CLAT and AILET specifically) generally consists of questions drawn from topics such as reading comprehension, vocabulary, sentence – correction, grammar, foreign phrases, etc. The English section in AILET includes questions based on cloze test, figures of speech, analogies, etc. as well. Questions based on jumbled paragraphs may appear sometimes as well, although they are a bit rare.
Preparing effectively for English requires that you have a good reading speed, a well – developed vocabulary and a good grasp of school – level grammar. There is no one set way with regards to preparing for the English section. It is a bit of an open ended section. You can build up your English aptitude by reading voraciously and by practicing as many problems as you can manage to get your hands on. I recommend that you read the editorial section of a good national newspaper (preferably The Hindu) on a daily basis. The more you read, the faster you will be able to comprehend what a RC passage is trying to put across. Reading will also help develop your vocabulary. Speaking of vocabulary, I highly recommend that you complete Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis. The book is rightly considered the bible of vocabulary building and will go a long way in helping you out. Do all the tests in the book carefully. In fact, AILET 2019 had vocab questions lifted directly from Word Power Made Easy.
You should also go through the word and foreign phrases lists given in your books. I am not asking you to try and memorise each and every item on that list (you won’t be able to), but going through them from time to time will definitely help.
For questions based on grammar, cloze test, etc., you should work through all your physical material (books and test booklets) and take all the sectional tests available online. Solving past years’ papers will also help a great deal. That ought to be more than enough for you to be able to secure high marks in the English section. English is not inherently difficult and a bit of focussed effort is all it takes to score 37+/40 (or, 28+/35).
- MATHEMATICS –
The quantitative aptitude section of law entrance exams is, contrary to popular belief, NOT tough or undoable. First step towards cracking this section is getting rid of your phobia of maths. If you don’t conquer your irrational fear of mathematics, you will not be able to score high marks and might end up losing out on a top NLU. You can easily score 17+/20 (or, 7+/10) in the mathematics section even if you do not have mathematics as one of your board subjects.
The topic in your OPUS mathematics book are the ones CLAT and AILET will test you on. Questions based on topics outside of the ones given in the book are very, very rare. Mastering mathematics is all about having crystal clear concepts and practicing as many sums as possible. Once again, your books, test booklets, online tests and mock tests will be your best friends. You can also practice sums from the Subject Tracker book. If you still desire a greater number of sums to practice, then you can purchase Dr. R.S. Agarwal’s Quantitative Aptitude book. But only do so once you are through with your pre-existing material.
Scoring high in the mathematics section can be the differentiator in the actual CLAT/AILET and help you grab that seat at a coveted national law university. Follow the ‘practice, practice, practice’ mantra and you should be fine.
- LOGICAL REASONING –
The logical reasoning section of law entrance tests is divided into two parts – analytical aptitude and verbal reasoning. Lately, it has been observed that analytical aptitude questions constitute the majority of the 40 (or, 35) questions in the logical reasoning section (AILET 2019 was an exception to this as it had almost all of its logical reasoning questions falling under the verbal reasoning category).
Analytical aptitude generally consists of questions based on puzzles (logic games), alphabet series, number series, coding – decoding, relations, etc. Once again, all of these topics are covered in your books, test booklets and online tests. Practicing as many problems as possible will yield high marks. Mastering logic games especially will allow you to score really high marks in the logical reasoning section as a whole as solving a single puzzle correctly can fetch you 5-6 marks. Sometimes, two puzzles have popped up in this section. That’s 12 easy marks right there for you to score. To get some extra, high quality practice, you can try out LSAT (U.S.) logic games. LSAT (U.S.) papers are available with OPUS on demand. But, you should complete your standard OPUS material material first, you won’t need anything beyond this to Ace your Law entrance exam. You can also purchase Dr. R.S. Agarwal’s ‘Modern Approach to Verbal and Non – Verbal Reasoning’. It is a decent book and should ensure that you don’t run out of logical reasoning questions for practice. I must also state that being proficient in mathematics can help you out in this section with regards to questions based on sequence and series, coding – decoding and alphanumeric series. Other topics such as blood relations, directions, etc. aren’t especially tough and should not trouble you.
Verbal reasoning is the second constituent part of the logical reasoning question. It consists of topics such as critical reasoning, syllogisms, statement – conclusions, assumptions, course of action, etc. The key to mastering verbal reasoning is mastering the topics’ underlying concepts. Verbal reasoning is something which I don’t believe can be ‘taught’ to you in the traditional sense of the word. You can sharpen your critical reasoning skills by reading good editorials and articles daily. For the other topics, practicing questions from your study material and past papers is the way to go. You may get the first few questions wrong. Don’t let it dishearten you. Try to understand the thought process behind the correct answers to the questions you have got wrong and then try to broadly emulate said thought process as you work through the unsolved questions. Syllogisms can be easily solved by coming up with mental Venn diagrams. You can turn to LSAT (U.S.) papers for critical reasoning practice. Some topics such as logical connectives can be a bit confusing. If you run into any problems, you ought to get in touch with the faculty immediately.
AS ALWAYS, HARD WORK AND PRACTICING AN APPRECIABLE NUMBER OF PROBLEMS WILL SEE YOU THROUGH TO A TOP RANK
- GENERAL KNOWLEDGE & CURRENT AFFAIRS
This is your make – or – break section. The GK section is worth 50 precious marks and can either see you all the way through to NLSIU, Bangalore or completely ruin your paper. This section in CLAT is heavily dominated by current affairs, with static general knowledge making up around 6-7 marks only. In AILET, current affairs dominates again but not as heavily as in CLAT. Static GK in AILET can make up 10-12 marks.
For static GK, your OPUS book is way more than enough. You don’t need to stress too much about it. Having a good grasp over static general knowledge is very much desirable but please don’t go overboard with it and start neglecting other sections. Another thing you can do is go through the past papers and answer the static GK questions. It should give you a bit of an idea of what you can expect to show up in the actual CLAT/AILET paper. AILET does, at times, ask very weird static GK questions. These aren’t supposed to be attempted and you should skip such questions if you come across them. Solve the online tests in the static GK section and I think you will be more than ready to handle the real deal.
Current Affairs is what a smart aspirant ought to be focussing on for his/her GK prep. Just refer to the OPUS monthly supplements and take their monthly practice quizzes. It is the most comprehensive collection of questions you can find. There are also daily and weekly quizzes available on the OPUS student zone and its CLAT premium group on facebook. Use them to take notes. However, making current affairs notes yourself may prove to be time consuming and not feasible considering you will be busy with your pre – boards and boards along with other CLAT/AILET sections. In that case, you can rely on OPUS monthly supplements for your GK prep. These monthly supplements are a collection of all relevant GK sourced from multiples sites and newspapers. Online tests are also available on the portal under the Current Affairs section. Please start revising your supplements immediately. You will only end up hurting your prospects if you leave current affairs prep for the very end.
Note for AILET (Important) – NLU, Delhi paper setters have, at times, based some current affairs questions on rather “unique” news events. For example, AILET 2019 had a question about a teenage boy suing PUBG in the Delhi High Court. I would advise you to keep an eye out for such “unique” events during the months leading up to AILET (February, March and April).
A score of 35+/50 in the GK section is considered good and you should ideally aim to score near the 40/50 mark. I personally don’t believe that it is possible for anyone to score more than 42-43 out of 50 in this section. Please prep vigorously for GK as only a good GK score will get you that Tier – 1 NLU seat you desire.
- LEGAL APTITUDE –
Last, but certainly not the least, is what I personally consider to be the easiest section in the whole paper – legal aptitude. This section is worth 50 marks in CLAT and 35 marks in AILET. The legal aptitude section can be divided into two categories: legal reasoning and legal general knowledge. Usually, questions from both of these categories appear in CLAT/AILET papers, with legal reasoning heavily dominating in CLAT, whilst being balanced with legal GK in AILET. Also, you should note that the legal aptitude section is used as a tie breaker in CLAT.
Legal reasoning is primarily based on tort law, contract law, criminal law, constitutional law and some miscellaneous topics which rarely show up. I consider legal reasoning questions to be the easiest to solve considering you can easily solve a question by grasping what the principle is trying to convey and what scenario the facts have laid out. Always remember, principle is king and you are not supposed to apply any form of outside knowledge. Legal reasoning in law entrance exams is not meant to test your knowledge of the law, but to test your ability to apply a given principle to a specific scenario. It really isn’t as hard as you might perceive it to be. The best way to prepare for legal reasoning questions is to repeatedly practice all CLAT and AILET past papers. You should also try to get your hands on NLSIU/NALSAR/NUJS/NLU-J entrance exam papers (from the days when CLAT did not exist). These papers can be a valuable repository of legal reasoning questions and go a long way in helping you maximise your score. Having good reading skills will help you with legal reasoning questions, so please do make reading a habit of yours.
Legal GK is the second part of the legal aptitude section. Legal GK questions are primarily based on constitutional law, Latin legal maxims, current legal knowledge and maybe a bit of international political affairs. This is not a tough section whatsoever. The OPUS legal GK book will take care of constitutional law, foreign phrases, legal maxims and legal vocabulary for you. The current affairs supplements should take care of the current legal knowledge part. The way legal GK is incorporated into law entrance exams, especially CLAT, is a bit weird. There have been times in the past when all 50 questions in the CLAT legal aptitude section have been legal reasoning questions. There have also been times when CLAT paper setters have put in legal GK questions based exclusively on legal maxims. There is definitely a bit of unpredictability with regards to legal GK and a smart aspirant should cover it thoroughly so as to be prepared for any eventuality.
Note for AILET (Important) – Legal aptitude questions in AILET are slightly trickier. The legal reasoning questions are a bit lengthy and the legal GK questions are considerably more detailed vis – a – vis CLAT. Best way to prep for AILET’s legal aptitude section is solving past papers within a stipulated time limit. For legal GK, you could, if you think it to be necessary, download apps like Bar & Bench and Live Law. These apps will provide you with detailed current legal knowledge. However, I personally would not recommend stressing yourself over AILET’s legal GK part.
Now, with all the five sections covered, I think this is where I will take your leave. I hope this post will answer all your questions about how to balance boards and CLAT/AILET prep. I also hope that the section – by – section tips help you better understand the paper and go a long way in assisting you with your preparations.
One final piece of advice – It’s very easy for you to get a bit too caught up in the rush of things during this time. The next few months will push you to your limits and test your mental tenacity as you strive to balance your boards and your entrance exams. You may feel stressed out, lonely or maybe even disillusioned and depressed. A lot of students do go through these issues, so please don’t beat yourself up or feel as if you are all alone. Reach out to a friend or a trusted adult if you feel yourself troubled by these problems. Talk it through. Take a break. There is no harm is taking a break from things and recalibrating your mind. None of the advice I have given to you will be effective if you are not in the right mental state. Work hard but please do take care of your mental health in the coming months.
Take care and good luck!