Sums, similes and synthesis


The tenth standard board exams are a seminal landmark for any Indian student. A young student, Gauri Kedia, fresh from her board rigours, describes the journey for us. Humour, it appears, is an important ingredient of the board prep!

The before…
I should really study more…. I mean, I put in more work for my mock exams. It’s 3:23 pm now, so I’ll start at 3:30 pm on the dot. It’s easier to calculate the number of hours I study that way. Two seconds later, it’s 3:38 pm. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to start at 4 pm then. I wonder idly if they have a prize for procrastination. Like so many things, the board exam stress is overhyped. I’m underwhelmed at the lack of stress I’m feeling. Cue the guilt factor: I should really put in more work. This is literally the worst time to have a burnout. Just my luck, though I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one experiencing this. Granted, I probably studied less than most for the mocks as well. I did fine in those, so the actual thing should be a breeze. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully? Enough with the doubts. I’ll be fine. Won’t I? I will, definitely. My shoulders feel heavy with the imaginary angel and devil on each: the ultimate conflict between watching yet another episode of the show I’ve been hooked onto, and opening my biology textbook. For once, Homeostasis prevails over Death note, and I sigh as I turn to page two hundred and something.

Gauri Kedia

Gauri Kedia

An hour and a half later (an actual hour and a half, not by my internal clock), I snap the book shut. I’m impressed, I didn’t get distracted at all. Well, once when my phone beeped, but I only looked at it for a few seconds. I deserve a break. And I know just the thing. A few episodes later, it`s 6:30 pm. I need fresh air. I’ll be back in around half an hour, anything from fifteen minutes to almost two hours. (Hey, I get to decide what “around” means when I say it, don’t I? I’m the one saying it.)

Anyway, after sometime in the latter end of ‘around’ half an hour, I come back to be greeted by being asked how many hours I’ve studied today. This makes me irrationally annoyed (it’s not my fault I’m stressed), and I bite back the sarcastic retort that comes to my lips as if by reflex. See? Diplomacy.

The during…
Overrated. Totally and completely overrated. The days go by in a blur of sums, similes and synthesis. The stress while writing the papers isn’t any more than it would be during a regular exam. What’s really somewhat intimidating is the official, formal exam hall atmosphere. The exams themselves go fine. I suppose I’ll find out how they’ve really gone when I get the results in August. Gulp. As a rule, I refrain from discussing the papers at length, because; a) I’d rather not find out how many answers I’ve got wrong and b) it’s like doing the paper all over again, and once has definitely been bad enough. There is often a day or two between exams, which, while useful for revision, causes the exams to be strewn over about three weeks –downright painful. It’s somewhat hard to believe I’m giving arguably one of the most important exams of my school life; in fact, I almost forget this several times (just kidding, mom) and find myself relaxing with a good book rather than learning the main themes of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. Though, in my defense, it was the last exam, and I’d already prepared for it earlier. Besides, there’s only so much you can rote learn for an IGSCE English literature exam.

I remember how I’d counted down the days to the start of the exams, though, not with excitement as is usually associated with the activity, but rather with dread. Already the fear of getting the results is thrusting itself into my consciousness. August doesn’t seem that far away on this side of May. First things first – get through the exams themselves in one piece, worry about the results later: June and July will be a much needed respite.

The after…
It doesn’t feel like they’re over, like tenth grade is over. Even when I wasn’t studying, the reminder of papers yet to come occupied the back of my mind. Even after a couple of days, it remains, making its presence felt, and putting me in a mild state of confusion for a few seconds at a time. The one thing I’m really looking forward to is the sheer amount of time I’ll have – more than I know what to do with. It’ll be nice to not have to stick to a schedule, or have to remember which enzyme works where. Of course, these two months are only a stop gap; I’ll be feeling that same gut clenching fear I tried to suppress just before I entered the exam hall, in August. In retrospect, though I didn’t study nearly enough (compared to others, at least), the exams went rather well, but I’m careful not to get too optimistic in case I turn out to be deluded and my grades are not what I expect them to be.

I’ve found that my thoughts circulate in a vicious cycle. Step 1: Try not to worry. Step 2: Start worrying about why I’m not worried about my grades. Step 3: Realise that worrying will have absolutely no effect on my grades. Repeat steps 1 through 3, indefinitely. Healthy, isn’t it. At some point, I stop at step 3 and stay that way. It takes just about all my willpower, but somehow I do it. My results will be here in August, whether I like it or not. But August is a long way away (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself) and I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.

Gauri Kedia

Gauri Kedia is a 16-year-old student living in Mumbai. Her passions are reading and writing.