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Preparing for Big Bad Boards with BTS and apps

From productivity apps to Focus Rooms, a class XII student shares how she found ways to tackle the dreaded exams during covid-19

The ad-free, 90-minute ‘Study With Me’ live sessions on YouTube have helped the writer increase her attention span.
The ad-free, 90-minute ‘Study With Me’ live sessions on YouTube have helped the writer increase her attention span. (iStock)

The alarm rings without mercy. I hit the snooze button repeatedly even as my best friend calls.

“Wake up!” yells Reet. “We are in the 12th grade, for God’s sake. Wake up and start studying.”

Yeah, she is well within her rights to yell. Between the two of us, she is the one who actually wakes up daily at 4.45am and spends the next 15 minutes dragging me out of bed so that we can study together. Online!

We both have different subjects. Yet having each other on a Zoom call early in the morning feels like we are back in school, in one place, doing the thing 12th graders are supposed to do: study, study and study some more.

I proposed the idea of waking up at 5am daily for the duration of the second lockdown in Delhi. This is yet another “only for the lockdown” pact to be productive. After all, we have to be “productive” because we are the new battalion lining up to conquer the Big Bad Boards as the 12th graders from the batches of 2020 and 2021 have left the front-lines.

Also read: Stanford study tells you exactly why Zoom meetings are fatiguing

In the last six months, I have used the “Study With Me” live sessions found on YouTube. These ad-free, 90-minute videos have helped increase my attention span, especially when you have the illusion of BTS members RM and Jungkook working with you. Hey, who does not like to study with BTS on their screen?

My friends and I also hold group study sessions on a Google Meet link. We just open our textbooks and get on with work. A little chat, some giggles, a quick question check—I find this method very constructive since we keep each other accountable. PS: Side benefits of peer learning include catching up on gossip!

I have also tried, which follows the Pomodoro method, a time management method using a timer to break down study or work schedules into defined intervals with short breaks. The unique similarity in every video—music in the background to anchor you, ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) techniques like paper rustling, and a soft colour palette—on the site simulates the much craved quiet classroom experience.

The famous Korean band BTS.
The famous Korean band BTS. (Getty)

These techniques have kept me motivated and made learning so much more than just a chore! But even as I make and break dozens of “let’s study smarter” promises, my friends and I cannot help but wonder why we are even bothering to prepare for the boards in 2022, making plans for colleges or signing up for entrance exams when none of us know what will happen next year.

The coronavirus arrived in our part of the world in 2020 and changed what it meant to be a 12th grader. Of course, the pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone but for the three of us, batches of 2020, 2021 and 2022, class XII has been a game of Russian roulette: the uncertainty of “Will we, won’t we give the boards” is quite a crippling experience.

Everyone knows the 2020 batch was left high and dry in the middle of their boards when the first lockdown was announced. “My mental health has been like Sisyphus and his boulder since. It reaches the top and falls over and over and over,” says Priyanka Sood, a 2020 batch student from the Capital’s Delhi Public School (DPS), RK Puram, now in college.

Also read: How can parents keep young people safe online during the pandemic?

“My last board exam was put on hold indefinitely and that was unsettling. I had made a lot of plans with my friends for the break between school and college but all of that went kaput. I spent a large part of last year just being disappointed,” says Ishaan Nair, a former student of DPS, RK Puram from the 2020 batch. Nair, who gave four out of the five board exams, graduated from school and has now been in college, a place he has never visited, for a year.

The 2021 batch found out in June that they will not give any board exams. “I have had so much anxiety and restlessness thinking about the boards, not knowing what to do and how to go about things. Having no idea about what we are going to do if boards don’t take place was really confusing and scary as a 12th grader who is primed since senior school to be devoted to these exams,” says Fia Subu, a 2021 batch student from Sanskriti School, Delhi. “This whole exam business is redundant. We need some new ideas,” she adds.

As for the batch of 2022, I can tell you, we are terrified after seeing what happened with our seniors. The constant questions we keep asking ourselves:

“Is preparing for the board exams even worth it?”

“What is the relevance of standardised exams when there is always a chance that our preparation will go to waste?

“Will we be left hanging for months like the previous batches?”

“I have noticed that there is a direct relation between the increase in the number of cases and general anxiety levels, so I try to avoid negative news,”says Parth K. of Amity School, Delhi, a 12th grader like me. “Do I worry about what will happen? Yes, I do but can I stop preparing? No. So it’s endless rounds of online classes, sitting in one place in front of the screen for seven hours during school hours and then heading online (yes, there again) for tuition,” he says.

“The fact is that it’s impossible to stay alert and pay attention for such long periods online while studying for the class XII boards,” adds Nair.

The pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone but for the batches of 2020, 2021 and 2022, class XII has been a game of Russian roulette.
The pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone but for the batches of 2020, 2021 and 2022, class XII has been a game of Russian roulette. (HT_PRINT)

Yet we all know there is no point in second-guessing the fate of the batch of 2022. “As someone who has gone through it, all I can say is, don’t stress about when the exams will happen, will they happen, how will they happen. None of that is in your control. For now, don’t stay up the entire night, don’t follow unhealthy preparation cycles and don’t practise exam papers endlessly,” says Mehul Sharma, a batch of 2020 student from DPS, RK Puram, now in college. “We made it to college, so will you. Keep hoping for the best (whatever that is) and take the time to build your relationship with your family. Spend time with them because your life will get busy really soon, fingers crossed,” says Aadya Choudhary, a batch of 2020 student of Vasant Valley School, Delhi.

On my part, I am fighting the feeling of languishing by experimenting with different productivity techniques. I see Pinterest boards on how to make solo study a fun activity. I keep trying new methods to break away from procrastination. My latest experiment is making time-lapse videos on my phone of me studying. This prevents me from using my phone while studying and makes me immensely proud of how focused I look in the videos.

Next up, Focus Rooms on or figuring out how to create one with other 12th graders from around the world. Since these sites insist on keeping the camera on for maximum accountability, I believe the feeling of just being with people across the world will be encouraging.

As for the “only for this lockdown” pact, the lockdown is sort of over and the pact has been phased out. I have started waking up at 5am on most days on my own, without wailing or dodging the alarm. I freshen up quickly, greet the crow outside the window and the cockroach by the door, make myself a cup of coffee, chew on a croissant or hog on sticky rice like my favourite vlogger Deemd does, take out my books and log into my study app.

On some days, I almost feel excited about starting the day.

Anusha Sharma is a class XII student of Sanskriti School, Delhi.

Also read: Online writing communities emerge as a space of solace during the pandemic

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