CLAT needs an aspirant to possess both aptitude and speed.
It is a 2-hour long test wherein you need to attempt 200 questions, with the ghost of negative marking hovering over your head every time you attempt an unsure answer.
So, in an exam so full of conundrums, where your speed, knowledge and accuracy are all deeply entangled with each other, how should you go about excelling it?
In this write-up, we do not intend to delve into the knowledge and accuracy aspects because we have done that several times in the past.
It is the importance of your speed that we will discuss about in this space.
You have 120 minutes to attempt CLAT, i.e 7200 seconds to attempt the 200 questions.
That, on an average, comes down to 36 seconds per question.
This break-down of the time makes the importance of each second in CLAT so much more vocal!
- Compartmentalization of the Paper
When I was in Class Xth, I had a 3-hour long CBSE exam. When I started taking the answer, my head acted a little laid-back in terms of the speed at which I was solving the paper. It was not that I was not serious enough but the fact that I had been allotted 3 hours to finish the paper made me go a little easy. I kept getting distracted easily in the first 1 hour of the paper, wrote in an aesthetic manner and eventually ended up covering only 15% of the whole paper in that entire hour.
This cognitive behaviour is involuntary and directly emanates from the notion that the farther the deadline, the easier you go.
When the last half an hour of the exam remained, I went berserk with my writing, wherein what I wrote was almost illegible but I managed to finish 30% of the paper within these 30 short minutes.
My behaviour can be best expressed in the words, ‘the closer the deadline, the faster we get’.
CLAT being a 2-hour long exam requires you to be supremely agile as far as attempting the answers is concerned. A mess with respect to a few minutes could make or break it for you, either putting you into the pedestal of success or jeopardizing your dreams.
In order to make the best use of the time available to you, you will have to compartmentalize the paper into five parts. Instead of looking at the whole paper as one big 2-hour long test, you will have to assume that you are taking five different tests, each of a shorter duration.
In other words, you will have to see to it that you never cross the number of minutes you decided to assign to the subject you are dealing with.
For instance, if you start the paper with GK, you must ensure that you finish the section within 10 minutes. GK does not require you to solve a question. Once you go through the question and the options, you know whether you should attempt it or not, right away.
If you could manage to attempt, let’s say, 30 questions out of the 50 questions in the section within the prescribed 10 minutes, you must stop there and must never cross the threshold of 10 minutes for the whole section, even if you feel that you will fetch a 15 out of the remaining 20 questions.
While dealing with the section, you must assume that you are taking a 10-minute long test where you need to attempt the 50 questions. In short, you will have to learn to invigilate yourself.
Likewise, you must attempt English, Legal, Logic and Mathematics in 24, 36, 30 and 20 minutes respectively. You can shuffle the order of the subjects as per your strengths and weaknesses but the minutes dedicated to each subject must remain intact.
Taking the mocks regularly is necessary to improve your speed.
CLATapult has had students in the past who did not fare well in the initial mocks that they took but featured within Top-10 in the All India category in both CLAT and AILET.
CLAT curriculum, which is not vast, should ideally take 2-3 months to cover comprehensively. But that is just the tip of the ice-berg. The actual preparation begins when you start taking the mocks.
Despite having finished the curriculum, your scores in the first few mocks won’t be impressive.
Every time you take a mock, you will have to sit back and evaluate your performances. You will have to work on your weak areas and then proceed to the subsequent mock.
The gain of doing this consistently will be two-fold : your understanding of the pattern of the paper will increase manifold every time you take a mock, and secondly, the time you consume to finish each time you take a mock should decrease.
- Reduction of Fixations
You do not read in a straight line, but rather in a sequence of saccadic movements (jumps). Each of these saccades ends with a fixation, or a temporary snapshot of the text within your focus area.
Each fixation will last one-fourth to half seconds. To demonstrate this, close one eye, place a fingertip on top of that eyelid, and then slowly scan a straight horizontal line with your other eye – you will feel distinct and separate movements and periods of fixation.
You must minimize the number and duration of fixations per line to increase speed.
- You must eliminate regression and back-skipping to increase speed.
You engage in regression (conscious re-reading) and back-skipping (sub-conscious re-reading via misplacement of fixation) for up to 30 percent of total reading time. Lack of focus and day-dreaming while you are reading the content is what leads to both regression and back-skipping.
- You must use drills to increase horizontal peripheral vision span and the number of words registered per fixation.
Peripheral vision is a part of vision that occurs outside the very center of gaze.
You use central focus but not horizontal peripheral vision span during reading, foregoing up to 50 percent of their words per fixation, i.e the number of words that can be perceived and “read” in each fixation.
If you focus on the center of your computer screen, you can still perceive and register the sides of the screen. Training peripheral vision to register more effectively can increase reading speed over 300 percent.
You use up to half of you peripheral field by moving from first word to last, spending 25-50 percent of your time “reading” margins with no content.
To illustrate, let us take the hypothetical one line: “Once upon a time, students enjoyed reading four hours a day.” If you were able to begin your reading at “time” and finish the line at “four,” you would eliminate 6 of 11 words, more than doubling your reading speed. This concept is easy to implement and is immensely helpful.
Sub-vocalization is a very common habit among readers. It involves saying words in your head while reading and it’s one of the main reasons why people read slowly and have trouble improving their reading speed.
When you were initially taught to read, you were told to read out loud. Once you were fluent enough, your teacher probably told you to start saying the words in your head. This is how the habit of sub-vocalization usually originates. Most people continue reading this way for the rest of their lives. But if you want to start reading faster, you need to minimize this habit.
Many of the words we see are simply there for grammatical purposes (the, a, an). They don’t provide you with the same kind of meaning as words like “university”. We have to minimize sub-vocalization in order to boost our reading speed. Why do we have to do this? Because sub-vocalization limits how fast we can really read.
Think about it this way: if you are saying every word in your head, doesn’t that mean that you can only read as fast as you can talk? If you’re saying every single word in your head, your limit is going to be your talking speed.
The average reading speed is about 150-250 words per minute (wpm). And the average talking speed is exactly the same. Because most people say words in their head while reading (sub-vocalization), they tend to read at around the same rate as they talk. You can test this out for yourself if you like. Try reading for one minute normally, and then try reading out loud for one minute. If you’re like most people, your reading speed and talking speed will be similar (within 50 words higher or lower).
Sub-vocalization must be minimized because you don’t want to get stuck reading as fast as you talk. You’re capable of reading as fast as you can think.
Changing the habit of sub-vocalization is easier said than done. You can’t just turn this voice in your head off. Instead of eliminating this habit, you want to minimize it. For example, let’s say you’re reading some text that said, “The boy jumped over the fence.” To minimize sub-vocalization, you might just say in your head, “Boy jumped fence,” three words rather than six words in that sentence. Some people think this means skipping words, but you are not actually skipping them. Your eyes still see all the other words. You are simply just saying a few of the words. This is how you minimize sub-vocalization.