What it takes to get into DU A unit
Seeing my older brother go through the university admission journey almost five years before me gave me a sneak peek into the rigorousness of the process. As someone who belongs to a batch of students who had lost about a year to Covid-19, stepping into the realm of admission tests was an overwhelming experience, maybe more so than for anyone else.
Dhaka University's A unit admission test is the path that leads to studying engineering, pure science, life science and other science- related subjects. The test has two major sections: 60 multiple-choice questions in 45 minutes and another 45 minutes for the written part. In the test, students must answer questions on the main subjects they had in their HSC, and then they get to choose between English, Bangla, and their fourth subject. Since I was determined to pursue something related to Biology in my undergrad, I went for Biology. For students who don't want to study Biology related subjects, and have a good command of English, choosing to answer the English section is a good idea. This way, the chance to study engineering and other science subjects remains open.
As I advanced with my preparation, the trickiest part of the test for me was to solve the mathematical problems without a calculator. As I was taking preparation the engineering admission test alongside DU A unit prep, knowing how to use the calculator efficiently was a crucial skill to adapt. What helped me to get better at doing complex calculations without a calculator was sitting for practice tests every day for a month or so before the actual exam. Getting used to doing calculations in my head or relying on the elimination method for answering multiple choice questions helped me to be more efficient at solving problems.
For both Chemistry and Physics, it is important to have a clear understanding of basic concepts and accuracy in descriptive writing since the written part has recently been added to the test. Chemistry in the multiple-choice section mostly tests a student's theoretical knowledge, so reading the textbook contents intensively can help them ace it. As I did not have to sit for Biology in my HSC, I had to put extra effort into maintaining a regular revision routine to carry out preparation in Biology alongside the other subjects. Making flashcards of the content that I was struggling to remember and going through them regularly helped me a lot.
Analysing previous years' questions
This applies to almost every admission test you're going to sit for. Analysing the questions from the previous ten years or so gives a rough idea about the actual test. Since the written section is a comparatively newer addition to the test, it's safer to develop equal expertise on both the theoretical and mathematical problems.
The enormous pressure a candidate feels during this season is very expected. I had friends who were stellar performers in the mocks but panicked at the last moment and could not give their best in the real test. Knowing how to manage stress in the exam hall plays a vital role while you're trying to give your possible best. To handle the overwhelming feelings, it is a must to attend as many mocks as possible and to give them equal importance as to that of the actual test. Simulating the exam hall environment at the test center or even at home when giving mocks will help to identify exactly what part of the exam a student is losing concentration or getting perplexed.
Admission tests generally have a tendency to go in unpredictable directions. So, it comes in handy if students have a preferable sequence of subjects to approach each section. Starting with the subject one is most confident with will give them an early boost in the examination hall. Some subjects require more time to answer than others. Mapping that out in the head beforehand and having a backup plan will reduce some stress.
Knowing how to skip
This is the skill I undermined the most at the beginning of my admission journey. The test is about how accurately students can answer the questions in a very limited time. It is important to accept that one might have to skip a question midway to prevent wasting too much time on one single problem. This will also help in not getting overwhelmed if a question is too difficult to solve on the first try.
The main objective of mock tests is to help students identify their weaknesses and strengths. Keeping track of all the errors made in the practice tests and analysing them is definitely a game changer to utilising the mocks to their best.
Although the rationality of judging one's capability by a ninety-minute-long examination remains questionable, a good deal of luck with hard work is what can get you through this. The end result of success in the DU A unit exam is the opportunity to study some exciting topics with some of the top minds in the country, so putting in the hard work may well be worth it.
The writer is a student of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Dhaka University