ICSE topper's success mantra: Study smart, not study hard
Rishi Mehta, a student of Jamnabai Narsee school in Juhu, north-west Mumbai, topped the nationwide Indian School Certificate Examinations this year with a mind-boggling 98.29 percent aggregate. What makes Rishi's achievement even more remarkable is that he lost his mother, Rashmi Mehta, to cancer when his board exams were underway.
"Rashmi held a master's degree in science and was very well-organised," says Rishi's grandfather Ramesh Mehta. "She was a housewife and so devoted all her time to her children's studies. Every day, she would spend at least two hours going over what the kids had done in school. That is the reason both Rishi and his sister Pooja score such high marks."
Pooja, who appeared for the HSC board exams this year, scored an impressive 91 percent herself.
Tall for his age and soft-spoken, this focussed, academically-inclined young man has already set his sights on the IIT-JEE. "I have always scored more than 90 percent in my exams," he says. "Earlier I had scored upto 95 percent, but this is the first time I crossed 98. I lost 4 marks each in the languages and the other 4 in Science and Environment studies. I think I could have got those 4 marks, but not in the languages. So I could have gotten a total of 692/700 instead of 688."
"I studied five hours a day for two months before the exams," Rishi explains. "Otherwise I study an hour a day, unless there is something extra to be done for the class. I actually started to prepare for the ICSE in earnest during the prelims. I never learned anything by heart. I understood the concepts -- that takes less time and I saved a lot by this method."
He continues, "Some of my friends say that they studied 12 or 14 hours a day. That is too much. You should not cram so much into the brain. It is not necessary. Studying smart is more important than studying hard. If you are learning history, then yes, you have to learn by heart. Dates and events cannot be altered."
Rishi also shares the credit for his performance with his school and proudly brings up his sister's academic achievements. "My school played a very important part in my high marks. They taught us many techniques to study, to score well," he says. "And my sister is also brilliant. She scored over 94 percent when she appeared for her Class X exams. The main thing to remember is never to get tense. One must remain relaxed to do well. If you enjoy your classes, you will do well."
So what are plans for this academic year? "My school does offer the option of studying for the ISC (Indion Secondary Certificate Examination) till Class XII, but I have shifted to another college. I want to appear for the state board HSC exams," says Rishi. "I have already started preparing for my IIT entrance exams; if I were to appear for the ISC, I would have to spend a lot more time preparing for it. On a comparable level, the HSC is not so time-consuming. I will do well in the HSC with less effort and time. I want to concentrate on clearing the IIT entrance with maximum marks. There the HSC marks don't matter."
So what does a whizkid like Rishi do in his spare time? "I am interested in reading, politics, watching TV and surfing the Internet," he enthuses. "Actually, I got more interested in politics after the trust vote (over the Indo-US nuclear deal) in July last year. Here was a government which could crumble over one issue. One or two people could actually decide whether the government continued in power or not. In the end, of course, the victory margin was much higher."
"I liked the drama they played out that day," he continues. "I liked the suspense. Nobody is interested in service to the public. It was pure power play. That's where I feel I can make a difference. I will enter politics and I will serve the people. We should focus on the main goal of politics. It should be to run the country and help the people. Not to gain power."
Video: Hitesh Harisinghani
Image: Rishi Mehta