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Home » Roman Saini on How to Crack World’s Toughest Examinations (Full Transcript)

Roman Saini on How to Crack World’s Toughest Examinations (Full Transcript)


Full text of Roman Saini’s talk: How to Crack World’s Toughest Examinations at TEDxJUIT Conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: MP3 – How to crack world’s toughest examinations by ROMAN SAINI at TEDxJUIT


Good evening and I hope you have enjoyed the talks till now. So let me start with something – the first slide which you can see, it talks about How to Crack World’s Toughest Examinations. See, what defines the toughness of an examination is the acceptance ratio, that is, the number of candidates who are accepted divided by the number of candidates who have applied.

So for those of you who do not know today is the Civil Services Examination day, many of your friends might be giving it and more than a million people are giving it as of now. Right now the examination is going on. If you have to become an IAS, the acceptance ratio is less than 1/10000, that is less than 0.01%. So you have better odds of jumping from 50th floor and surviving rather than getting into IAS.

So this is me before the examinations, a very down to earth geek, nerd, whatever you want to call it. So then this is my life, pretty much an average student, just like you guys sitting here. No difference whatsoever.

Then we move on to — never been out of Jaipur, that is my hometown, till 16 years of age. Literally I did not visit any other state in my life except Rajasthan. Studied from 4 different schools because of various issues despite living in the same place for 16 years.

Then something happened in 10th standard. When I was 14 years old I realized that “I was very risk averse”. I was not taking risks at all. Then I realized if I am not living on the edge, I’m already taking too much space. Despite my frail and fragile personality of 40 kgs, still I was taking too much space not in the physical sense but in metaphorical sense.

So then, something happened. So this happened. So I got into All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi at the age of 16. So this photograph here, it actually shows we and my friends reading. So that’s the only time I read.

Then, before I turned 18 I had a research published in a reputed medical journal called the Journal of Clinical Anesthesiology. So it was related to the pain management for terminally ill patients like cancer patients and all. It was done entirely for fun purposes, you will know it. That’s what’s the reason. So I used to – got used to play with these rats. They are called as [Sprague-Dawley] rats, highly docile, you can take them in your hands, they do not know.

Then what happened is after completing my M.B.B.S, I just completed six months ago in January of 2014, I got into National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) and there I worked as a junior resident in psychiatry. So after that it was an amazing experience for four, five months but I had to resign from there. Why? Because of this.

So two months ago, I was sleeping – I was completely asleep on 12th June 2014. When I woke up it was 8 o’clock in the evening and then I checked my phone, there were 308 missed calls and 1014 notifications. So anyways, after that I went to my home town from Delhi and this happened — I got felicitated by Jammu & Kashmir Governor, both ex-Chief Minister of Rajasthan, and the current Chief Minister of Rajasthan, agriculture minister of Rajasthan, and a Member of Parliament.

Then I thought that my experience should not be limited to me. So I thought of sharing it, so they actually invited me on July 2 on Your Story platform. It is India’s one of the largest entrepreneurial website. On Unacademy, we started to give free webinars.

Then obviously Unacademy is there. Right now I came to know that we have recently crossed 13,000 views per day. That is the status. It is India’s largest growing educational channel and you can read the stats, there are 17,639 subscribers and they’ve already crossed 18,000. This was taken in the morning.

So I also started an entertainment journal for fun purposes. So this is our team. You can see me sitting here, somewhere, always in the background.

Then what happened is this. So we did a video, a short film with Babuji. Sanskaari Babuji Alok Nath, it was after I became an IAS.

See, the point which you should be taking home with you right now is that nobody is a born genius, even and including this guy — Albert Einstein. For those of you who do not know, please jump from the top floor. So nobody is a born genius.

But what are the differences? You are no different. Please make sure each and everyone of us sitting here have the knowledge, have the talent, have the calibre, and have the intelligence to crack each and everything in our lives that we set on but the problem is – these are the problems.

You are afraid, to come out of your comfort zone. You are really, really afraid to give that extra push which is required and you are afraid to go against what your parents, what your family members want you to do. If you are always afraid, you will never take that effort which is required to succeed in such examinations.

First of all you need to learn how to learn. Before facing any challenge, you need to train for that challenge. Be it swimming, biking, gliding, hiking, anything – any endeavor which you start, you have to learn how to learn it. So I will teach you in brief points – please be attention.

Be risk friendly. First of all, I’ve already told you, if you’re not living on the edge you are taking too much space. You have to be more risk friendly because “seduction of safety is much more perilous than perception of risk”. We are always seduced by safety and comfort. We seek it. We crave for it. But just once get rid of this natural intuitive feeling and you will see that you are capable of doing miracles. And always take calculated risks. Do not become John Rambo and take out the entire nation’s army single handedly. That is called as taking foolish risks. You have to take something I call as calculated risk.

Then Luck. It plays a very very big part. It is very important. But luck is something called as random distribution. It is entirely random. Anyone of you has equal chance of being lucky. But as Richard Dawkins said, even the chance of us being born at this moment where you can learn as much as you can about as many fields as you can just by a click of mouse are astronomically low. So please make sure there is an element of luck. But you are lucky to have this college education, you are lucky to be born in this era, so you are already very lucky. So you have to work hard to justify that luck which has been bestowed upon by the arbitrariness and randomness of the universe.

Then there is this debate which I constantly see, Competence versus Confidence. So which of this should you strive for Roman sir, they ask and come. Sir, are you confident in the examinations? See, I will be brutally honest with you, I will be absolutely honest because anything less than that will be disrespecting each and everyone of you sitting here. Fear will never go away. Please keep this in your head. Even if you have prepared for anything for 50 years, you will be fearful. I was fearful giving this talk even after I have done so many things.

So confidence is not the key. Competence is the key. If you are competent enough, if you have achieved something, no one can take that away from you. Please make sure. Confidence is a very momentary kind of a thing, you might be confident one day, you feel unconfident the other but competence once acquired, no one can take that away from you. You have to follow something called as rule of 10000 hours, I have cut it short to rule of 1000 hours.

If you do anything for 1000 hours, sir and madam, you will be an expert in that field, you will be above 95% of the people in that particular field. Just for 1000 hours if you practice something you will reach your goals. And always like Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, these are the two most influential personalities; one is a evolutionary biologist and the other is a theoretical physicist. So they lived in the Theory of LAR – LAR is Logic, Analysis and Reasoning. Question everything. Do not take anything for granted. Always have a rational outlook and that will see you succeed.

Then please, STOP these three C’s. I have seen people coming to me now, why have you become, you are such a good doctor, you could have such an awesome career, you could be a cardiologist, neurologist and what not and you have gone this so called dirty system of ours, it will corrupt you and all.

Stop complaining. Stop criticizing. Stop condemning. Be the change you want to see in the world, as our great Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation said. Stop arguing with others especially with irrational people, because they will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.

And the last stage which you want to avoid is stop asking yourself what you want to do with the rest of your life. Even I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life. So please stop arguing and asking.

Then there is something called as the fun part — Roman’s Rituals. It has nothing to do with me. There was the great Roman Empire 2000 years ago, so they had very simple rituals for their soldiers. Just eat healthy stuff. Don’t eat junk. Don’t overstuff yourself till food starts to come out of your mouth.

Exercise, not meaning pumping iron for 3 hours a day. Just walk, just swim, do yoga, do medicine, do pranayama. Whatever you feel is good for you is good for you.

And then sleep – sleep for 7 to 9 hours. All the toppers I’ve seen, we are very much from this planet earth, we’re not from Jupiter. We do not study for 25 hours a day.

And then please do not drink or smoke. They hamper your performance and memory formations.

Then we have something called as – extremely important concept which I want you to take away from this is Delayed Gratification. It is a psychological concept, it was done way back in 60s and 70s at Stanford University. There was an experiment involving 5 year old kids, that is the single most important experiment, it’s called as marshmallow experiment. They were given a marshmallow. If they would have eaten within 15 minutes they would have given just that marshmallow. But if they could have somehow delayed their gratification they would have provided another marshmallow.

So those kids at 5 years of age who showed delayed gratification had better life outcomes in everything, including higher SAT scores, better satisfaction of life, higher educational attainment, and BMI, that is Body Mass Index. So please make sure you have delayed gratification in your life.

Then you have to overcome sad. It has nothing to do with your mood. After doing my M.B.B.S, after working as a psychiatrist for 4 months, even from time to time I get sad, that is stressed, anxious, and depressed. That is the sad part of the life. Accept it. But anxiety is not bad. See, there is a U-shape curve, that is called as normal distribution curve, on Y-axis, we have performance and on X-axis we have anxiety. Your performance is at peak when your anxiety is at optimal. If you are not anxious at all or highly anxious, your performance will go down.

Then finally be decisive. Please, my humble request to you – be decisive as you take decisions for yourself or someone else will. Either pursue your dream or help in someone else pursuing their own. You have to do what I call as there is lack of complete information in each and every decision we will take, you will not be aware about the intricacies, nuances and subtleties which are required to understand the event or person at hand. You are not justified in taking a decision in certain circumstances but precisely that is required from your part. You have to take a decision in indecisive environment. So after doing this what happens is you undergo a transformation.

So from this, you go to this. And even better you go to this. This is your own college campus photograph. So enjoy.

See, what I wanted to tell is I’ve already spoken so much. So I am not a nerd, some people might across who study 18 hours a day, not all. So I talk about this. Open challenge to anyone, I am still staying here till night. Anyone wants to challenge Counter-Strike, I will pay 10,000 rupees who can defeat me in it. Or if you can defeat me in – for any strategic gaming, or if you can defeat me in Need for Speed. So I am what I call as a reckless racer, a maverick shooter and a pragmatist, strategist.

So please, this is my Facebook page. Anybody whatsoever within 24 hours, personal guarantee, I will reply. It might not be limited to your competitive examination, do not start clapping right now. It’s not over. You can also tweet to me at my Twitter handle, @romansaini.

But since I wanted to show something else also, that proves I am not a nerd, because many people will be thinking in their head. So I also remember taking one more degree, so but unfortunately I could not bring that degree with me or on the slide. So I thought that I will give you a demo. So I don’t know how loud will this guitar be but please make sure you sing along.

[Plays guitar and sings Saari umar hum marr marr ke jee liye from 3 Idiots]

By the way, those who doubt, so this is the last degree I had and this is from Trinity College of London. So enjoy the evening and thank you for indulging me. Thank you very much.


Resources for Further Reading: 

One Thing to Know About Your Brain That Will Change Your Life: Ann Herrmann-Nehdi (Transcript)

Dopamine: Driving Your Brain into the Future: Daniel Lieberman (Transcript)

What is a Thought? How the Brain Creates New Ideas: Henning Beck (Transcript)

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