Sun Tzu’s Art of War strategies for students preparing for an exam

Sun Tzu’s Art of War strategies for Students preparing for an exam
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(Sun Tzu’s Art of War strategies for Students preparing for an exam)

Recently, I read a book, Sun Tzu’s Art of War and wanted to share some of the strategies mentioned that might help students who are preparing for exams or aiming for success.

It is said Sun Tzu was a Chinese military strategist and general of the army in china during the 6th century BC. About the same time (ie 600 BC) we see Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism emerging. Art of War also known as The 13 Chapters and is tad bit different from works of Buddha, Confucius etc which are works of religious or ethical foundations. It consists of 13 chapters dedicated to strategies and approaches required to win a battle in warfare. However it’s not what you think it is. It’s like a military manual. But, the strategies given in the book swings between approach to philosophy to tactics. 


But is that good or bad ?

Good, because its precisely what makes it better and useful for a range of people like businessmen, top leaders, students, or any other person wanting to become an asset for themselves. What is wonderful is that the text or writings can be interpreted and applied not just in warfare but many other domains. Therefore you should read it because there is much wisdom in the book.


Moving ahead,

The book is no doubt a treasure. However today’s attempt is to share some strategies that are mentioned in the book that certainly has relevance when you see it from the point of view of students who are preparing for an exam. Here are Sun Tzu’s Art of War strategies for Students who are  or would be preparing for an exam :


  • “Now the general who wins a battle who makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat : How much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can forsee who is likely to win or lose.”

It means you as a student should make efforts to think whatever situations can present itself in an exam environment. The word “temple” mentioned above means mind. You can simulate the exam time environment by practicing mocks like they happen in your exam.  It’s like getting ready for D-Day and you might just get to know that there are other important points that you were skipping. Make most with planning and practice. Think about it if you are presented with a question that you have no idea, how will you tackle it? Such approach will definitely help.



  • “If you know the enemy and yourself, you need not fear the result of hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

When preparing for an exam one ought to know their strengths and weaknesses. There could be topics which you would be good at and some not so good. Then maybe you can play at your strengths or work harder to improve on your weaknesses. You should study thoroughly your exam structure. What questions come more often than others. What are the favourite topics of a paper setter? Think of the exam as your enemy like it says even if you are well prepared but if you have not studied previous year questions then chances are your paper could go bad. So, study exam structure, pattern, and yourself.



  • “To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy itself.”

Read or train yourself to read the questions carefully. Most of the time we get excited or tensed seeing a question. If you see an easy question or question asked on topic which you prepared, then don’t get excited infact read the question carefully and answer what is asked rather than what you know about the topic. Usually we get excited to see a familiar or prepared topic’s question. If you are tense and you cannot understand the question or it comes out of the topic. Make sure you read that question thoroughly as sometimes questions have parts which you know something about but you leave it because you have no clue about the first one. In a hurry you just read superficially and lost precious marks. All I am saying is your success in scoring better marks is in maintaining a calm temperament. 



  • “He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called heaven born captain.”

Assume that something happened and you could not study for an exam like you had planned. Then what do you do? Do you follow the original plan and try to slog hours of hard work till your mind gets numb or Do you leave preparation all together? Neither is a befitting solution to a crisis situation impending upon you. Remember even if you have less time you can strategize your study to get passing marks or 60 percent or 80 percent, but anything more would be wishful thinking.

You know you have less time, start studying by figuring out important topics from where usually questions are coming. There is always a pattern in question papers, you just need to figure out. Make sure hot shot topics are done first, secure your passing marks then if you have time try, maximise your score by studying other relevant topics/chapters. You should strategize or modify plan according to how situation changes. If you are able to do that then you are on right path.



  • “We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with face of the country – its mountain and forest, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps”

Always remember without studying thoroughly and everything you cannot expect to score a perfect score. If you are aiming for a perfect score then please read and learn everything that the exam syllabus prescribes. This is certainly the difference between those who end up getting perfect scores and others who are top scores. Be determined to read whatever comes your way and make sure you learn it well in essence. You should be like a walking book. You should know everything that there is to know.



  • “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him, not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact we have made our position unassailable.”

Make your work Indispensable. Ideally you should be prepared for a surprise test. However that is not the case with students. I suggest just try to listen in class a bit sincerely and read whatever you understand whenever you get time. Those areas where you think you’re not getting your teacher or haven’t understood what she/he taught. Then ask somebody you think would know. You could study those chapters or topics on weekends. This also put less burden on you if you are to prepare for the final exam. The book won’t seem new but familiar. In fact in exam time you would feel certainly relaxed and not stressful, but that is if you have studies throughout your session/class/semester. 


To Conclude,

Believe in yourself as early as you can in your age. Because when you grow up there will be many raising doubts on your capability. There could be a question here, when I am not performing well it’s hard to remain confident in my abilities or have that self belief. To that I say that think about where you are going wrong. It’s perfectly fine to struggle long in a math problem or physics concept or remembering history. Take your time (if the exam is not near) and understand why, what and how of things. Committing to the problem longer than others, trying to find the solution, can actually help better your future.

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(Sun Tzu’s Art of War strategies for Students preparing for an exam)

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