2017 / 27 December

How do Toppers Study? (Anatomy of 6 Types of Toppers)

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Here is how do toppers study

Someone asked me this question recently on Quora.com, how do toppers study?. Here is what I came up with.

Just like one size doesn’t fit all, top students also have different styles of studying. I will share some of the styles that I have come across at IIT Delhi and XLRI Jamshedpur:

  • Phodu. Simply cracks everything. This is the Super-Genius variety. This person has photo-memory, crystal clear logic and hundred percent absorption of what he or she reads, sees and hears. This kind of student is normally not seen studying, is participating in all extra-curricular activities, sitting in TV/Carrom room most of the time, attends bare minimum classes and takes minimum possible notes. There is only one place where you sure find him or her all the time – The top of merit list in all examinations of all subjects. Also, seen courting the opposite sex in free time (that’s an added bonus). It is diffucult for the Phodu to be tied to one place, subject or girl. E.g. Phungsuk Wangdu in Three Idiots.


  • Todu. Cracks everything but needs to take a good aim. This is one level below, hence only Genius. An ideal mix of brains and hardwork. This person attends classes regularly, takes beautiful notes (that are later copied in gazillions and even saved for posterity), revises the notes diligently before the exams. Submits all assignments on time, surprise quizzes are no problem. This person also devotes a reasonable time to extra-curricular activities, has generally good personal habits and believes in enjoying life by seeing a movie once in a while or following a hobby or sport. A few of them develop relationships with other Todu variety students as girlfriends or boyfriends. Both the Todu partners team up to exponentially multiply the forces. The premise of the relations is to get highest possible grades. The alliance may of may not continue after the objective is achieved.


  • Ghissu. This is the class of top students where the brains are certainly and significantly inferior to the Phodu and Todu variety. This person still has above average intelligence. What he or she lack in IQ, is made up by sheer hard work. This person has near 100 percent attendance, takes copious notes, still xeroxes all other good quality notes available in the class, revises the notes every weekend. Puts few night-outs to keep projects and practicals up to date. Mostly confined to his or her room and almost never seen participating in extra-curricular activities, Packs the bag to study at home during the college festivals. Girlfriends and boyfriends are a strict no no. Their motto is ‘Aaj Ghisunga toh kal bada aadmi banunga’ (If I screw myself today by hardwork, I will reach my goal tomorrow). There is no other way out.


  • Maggu. There are no brains here. Simple strategy is to get the best possible notes and mug (cram) them up as bad as possible. This is the product of years of rote learning. Since this strategy paid up in school, it it ruthlessly extended to college. This person behaves very similar to ‘Hare Krishna’ devotees, is always murmuring something or the other. The belief is – If I stop chanting the last lesson, it may evade my memory.’ Activity just before examinations is feverish. No taking to no one. Only Mug Mug Mug. Some of them do end up as top students.


  • Chussu. This is the blood sucking variety. These guys believe in the old adage – There is something to be learnt from everyone. Every conversation starts with,’ I didn’t understand anything in today’s class. Why don’t you explain this to me again, please….’ They beg for explanation from anyone who is in the top ten percent of the class. Take full benefit of others’ goodness. If anyone doesn’t resist, they even suck their brains just before examinations, without any consideration for the other person. Just before one enters the exam hall, one can hear them,’ I have forgotten everything, I am going to fail today, I am screwed, I have lost it……….’ I can write two pages on them but will stop here. Some of these top the university as well.

Hope you find the classification useful!!!

P.S. Few readers on Quora suggested another type – Topu – the quintessential copier. This person, in addition to one of the above skills, doesn’t mind copying to supplement the marks or grades. However, in my experience I haven’t found these guys as toppers. Have seen some examples of these in high political or well-connected families where the paper itself is written by someone else. Good luck to them as well!

You may also be interested in blog, My Secret of Getting into IIT!

Ashutosh Mishra - YouthCoach & Author

A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.

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  • Shankar Narayanan / January 3, 2018 AT 10:13 AM

    Well…. there is another variety which I identify myself as but could not figure out what to call it.
    This Kind of topper is somewhere between Phodu and Thodu. Really understands the system of exams. S/he understands the uniqueness of each professor, grading requirement, tips and tricks that will just get him/her enough to be on the top list.
    Maybe you could call him Jugaadu. Jugaadu understands patterns and optimizes his preparation time. Tracking past question papers, gauging the professors questioning styles and writing answers catered to specifically impress the evaluator are his/her traits.

  • This is hilarious sir 🙂



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