Top 10 tips for sitting an exam

Exam season can be a daunting time for any student, with many fearing that they’ll enter the exam hall, open the paper, and then freeze. Try not to worry, with good preparation and a calm attitude you’ll be set for exam success. We’ve compiled our top 10 tips to help you when sitting an exam: 

 1. Be prepared and try relax 

If required, fill in your personal information on the front page of the exam paper and make sure your ID card is visible. These are things that can usually be done whilst sitting in the hall waiting for the exam to officially start. By forgetting to do these things, you will be wasting precious time and causing yourself unnecessary stress. You can also use this time to try relax. Many find that taking deep breaths can help.

2. Take a bottle of water 

A bottle of water will help keep you hydrated and comfortable during the exam. Feeling hot or thirsty will only serve as a distraction, which means you will struggle to perform at your best.

3. Read the questions carefully 

It is easy to glance at the questions and then launch straight into an answer, particularly when feeling anxious. However, it is important to read each question carefully. Pay particular attention to the wording used, this will help you determine the topic and also how to answer. For example, is the question looking for you to analyse a theory, or compare it against another? A good understanding of what the question is really asking will help you to answer properly and get a good mark. 

4. Write a short, structured plan  

As soon as you’ve chosen which question(s) to answer, write a short plan in your answer booklet (you can cross this out at the end). By spending five minutes thinking about your key points and how to structure them, you will find writing your answer much easier. Your examiner will also be impressed by your ability to strategically plan a response to the question. What is more, a plan is a useful way of letting the examiner know what you were hoping to write about, just in case you run out of time.  

5. Don’t panic about not knowing how to answer 

Many students have experienced that dreaded feeling of opening the exam paper and just not knowing where to begin. Again, the key here is to take a deep breath and try to think of a plan. The chances are that the question is on a topic you have revised, but is worded slightly differently than expected. Take some time to consider the wording of the question carefully. If all else fails, bullet point some key ideas and then move on to the next part of the exam paper – you can always come back to it at the end. 

6. Be concise 

Keep your answers well-structured, well-written, and concise. Discussing everything you possibly know about a subject could lead your examiner to think that you don’t really know how to answer the question. Think about your key points, and the evidence you can use to back them up.  

7. Keep an eye on the clock 

Make sure to watch the time and plan your answers accordingly. For example, if you have 2 questions during a 2 hour exam, finish your first answer within an hour to leave ample room for the rest of the exam paper.  

8. Try to avoid distractions 

It’s natural to have a glance around the room to see how others are getting on, but this only wastes time and, in some cases, can make you feel more anxious. The person next to you may be writing at a terrific speed and asking for extra paper, but that doesn’t mean their answer is necessarily correct. Try to just focus on your own work. 

9. Don’t leave the exam hall early 

If you feel as though you’ve finished early, the chances are that you haven’t wrote your answers in as much detail as possible. Try to use all of your time wisely – there may be an important point that you’ve missed!  

 10. Leave time to proofread 

If possible, try to factor in 5 or 10 minutes at the end to proofread your answers. It’s a shame to lose marks on spelling mistakes, which could easily be rectified.  

Good luck! 

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