Here are some things to avoid when writing an exam.
1. Go through questions consecutively – many students go through each exam question consecutively, Q1, 2, 3, 4…until they finish. That was me back in the day. But this is not an efficient use of time. During a time-pressured exam it is most efficient to answer all the questions you are familiar with first. These are you ‘high percentage’ marks locked in. After you have answered those, use your remaining time to go through and answer the questions you find challenging. This strategy has the added effect of building your confidence by answering questions correctly to begin with.
2. Spend too long on questions – this is a problem that goes hand in hand with answering questions consecutively. You get caught up on a challenging question; spend time on it, but can’t figure out the answer. However, because you spent time on it, you feel compelled to keep struggling on it, even though the probability of being correct has diminished. Don’t fall for this trap. Work out how much time to allocate to each exam question, and stick to it. Times up, on to the next one.
3. Try to get ‘extra’ marks – this happens when students write as many points as possible to try get more marks. Most times this strategy only makes the examiner think you don’t understand the question, as well as using up time. The best students answer exam questions concisely and to the point. Here is my answer, here is how I got there, and here are my assumptions.
4. Get frustrated – this is harder said than done. But the last thing you want to do is get frustrated at yourself because you can’t work out an answer. It will distract your mind from what’s important – focusing on the questions. You need focus and intensity, but no matter what bad moves you make, remain calm and focused on the next play. It’s okay to be nervous, or feel under pressure, but the more you focus, the more you stay ‘calm under pressure’.
5. Not checking answers – some students are so happy to finish an exam that they leave without checking their answers. But as humans we are prone to error, and even correcting one mistake could mean the difference between a pass or fail, or a B and an A. I believe its diligent practice to review your answers if you have time at the end of your exam. Those 5-10 minutes could save you regret later on.
6. Lose self-belief – No matter how hard your exam is, don’t let challenges bring you down.