It is the day of the exam, you are ready to smash it, but you are a little bit tensed (or maybe not) – now what? Here are my 10 basic considerations to keep in mind when taking an exam.
1. Arrive early to the exam hall: Show up for the exam at least 15-20 minutes before the scheduled time. This will allow some time for you to calm your nerves as you say your last prayers or exchange encouraging words with your colleagues. Rushing frantically into the exam hall some minutes late isn’t a good way to begin an exam.
2. Choose a distraction-free spot: If you have the option to choose where to sit, go for a sitting area that’s far away from the windows and doors to avoid distraction.
3. Listen attentively to announcements and instructions: Pay attention to important announcements made by the prof or proctor. The information communicated can range from the correction to a typo or missing text on the exam paper, reminder of how much time is remaining, direction on how best to attack a complicated problem, or warning about a trick question. Keep your ears at alert.
4. Browse through the exam questions first: After you’ve been asked to start the exam, don’t immediately launch an attack on question one. Take the first few minutes to carefully read the instructions and rules of the exam. Afterwards, for short answers questions especially, quickly run through the entire exam questions so you know how to allot time to the questions, paying close attention to how much marks each question is worth. Scanning through the entire exam questions first actually sets your mind to work on retrieving solutions to other problems while you are working on a different question. When you do this, you will be surprised by how quickly you are able to recall important information and come up with solutions during the exam; it isn’t magic but just your mind at work.
5. Read the questions carefully and closely: Don’t be in a haste when reading a question. Read each question completely at least once to fully understand it before providing an answer. If you need any clarifications, don’t hesitate to ask the proctor immediately.
6. Focus on higher-value questions: Different questions on an exam are worth different scores. Therefore, look out for questions that are allotted higher scores and spend enough time to complete them. It is better to correctly complete a question that weighs 30% than to complete three questions that all account for 15% of the overall exam score. (And for sure, it is even much better to complete all questions still.)
7. Attempt all questions: Unless you’ll be penalized for providing a wrong answer, endeavor to answer all questions based on what you know. You may get partial marks for providing an incorrect solution (this applies to short answer questions), but you’ll definitely receive no mark if you provide no response. Apart from that, it breaks the heart of some profs to see questions left unanswered when they are marking the exam papers. That’s probably why most of them encourage students to attempt all questions.
8. Don’t panic when you hit rocky questions: It may so happen that you’re easily and progressively knocking off the soft exam questions, but suddenly you hit a tough one; the first response may be to sleep on that question and eventually breakdown, which shouldn’t be so. Whenever you encounter a difficult question, instead of spending the rest of your time on it, mark it and move onto another question. Revisit the hard question(s) after completing all the selected not-so-hard questions.
9. Review, review, review: Personally, I can’t overemphasize how helpful it is to review answer sheets even after completing the exam. It is a grade-saver. Take time to go over your solutions to ensure that all the steps and the final answers are correct. Revisit each question to make sure you’ve selected the right answer for each and that no question was omitted. Do this over and over again until you are 100% sure that your answers are accurate and your answer sheet is ready to hit the prof’s desk for an ‘A+’.
10. Use up the entire exam time: Once you submit your answer sheet and leave the exam hall, that’s the end of the exam for you; you won’t be allowed to make any more changes to your answers. For this reason, it is suggested that you exhaust all the time permitted you for an exam except you have to leave to finalize your preparation for another exam or to handle something else that’s urgent and important. Don’t ever get intimidated by students who leave the exam hall in the first 15 or 25 minutes; the truth is that some students actually submit full or half blank answer sheets (I was shaken from my root when I first heard about this). Always remember that it’s your grades you are concerned about here and not someone else’s. So, review your work till the end of the exam even if you are the only one left in the hall; others may think you to be dumb when you do this, but the grades will tell later.
Once you are done with the exam, you should go relax and rest if you don’t have any exams left to write soon – you deserve it. Otherwise, go finalize your preparation for any upcoming exams – you need it.
Now that you know these tips – go play game!