How do you write an exam?


TWO weeks ago, I shared with you my best way of studying effectively in mathematics and other subjects that I have taken on over the years. And that was given to me by a maths teacher decades ago.

Reviewing study techniques
In that last article I gave tips on how you can study for your examinations.
The best method to use to revise is to work with a pen and paper and summarise concepts that you have learnt.
Review lesson notes, text books, assignments, tests and past examination papers. (In mathematics, or science, like physics and chemistry, or economics and commerce, redoing problems on past test papers is good revision. The more problems you redo, the better.)
I also stated that from your lesson notes, you can write your summaries (or summary sheets) in a separate notebook. You can then revise from those notes.

Practice makes permanent
The phrase “practice makes permanent” is practical.
The more practice you put into your work well before the examination day prepares you better.
Preparation is vital in sports, as in writing examinations. Those who do not practise in top competitions have lost their game before they take the field.

Young children such as this boy can wear a hachimaki to show they are determined to do well in a hurdle before them, as in the form of an exam.

It helps to have a warrior’s mentality in such times. Soldiers going to war prepare – they are not just thrown into a battle with a gun. Japanese students are known to wear their hachimaki (headbands) into their examination rooms to show their determination to give their best.
The US Navy SEALs have a saying that goes: “The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in war.” The more time you spend in preparation, the less anxious you will be on exam day.

Get some physical exercise
While you are busy studying, do not forget to take the time to get some physical exercise too.
A light exercise of walking along a quiet stretch of road to put out some sweat is something you can do too, possibly for two days in your week.
It is advisable that you, as someone who wants to do well in your exam, must refrain from regular weekend sports and training. You cannot afford to play in such sports.
You need all the time to revise for your exam, which at this time is priority number one.

A good rest before exam day
Before examination day, have a good night’s rest. (You won’t need to stay up late if you studied well over the weeks before the exam.)
It is my view that proper study (using the best methods, as suggested in my articles) has already got you 70 per cent of the marks even before you attempt the questions in the exam papers.
When you walk into the examination room, be happy with what you are already sure about – not what you are unsure about.

Check for pen, ruler and other items
Make sure you have your pen, pencil, eraser, ruler and other items.
Maths students at higher levels will also need their protractor, compass and calculator for the exams.
Ensure that you have all that placed near your bed before your exam day so you do not have to search all over the house for them. Such preparations prevent those last-minute anxieties.

Tips for attempting the paper
Here are suggestions on how you can attempt an exam paper.
Reading time: In the 10 minutes reading time, browse through the questions and make a mental note of which questions are easy. (Actually, you can mark them with a pencil. Those are the ones you will do first.)
See how many parts there are – as in parts A, B and C – and how many marks each is worth.
Round 1: In starting, do the easier questions first. If you are unsure of a question, leave it; you can return to it in the second round. Do not spend all your time on part A and forget about the other two, or three, parts. Some students often spend all their time doing part A and miss out on gaining marks in the other parts.
Round 2: In the second round, attempt the questions that you did not do earlier. It is possible that a few of them would now be less difficult since your mind has gone to work and is finding its way around better. Also take a second look at questions that you have attempted already – in case there is a mistake.
Round 3: Then, there would be two or three questions that you will have problems over. For such questions, at least 15 minutes before the end of examination, write something – anything sensible. Make a guess. You may score one or two marks from a good guess. Never leave a question blank in the paper. Remember that.

Start with easier questions
Let me emphasise something here – something vital.
As mentioned in Round 1, do the easier questions first.
As soon as you get your paper and are given some reading time, mark with a pencil the questions that you think you can do first.
It may surprise you that some of the easier questions may be in the middle of the paper and back – not in front.
You do not have to necessarily work from question 1, then 2, 3 and 4 and 5 and so on. You might skip 1 and 2 and start with 3 and then skip 4 and do 5 and so on.
In Round 2, you come back and do the questions that you did not do.
Two months ago, some people did a STAT-P test, a type of aptitude test that prospecting students sit for to get a placing in some universities in our nation or abroad.
The test candidates were to complete 70 multiple choice questions and it was not an easy paper. However they were advised to complete the paper before the two hours’ time was up.
There was a lot of reading and interpretation of different charts made up parts of the test.
Fortunately, some completed all the questions in the given time by doing what I just shared with you.
They started on the easier questions and later got to the harder ones when they had time. Sadly, many others who sat for the same test did not complete the questions because they did what I am urging you not to do.
Do not start with the harder questions, start with the easier ones.
As you complete those easier ones, your brain will start to work and later if you get to those that seemed difficult at first, you can make some sense of those and attempt them.
It is an exam technique that many students do not use and consequently they do not do so well in their exams.

Avoid last-minute cramming
If you are organised, which means, preparing good summary sheets weeks before exam day, as well as filing your papers neatly in clear folders and reviewing those papers regularly, you will not stay up late to do last-minute cramming.
Last-minute cramming is what unorganised people and students who are unprepared do. Avoid such a bad habit by preparing in advance.
Before your exam day, ensure that you have a good sleep. Do not stay up late revising.
If you sleep early, you can wake up an hour or so earlier and do a quick revision before you have your breakfast and leave for the exam room.
Next week: Making choices for further education

  • Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer.

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