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Four tips to improve your exam technique

Four tips to improve your exam techniqueGood exam technique helps to make sure your hard work gets recognized. Try these simple tips to get the best result you can.

Know how it's marked

It's important to know how an exam is marked, so you don't focus your efforts in the wrong place. In many cases, there is a simple rule for about how long you should spend on each question, such as 'one minute per mark'.

This doesn't just mean preparing beforehand, although that is important. Before the exam starts, you'll usually have time to read the instructions on the front, so use it.

Look through the paper first

Make sure you look through the paper and read all the instructions. This helps in a few different ways:

  • You won't be caught out by a big question at the end that you weren't expecting and haven't left enough time for
  • You can plan your time better - for example, getting questions you can do easily out of the way early
  • In essay-based exams, there might be some material that you could use in more than one place, so you need to plan how to get the most out of your knowledge.

Don't get stuck

If you're not getting anywhere with a question, don't waste time trying to crack it when you've got lots more to do. Leaving it and going back later doesn't just avoid missing marks elsewhere: sometimes, you'll find the question makes more sense when you look at it again after working on something else.

If you do this, make a note of the question you skipped so you don't forget to go back to it.

Don't stop early

Most people want to spend as little time as possible in exams, but if you finish early, don't be tempted to stop working. When you're checking your own work, it's very easy to miss mistakes, because you already know what you meant to write - so keep checking. You can use more than one technique to be extra sure. For example, in a maths exam as well as checking your working out you could try to solve a question in a different way, or work through it backwards, and check that the answers agree.