General Exam Strategies

Conquering Exams: Strategies and Skills

  • Practical Preparations – Check the time and venue of the exam and figure out how to get there in good time; have the necessary equipment ready (e.g. watch, pens, etc.)
  • Emotional Preparations – Mentally rehearse how to tackle the exam as a whole & review your strategies for dealing with anxiety . Consider what might also help: for example, staying away from crowds gathering outside exam halls.
  • Memory Considerations – Systematically review your revision notes the night before or the morning of the exam – don’t attempt to learn complex new material at this late stage! Capitalize on short-term memory by glancing at your “difficult” cue cards just before entering the exam hall – then try reproducing them immediately when you are allowed to start.

Exam Skills 

Read the exam paper carefully – underline key words and instructions.

Don’t panic — if you feel unable to answer any of the questions at this stage it is likely due to a surge in anxiety!

  • Note how many questions you are required to answer and if any are compulsory – the format may have changed from previous years.
  • Tick the questions you intend to answer. Make a rough timetable, allocating equal time to equally weighted questions – and allow for about 15 minutes of “planning” and 10 minutes of “finishing off” time overall for a typical 3 hour exam.
  • Avoid getting demoralized at the start! Answer the easiest question first and save the most difficult one for last. Attempt all the questions required — usually the first 50% of marks for any question are easier to obtain than the next 50%.
  • Watch the wording of the questions – answering a question that wasn’t asked means no marks, no matter how thoughtful your answer was!
  • Jot down key ideas that emerge about any of the questions and use them for “planning” an answer. This might show the examiner what you had in mind in case you run out of time.
  • Save the last 5-10 minutes for “finishing touches” – crossing out unwanted script, ensuring that questions are clearly numbered and that all answer books have your identification number.