How To Manage Your Time on Exam Day
Invariably there are a few things that may happen to you on the day of the exam – having a sore hand, getting the “fear”, or squeezing in the last few sentences while the invigilator is watching over you!
But there are a number of things that you can put in place to best manage your time on exam day;
1. Location, Location, Location
You must know EXACTLY where your exam is and WHEN. Ensure you arrive at the exam hall in plenty of time.
2. Know what you’re up against before you go in
Do you know the structure of exam? How many sections? How many questions? What questions are compulsory? How long is the exam?
So understand the logistics so you’re prepared on the day and the structure of the exam paper. I’m amazed at how infrequently this is done! PAST PAPERS, PAST PAPERS, PAST PAPERS!!!
If you go blank in the exam hall, read the instructions again or maybe even check with the invigilator – and don’t leap in without being absolutely sure of what to do!
3. Practice writing quickly
Getting your writing speed up while keeping your handwriting legible, is well worth the effort. If you don’t do practice papers before an exam, you might be surprised at how difficult it is to write quickly and legibly. Messy handwriting is a very good way to annoy the person marking your paper before they’ve even started; but equally, you don’t want to undersell yourself by not finishing your answer. Anytime you do a past paper in preparation for the exam time it really strictly – work out a way to write quickly and neatly so that you don’t waste your first exam cracking this. This might sound like overkill, but pens make a huge difference so practice with a pen you find comfortable!
4. Divide your time
Before an exam, when you’re double- and triple-checking how many and what sort of questions you’ve got to do, make a plan of how long you’re going to spend on each question. Students who do well in exams always know how they’re going to approach a paper, and how to portion out their time so that they don’t run out.
So say you face a 3 hour exam worth 100 marks – that’s 1.8 minutes a mark. So take off 30 minutes at the start (for reading/ brainstorming/ planning) and 30 minutes at end for “anything else” (see below)…… that gives 2 hours which is 1.2 minutes per mark. Use this allocation and write the time allowed at each stage of the question where the marks are given. YOU MUST STICK TO THESE TIMES, ANY LONGER THAN THIS…… MOVE ON!
Crucially, whatever your plan is, you must stick to it religiously. It’s always incredibly tempting to give yourself just another few minutes to try and squeeze one last point into your conclusion, but resist, because a rushed final answer will probably do more damage than an excellent first one can make up for. ATTEMPT ALL QUESTIONS – You get more marks/credit in the earlier part of answering the question!
5. Read the question!
In most exams these days, you’ll have to select to answer one or two from a range of questions. Before you leap in, take a deep breath and read every question carefully and once you’ve chosen a question: MAKE SURE YOU READ IT PROPERLY. The difference between taking five seconds to read the question and half a minute is not that big. The difference in your answer will be huge…
6. Plan long answers
As I’m sure you’ve been told a million times before, plan your long answers or essay questions, because this will enable you to write quickly and confidently, and construct better answers. Use the 30 mins reading time at the start of the exam to brainstorm your ideas on the exam paper, use this as a checklist to cover all the main issues and points.
7. Don’t waste your time
Wasting time on less important areas is pointless when you’re against the clock. Stick with the big issues. Mention minor detail in passing and move on – STICK TO YOUR TIME.
8. When short on time, do a mind dump/use BULLET POINTS
Briefly list the points you would have made and give short examples if you can. Expand on as much as you can until the exam’s over. You may not have produced a fully formed answer, but that list should gain you some extra credit.
9. The final “30 minutes for anything else”
This will provide you with more confidence in tackling any problems encountered. Give yourself the FINAL 30 MINS before the exam ends to make sure you’re happy with what you’ve written and resist the temptation to leave the exam hall. You’ll never get it back, but you will have endless time to waste after you’re done.
Read over the answers when you’re done, check your spelling and rewrite any illegible, hastily-scrawled words. Even if you don’t change anything, you’ll feel better having checked. And if you do change something, you’ll be happy you spotted it – BUT DO NOT MAKE WHOLESALE CHANGES.