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How to Make the Best Use of Time in Examinations (2)

In the first part of the series, we considered the first 3 points, these being:

1. Have a Strategy

2. Do questions you have the most clue about

3. Work out timescales

Read More: How to Make the Best Use of Time in Examinations (1)

Let us now consider the last 4

4. Do the Easiest Questions First

There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to do the questions in the order they are printed in the exam.  I would recommend doing the easiest one(s) first.There are two reasons for this. 

Firstly, getting one question safely under your belt at the start of an exam is a wonderful boost to confidence, and can help reduce any feelings of panic that might arise when looking at the harder questions.

The second reason is that the easiest question is likely to take less time than the average.  That means you will be ahead of schedule from the start – another good confidence boost.  It also means that when you get round to the most difficult question, you are free to spend all the time you have left on it, without having to drop it half-way through and come back to it later.

5. Don’t Get Stuck. Move On

 If you get stuck on a question, move on.  Start doing another one.  Staring at a question you don’t know how to answer is a waste of time, and you would be amazed how often, when coming back to a question after half-an-hour, it suddenly becomes clearer.

If your answer to “how high is the radio tower” is 350km, then you are certainly wrong (because the tallest building in the world is only about 830m!). Even if you don’t have time to go back and find the mistake, at least write something to indicate that you know it’s wrong.  You might get some credit for that.

6. When You are Running Out of Time

Suppose you have got time left to do only one question, but you have two questions left to do.  Which one do you choose?  The way to maximise your marks is to do the first half of both of them.  You gain marks faster at the start of a question than at the end.

If you don’t have time to write sentences, but you know what to do, then just write bullet points.  If you don’t have time to do the calculations, write and explain what calculations you would do.  You can get marks for method.

7. Never Leave an Exam Early

The only possible excuse for this is when you are absolutely sure that you have got 100%, and that should never happen.  There is always something you can do to improve your paper.  Check, and check again.  When you’ve finished, start back at the beginning, and try to do the questions in different ways, and check they agree. Add more explanations (always leave a little margin between questions for this possibility)

If you’ve got time left at the end, try remembering the mnemonic: ACUTE

Assumptions (have you explained them all, even when not explicitly asked.)
Calculations (have you checked them all – doing things different ways if possible and time permits. Did you press those calculator buttons right?  Do the answers to different parts of the question agree?  Check, and check again.)
Units (have you written the units you are using?  Do the units for all formulae make sense and agree?)
Truth (have you done all the parts of all the sections in the questions?  If asked to make a list and explain why, don’t just make a list.  This is probably the biggest cause of unnecessary lost marks – read the question and answer the question, the whole question, and nothing but the question.  Just like the truth in a court of law.)
Explanations (have I explained what I’m doing at all stages – good explanations will get marks for method even if the answer is wrong; miss out the explanation and you’re throwing away easy method marks.)

So, I expect you to instead say “I totally nailed that exam, with even enough spare time for corrections!” Well, one can only hope!!

Source: An Examiner’s View on Examinations

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