Examinations are a natural part of learning, and an efficient way of assessing how well you have mastered a particular subject. Many people, however, are afraid of them.
The truth is, if you are well prepared, exams really aren’t that scary. In fact, with proper study habits and strategies, they can even be a breeze.
Here are seven tips for you to score in your tests with minimal stress.
1. Past-year papers are your best friend
Do as much of these as possible. Not only do past-year papers test your knowledge and answering ability, you can identify popular topics and common question styles through them.
Time yourself when attempting these, in conditions as similar to actual exams as possible.
A note: do check that there have not been any major changes to the exam syllabus or format recently. Focus on the papers most similar to what you will be experiencing.
2. Find your study style
Should you study in the morning or late at night? With music on or in silence? Go it alone, or join a study group?
There is no single path to effective studying; the trick is to discover what works for you. Some people are visual learners, some prefer sounds, while others learn best through hands-on practice.
Start revising early, and experiment with a few study styles if necessary. Find the one you like best, and practise it consistently.
3. Don’t ‘study last minute’
Malaysians infamously save everything for the last minute, but don’t do this when it comes to your exams.
Start studying as early as you can. Last-minute cramming rarely works and usually leaves you sleepy and disoriented the next day.
4. Be well prepared
This doesn’t just refer to studying – be absolutely certain you know the time of your exam, and where it will be held. Confirm you will be able to get there successfully.
If you are driving, make sure your car is fuelled up. Do you know the directions to your exam hall?
Get enough sleep the night before, have a good (but not too heavy!) meal, and make sure you are properly hydrated. Check that you have not forgotten your exam slip, IC, calculator, or anything else you may need.
Unexpected mishaps can lead to panic, which could affect your exam performance.
5. Manage your time
One of the most challenging things about an exam is the ticking clock. You only have a limited time to answer everything.
At the start, quickly estimate how much time you have for each question. A two-hour exam with four essays, for instance, means you have about 30 minutes for each essay.
Longer questions or those with more marks should be allocated more time.
6. Tackle easy questions first
One recommended exam technique is to go through the paper once before answering anything. Identify all the questions you know you can do, even the 1- or 2-mark ones. Finish these as soon as possible.
Doing this also builds up your confidence, which will be very useful for the rest of the paper.
If you come across a question that is particularly difficult, put it aside for a while, and come back to it after you have attempted the others.
7. Read instructions properly
This is a problem rooted in overconfidence: students skim through the questions, pick a topic, then regurgitate everything they know about it, unconcerned about whether they are actually providing what’s required or not.
Before writing down any answers, make sure you have read through the instructions thoroughly and have completely understood them. Underline important words if necessary.
Answering a question badly or incompletely might still earn you a mark or two, but completely irrelevant responses usually get you nothing.
For all those about to take exams soon: we wish you all the best! Be well prepared and you will probably ace them!