How to Sit Examinations

Many students have never learned how to sit for examinations. Many schools no longer conduct examinations, or very few, and students never learn how to do their best. Often, they will come from the examination room and wonder why they answered the paper as they did, and think of a lot of things they should have written.

Here are some basic rules for sitting examinations.

  1. Read the paper through first. Often students are told to do this but are not told why.
    • a It helps you calm down and put you in a good frame of mind.
    • b Often, later questions will suggest answers to earlier questions.
    • c If you have already read the paper through, while you are answering an early question, the answer to a later question will come to mind. (Make an immediate note on your paper.)
    • d Your subconscious mind will often work on the other questions while you are working on something else.

  2. Answer the easy questions first. That way you get the points for what you know early on in the examination. Often, a student will work on a difficult question, and spend so much time with the answer that he or she has no time to answer the easy question that might make the difference between a pass and a fail. Again, the answer to some difficult question can come to mind while you are answering an easy question, and you are not just sitting there, straining your brain to come up with the answer. You are not losing any time.

  3. Make sure you understand the questions. It can be very easy to give an answer you are pleased with that doesn't answer what you are being asked. If you are in any doubt as to what the question means, or the answer they want because the question seems ambiguous, ask the instructor if possible, or write on the paper, this is how you understand the question. Make a note that if the question has a secondary meaning, here is your answer in note form.

  4. Leave a question half answered if you get bogged down. Make notes on your test paper of anything you intend to write, and then come back to it later if you have time. If you don't answer the question later, you may still get marks for your notes outline.

  5. Don't waste time padding answers. Markers/teachers usually have strict guidelines for how they allocate marks.

  6. If you have time, read the paper through again when you have finished. Make sure you have answered the actual question, not what you thought the question said.

  7. Make sure you have at least two of everything you need in the examination, pens pencils, erasers etc. If you need a calculator, take two if possible, because you will lose time if you have to ask for a replacement, and working with a strange, unfamiliar calculator can affect your results.

  8. Time yourself. Give yourself time for each question or section of the paper. Often, the people who set the paper will have estimated times written. Work to these estimates as much as possible so you will have time for as much of the paper as possible.

Copyright 1996, Learning Unlimited Australia Pty Ltd - all rights reserved


These notes are written as a preliminary. If you would like to add a suggestion, please e-mail us and we will include it in our next update.

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