How to Tackle an Exam
Ever wondered how you are going to have to actually fill out an exam, now that you have studied for it? Well, here is a guide to help you tackle your exam.
Page Through the Exam
The first thing you have to do is to page through your exam. This is incredibly useful to calm your nerves, and in making sure that you won’t forget to fill out an entire page. At the same time it ensures that you can think about the more difficult questions ahead, while filling out the easier ones.
You simply look at each page, and read the questions or instructions. If you want, you can also use a pencil to write down the keywords or formulas that you’ll need to answer that question. Also be sure to mark those questions that you think will take you a long time, or the question that have the most points counting on them. All of this will help you in filling out the entire exam, without loosing too much time on smaller and less important questions.
Put you Name on Every Page
This probably sound weird and too obvious, yet a lot of people forget to do this, even when professors or teachers specify it. So don’t skip this step!
Start with the Easier Questions
By starting with the easiest questions on the exam, you’ll get a large part of the exam filled out quickly. On top of that, it’ll calm your nerves a bit, by actually filling out a big part of the exam. You can’t come up with the correct answer straight away? Then write your thoughts down with a pencil and put a cross before the question, to remind yourself that you have to take a second look at it later on. An extra advantage that sometime occurs from having done the first step and doing all the easier questions, is that you might actually come across something that will help you with the more difficult ones. You would be suprised by how often I have used others questions of an exam to find the answer for another.
Take on the Difficult or Long Question(s)
After you have filled out all the questions that you knew at first glance, it is time to go for the bigger ones. Most of the time, this will be an essay question. They are quite hard to tackle, if you don’t have a good strategy. Make sure to split up the question if it contains subquestions, because it is easy to forget one of those. Here are the steps you have to go through to write a good essay answer. The majority of these steps will create a mess, but that’s okay, just use pencil.
Step 1: Write down your Keywords
Write down all the words you can think of, that might have something to do with the question. Often you’ll have too much words, and there are probably lacking a few too.
Step 2: Group your Keywords
The next step is to group your keywords by subject or topic. For example in literature, it would be smart to group the authors of a certain time period together with the keywords of the time period.
Step 3: Find the Connections
Then map out the connections between the keywords belonging to the same group. I would suggest taking a pencil and just drawing connecting lines. If you suddenly think of a connection between two keywords that don’t belong to the same group, then you should just connect those two too.
Step 4: Decide your Order
After these first three steps, you’ll probably have an idea of how you want to write it all down. But a crucial step that you should never forget, is to order your topics. This order should be logical, for example: chronological, possitives – negatives, cause – effect, etc. Simply write down this order of the topics by putting the corresponding number before your created groups from step 2.
Step 5: Follow your Schedule
After following these first 4 steps, you should have a rough draft of what you are going to write. Some like to write an actual first draft of their essay. It’s not something I do, because I don’t have the patience. But if you can, do it. If you write it down for real straight away, you have to remember your structure. Use paragraphs to make your subtopics (groups from step 2) clear. And don’t forget to write the entire ‘body’ of your essay down, but leave a few lines open at the top for your introduction.
Step 6: Finish it Off
After you have written the most important part, you should go through you paper and use a pencil to circle the most important words. This way, you can check whether you didn’t forget anything, and whether your answer is coherent. After having done all of this, you should write your introduction, which doesn’t have to be long. Sometimes two sentences are enough. And you should also write a short conclusion to signal that the essay is finished. Important to remember, is that you should stay on topic in you introduction and conclusion. Write about what is in the essay. Don’t write some vague philosophical stuff, just because it sounds nice.
Step 7: Read Through it One Last Time
This is the very last step: You have to read through it thoroughly to take out any possible mistakes or spelling errors. And to check whether what you’ve written is correct.
Page Through the Exam One More Time
After you have filled out all, or the majority of, your quesions, you should page through the exam a couple of times. This way you will remember the questions that you’ve marked as having to take a second look at. Don’t expect to suddenly find the answer the second time around. It will take you a few read throughs to fill out the entire exam, and if they don’t take off extra points for wrong answers, just guess. You should also look at your other answers, just to check that they are correct. Another important thing to do is to read every question again and mark all the subquestions, to check whether you haven’t fogotten about one.
After you do all of this, you should have your exam finished and ready to hand in. And if you aren’t specifically asked to wipe out pencil marks, then let them be. I’ve even once received points for something that I had written down in pencil in the margin of the exam!
If you are wondering how you should even start studying for an exam, then take a look at our article on how to prepare for you exams.
Good luck with the exams, and let us know in the comments whether the article was useful to you.