Getting good grades at high school isn’t easy — it takes a lot of work; a lot of time sitting at your desk putting in the hard yards; a lot of focus and determination.
BUT — what your teen needs to do when they’re IN THE ACTUAL EXAM, to get the most out of all of the hard work they have put in, is often simple.
In this instance we’re talking about an incredibly simple exam technique. Perhaps it’s because it’s so simple that it’s often overlooked. But you can make sure your teen knows all about it!
So what is this amazing exam technique?
It’s simply this: Reading or skimming through the exam paper BEFORE you write a single word. (We’ve mentioned this technique here before.)
Your teen is sitting at their exam desk, waiting for the exam adjudicator to give the much anticipated “You may begin” instruction as the clock strikes the hour. Feeling the time pressure, students often turn the page frantically to the first question, give it a cursory read and dive straight into their first answer.
But it’s that time pressure which is precisely why your teen needs to use their time as wisely as possible. Reading through the ENTIRE exam paper briefly before they write anything will allow them to do exactly that.
Why is this such an important thing to do?
It warms up your brain. We know that sounds like the least scientific statement ever, but hopefully you get what we mean. You wouldn’t want to start a high intensity workout without a warm up, and sitting an exam is no different. Skimming over your exam paper before you write anything will help you get into ‘exam mode’.
It helps you plan your time. This. Is. Crucial. How can you manage your time in an exam if you don’t know what’s in the exam? It would be like driving in the dark without your headlights on. You need to know what’s coming in order to plan. Your teen needs to know how many questions are ahead, and what TYPE of questions are ahead. Don’t let them make an all too common crucial error of not turning the page and missing a question at the end!
So you know what questions to answer first. Your teen should not necessarily answer their exam questions in the order they appear. To maximize the number of questions answered and the number of marks earned, we would always answer the questions we could answer relatively easily first, and come back to any questions we needed to think about. If your teen has skimmed through the exam paper at the beginning of the exam, they’ll know when they hit a hard question they’re not quite ready to answer that there’s an easier question over the page, so they can answer that first and then come back to the harder one.
Your teen’s brain will ‘warm up’ as the exam progresses, and they should find that they’re more easily able to answer the harder questions once they’re in the swing of the exam — once they’re ‘in the zone’. And while their brain has been ‘warming up’, they will have made the most of their precious time and answered the easier questions, thereby not missing out on ‘easy’ marks should they not finish the entire exam.
But won’t this take too much time?
If your teen is concerned that reading through their exam paper quickly will take up too much precious time, rest assured they should actually SAVE time by putting this technique to use. They should only need to spend a minute or so skimming over the questions, and this minute will save many more by making your teen prepared for what’s to come — because they’ll know how they need to allocate their time to each question.
We can’t overstate the efficacy of this simple exam technique enough.
When it comes to exam-day, the hard work is 99% behind you. Now that you’re sitting the exam, it’s about being smart. Getting the best grade possible requires you to use your time as wisely as possible, and reading over the exam questions before you start writing will allow you to do just that.