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Good grades are won and lost in the way students approach the actual sitting of the exam.

Obviously it’s the hard work put in before exams that counts the most, but it would be a huge mistake for your teen to not appreciate how important having an in-exam strategy is.

Today I’m talking about the 3 most important things to do in an exam to ensure your teen gets the most out of their exam time.

1. Make the most of your reading time

Most exams allow for about 15 minutes of reading time before the exam actually starts. This time is not 15 minutes of leisure time, it’s 15 minutes that can make or break your teen’s exam results.

This time is invaluable.

It allows your teen to read over the exam, get an idea of its length and format, and sometimes they might even be able to start jotting points down on scrap paper.

The most important thing for your teen to do FIRST, is to skim read the whole exam. Don’t let them underestimate how important this is.

It’s crucial that your teen does this so they know how long the exam is before they start writing.

Some exams will allow your teen to write on scrap paper before writing time starts. If they’re only allowed to read, then just make sure they read as much of the exam as possible, and that they start to think about their answers.

If the exam involves essay writing and they’re allowed to write during reading time, your teen can start jotting down points for their essay paragraphs. For any other type of question they can jot down relevant points and think about how they want to answer it. I used to find it really helpful to write down anything hard to remember, such as dates, peoples’ names, and statistics. This took away the stress of having to remember these things during the exam.

2. Stick to your time schedule

Students who get good grades don’t only know their stuff, they time-manage their exams too.

One of the biggest mistakes your teen can make is to spend more than the allocated time on one question and consequently run out of time on another. At the end of the day, what counts is the overall grade your teen gets for the subject. There aren’t any prizes for answering one question incredibly well when you fail to answer five other questions worth just as many marks. Your teen MUST plan their exam time, and stick to this schedule.

3. Take a moment – and breathe…

Being in an exam room is a high stress environment. All of the work your teen has put in leading up to it depends on the next few hours, and there’s usually a huge time pressure.

This pressure-cooker environment can play funny tricks on your mind. About an hour after my last exam a couple of weeks ago, I realised that I forgot to include something really, really obvious in an essay. It was a point that I knew really well. There was no reason for me to forget it in the exam.

The exam environment can also make you include irrelevant information. Getting good grades is about quality, not quantity, so it’s equally important that your teen doesn’t waffle on about something that’s not relevant. They should ask themselves before they launch into something, “do I actually need to write that?”

My point is, it’s really important for your teen to take a moment before they start writing their answers, because if they don’t, they might end up forgetting to include something really important, or they might waste 10 crucial minutes waffling on about something totally pointless. There are no points for effort in an exam.

Your teen will do themselves a huge favour if they stop writing for a few seconds – take a deep breath – and think about what they’re doing.

Image Credit: dcJohn on Flickr


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