When exams are looming it’s easy to get caught up in the exam preparation side of things and completely forget about planning your time in the exam.
That’s right – your teen needs to sort out an in-exam strategy too.
Not doing so can be the difference between scraping a pass and absolutely nailing it.
Your teen needs to have an exam plan.
A plan for how your teen spends their exam time will:
- Mentally prepare them for sitting the exam beforehand
- Make sure they spend their time in the right places
- Maximize their marks!
Let’s use the average English exam as an example…
Most English exams involve writing essays – possibly four or five of them in three hours!
For a five essay exam this would give you 36 minutes per essay.
But if one of the essays is worth more than the others, you don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to realize that more time needs be spent answering this essay than on the rest.
Let’s say three out of the five essays have a greater weighting than the other two. Hypothetically your teen should spend, say, 40 minutes on each of the three longer essays and half an hour each on the two shorter ones.
[On top of this, every decent essay always starts with a five minute essay plan.]
But things don’t always go according to plan…
Your teen may encounter trouble with a particular essay and find their 40 minutes goes by far too quickly! Maybe the essay question is a bit curly or they’re having a bit of a brain freeze.
We know it’s hard, but they’ve got to move on.
Leave the essay as it is – move on to the next one – and come back to it later.
Your teen might find the next essay they write is quick and easy, and also helps generate ideas for the one they skipped! But only once they’ve finished the other essays should they go back and have a second attempt.
The repercussions of not sticking to their exam plan can be disastrous…
If your teen carries on with the essay they’re struggling with, they will very likely compromise at least one other essay as well. So instead of perhaps not getting a fantastic grade for one essay, now they’re putting at least two in the firing line.
It will take a bit of will power, but it’s much better to count your losses with one essay (or question) and soldier on.
Good exam-takers know this and have no qualms with leaving a question unfinished. They know they can come back to it later when their brain has done it’s ‘stretches’.
What about other types of exams?
The same principles apply to other subjects.
Your teen needs to find out what the format of their exams are BEFORE exam day so they can make an exam plan and figure out how much time they need to allocate to each section/essay/topic.
In New Zealand high schools each subject is broken up into different topics called Achievement Standards.
This is how we’d break down a Level 2 physics exam:
So as with the hypothetical English exam described earlier, it would be crucial to work out the different weighting of each standard BEFORE the exam.
For multi-choice exams…
We suggest your teen has a time plan for these too.
It’s really simple – all they need to do is work out how much time they should allocate to each question by dividing the number of minutes by the number of questions.
Then during the exam they should have time checks every, say, 20 or so questions to make sure they’re on track.
At 30 minutes I should have done 20 questions, 1 hour I should have completed 40, etc
The final word
We can’t stress this enough – if your teen gets really stuck on a particular question, they need to move on and plan to come back to it later.
Feeling stuck on one topic or one question is only going to make your teen stressed and frazzled, and take very precious time away from further questions.
Image Credit: US Navy Imagery on Flickr