With exam time upon us, now is the time to make sure students give themselves every chance of doing well. These 10 Do’s and 10 Don’ts of exam technique are essential exam preparation tips that every Junior or Leaving Cert exam student should read.
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Studying and knowing the material is clearly essential, but taking an exam entails a lot more. Managing time, reading the question clearly, answering what’s actually being asked, and dealing with distractions are just some of the exam preparation tips your teen needs to know.
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Exam Preparation Tips: The Do’s
#1. Get Your Timings Right
One of the biggest challenges facing students every year is getting the timing right so that there is enough time to answer all questions needed. Come up with a clear time guide and write it on the front cover of your exam paper showing the actual time you should be starting each question. Then, in the middle of the exam you will be able to look at your watch and easily see how many questions you should have done at that time.
#2. Bring Everything You Need
It may sound simple but a lot of stress can be avoided by making sure you have everything you need to do the exam. Make a check list the night before each exam, then go through it before you leave home and again before entering the exam hall.
It’s a good idea to bring some snacks in to the exam hall. Bananas and cereal bars are good. Avoid bringing noisy foods such as crisps that will distract everyone else.
#3. Get the Basics Right
Okay, you’ve heard it a million times before but make sure you get the basics right. Read the questions carefully, underline key parts, and put your exam number on your answer booklet. Get familiar with the layout of the exam paper. Some papers are tricky and complicated instructions could throw you on the day. Know the meanings of the key question words.
#4. Read The Whole Paper Before Writing Anything
Don’t get stuck in straight away. Read the paper from start to finish at least once before you begin writing. There are often choices to be made within the exam, so planning before you start is the best idea.
#5. Do the Easiest Questions First
There is no reason to do the questions in the order they are printed in the exam. There are a couple of reasons for this: firstly, getting the first question done well will help calm you and get you focused for the rest of the exam.
Secondly, often you will get an easy question done quicker so you will be ahead of schedule form the start. It also means that by the end of the exam you will likely have more time to spend on the difficult questions.
#6. Jog Your Short-Term Memory
The night before the exam is not the time to be trying to get your head around new concepts. Instead, work on cramming keywords to jog your memory. Hopefully you will have distilled your notes into a couple of summary sheets. Go through these and try and tie the information together.
#7. Prepare Your Body
Two 3-hour exams a day, day after day, will leave you feeling drained both mentally and physically. You need to prepare your body as well as mind for a lot of activity.
Stuffing yourself with high sugar drinks and sweets will give a sugar rush, but then leave you completely out of energy by the middle of the exam. Instead, try to eat slow energy release foods such as bread, pasta, porridge and fruit.
#8. Ask the Invigilator
If you’re stuck on the meaning of a word or can’t understand what a question requires you to do, put your hand up and ask the invigilator who is supervising the exams. More often than not they’ll help you or point you in the right direction.
#9. Look at the Marking Scheme
Keep an eye out for the marking scheme that shows how many marks are being awarded for each part of a question. If there are only a small amount of marks going for a part of a question, refrain from giving it the majority of your time. Instead, allocate your time to give you longer for the parts with higher marks.
#10. If You’re Running Out of Time
If you find yourself with time for only one question but two questions are left to do, the best thing here is to do the first half of both questions. Often, you gain more marks in the first half of a question than at the end. Also, if time is tight, bullet points can be a great way of getting the information down as quickly as possible.
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Exam Preparation Tips: The Don’ts
#1. Don’t Panic
Easier said than done we know, but it’s important to try and keep level headed throughout the exam. One of the main reasons for stress at exam time is the lack of control. Students get stressed because they don’t know what is coming up.
One of the best things you can do to calm yourself is to visualise yourself in the exam hall. Reading the paper and picking out the questions you are going to do early on will help calm you, as it removes the stress caused by the unknown of what’s coming up.
#2. Don’t Worry About Being Penalised
Lots of students worry about making mistakes and worry about spelling words incorrectly. Remember, you’re being marked positively not negatively so everything you write is getting you marks.
#3. Don’t Leave Out Questions
From experience, the main reason students underperform in exams is not because they answer questions badly, but because they leave out questions. As a rule of thumb, every long question you leave out will drop you by a grade.
#4. Don’t Run Out of Time
Managing your time in the exam is vital if you are not to leave out questions. Your teacher will probably give you a breakdown of how much time to spend on each question.
A good trick is to write your question schedule with actual times onto the cover of your answer book while the papers are being handed out. This way, if you look at your watch and it’s say 11:10 you know exactly how much of your exam you should have done. Then, make sure you stick to your schedule – so many students run overtime perfecting answers maybe gaining five marks at the expense of not doing a whole 50-mark question.
#5. Don’t Be Tired
Staying up late the night before an exam is not a good idea. You’ll end up so tired in the exam you won’t be able to work anything out. Try and keep a regular sleep cycle so that you’re fully awake and ready to work when the exams start each morning.
#6. Don’t Get Stuck On a Question
If you get a particularly hard question, don’t sit there panicking about it. The best thing you can do is having a quick think about it, mark it with a highlighter and move on to another question.
The chances are that by the time you come back to it, your subconscious mind will have already set you up to make an attempt at it.
#7. Don’t Bother Looking Around the Exam Hall
One of the most common things students do, especially in exams they find difficult, is look around and try to see how their classmates are doing. There is really no point in doing this and it is likely that seeing others furiously writing away will only serve to stress you further. Concentrate on your own exam and try and keep your focus on your own paper.
#8. Don’t Dwell
Once you finish an exam don’t spend half the day worrying about what went wrong and how you could have improved it. Chatting to friends after every exam will only fill you with frustrating regrets. When you hand up your paper, forget about that subject. Your next focus is tomorrow’s exam.
#9. Don’t Leave an Exam Early
There is always something you can do to improve your answers. Read back over your work and make sure you’ve answered all parts of all questions. Try to read your answers as if you were the examiner and you were correcting someone else’s work. Remember, the changes you make in these last few minutes could bring you up a grade.
#10. Don’t Panic
This tip is so important we’ll say it again. If a really hard question or paper comes up it’s likely every other student in Ireland will find it hard too. Very often the marking scheme will be made easier for harder exams. Stay positive and give each exam your best.
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Is your teen following these exam preparation tips to get ready? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!