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Exam Techniques for High School Students

March 4, 2013

Best exam techniques to use in high school exams

Especially for standard exams and tests, using good exam techniques can make the difference between getting an A or a B or getting a pass or a fail. While it is important to remember that exams are not the end of the world, good exam techniques will make exams less of a burden to students.

What are exams for?

Exams determine how well you have learned a subject or topic from what you have been taught at high school. They test how you apply ideas and facts to the questions in the exam paper. Doing well in exams often shows that you have understood the subject or topic and that you have remembered what you have been taught. In order to do well in exams, you need to develop good study skills – they include all the skills listed on the right of this article (the Teen Study Skills table), from memory and concentration skills to note taking, time management and organization skills. Good exam techniques are therefore the icing on the cake.

Best exam techniques

Studying for the exam:

  • Practice on past exam papers. Along with all the other study tips provided in the other sections of this Teen Study Guide, one highly effective technique for doing well in the exam is to practice on past papers.
  • Analyse past papers. Predict questions which will be coming out in the exam.
  • Prepare an answer structure. For extended response questions, preparing an answer structure ahead will help save you time thinking about what to write in the opening and closing paragraphs of the answer. BE CAREFUL – you must still read the exam question and answer the question. Do not be tempted to regurgitate what you have memorized as your prepared content may not actually answer the question appropriately.

Before the exam:

  • Be prepared. Pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, calculators and any other items required for the exam must be ready at least the night before the exam.
  • Sleep early. Cramming the night before for exams is not an ideal way to study. A good sleep is.
  • Have a good breakfast. A healthy and good breakfast keeps hunger pangs away, especially if the exams take the whole morning or afternoon to complete.

During the exam:

  • Read the instructions. Do not start writing straightaway.
  • Schedule how long you should take for each section of the exam paper. Read briefly the whole exam paper and plan your time.
  • Jot down information and thoughts at the side of the exam paper or on a spare sheet of paper that come to you when you are answering a question. Otherwise, you may have forgotten the thought when you are actually answering the question to which the thought relates.
  • Do not leave questions unanswered. You can only be marked for attempted questions.
  • Use short form or bullet points if you are running out of time. Unless you are doing a multiple choice exam, your writing should be legible and answers should be completed in paragraph form as far as possible. However, if you are running out of time, bullet points will gain you more marks than leaving the answer blank.
  • Do not set your pen down until the time comes for you to stop writing. If all questions have been answered, review your answers, check for mistakes and add more information in the answer.

After the exam

Do not think about your answers. Focus on the next exam or assignment.

When you receive your marks and find out that you did worse than you thought you would have, that is the time you need to go through your answers to find out why you did badly. Compare your answers with your friends or classmates who have done well, what did they write that you did not. Ask your teacher about your answers.

Finally, always check that your marks have been tallied correctly.