We are rapidly approaching the time of the year which is marked by high-stakes examinations for students in many countries. These exams are very important and often determine the future course of many students’ lives. I offer these 12 exam tips for students because good exam skills are vital and because a significant number of students either fail exams or get low grades as a result of poor exam skills or technique. Students, you can improve your exam skills! The tips given here have been recommended by many educational experts and practitioners over the years. My former students found them very useful. They are not exhaustive so feel free to add to them any other techniques that work for you.
1. Be prepared. Make sure you know the dates, times, and venues for all your exams. Be early and have all necessary equipment (pens, pencils, calculators if allowed, etc.) at hand.
2. Revise systematically. Start your revision early and space your sessions in order to reduce cramming. Revise in different ways: reading, repeating, writing summaries or notes and saying the information aloud to yourself or others. Test yourself verbally and in writing at regular intervals to keep the content fresh in your minds. Memorize important facts and make sure that you understand them. Use the study methods that work for you and take breaks to reduce fatigue.
3. Work on past exam papers for practice. Get hold of as many of them as possible.
4. Try predicting possible exam questions by checking past exam papers and listening closely to the topics that teachers emphasize.
5. Read the exam instructions very carefully when each question paper is handed to you. Some students fail exams because they either did not read properly or understand the instructions. You need to know exactly what is required of you.
6. Read the entire exam paper carefully before writing anything. Choose the questions you can answer best within the given parameters and plan your answer before you start doing each question. Pay attention to the marking scheme given.
7. On the basis of the number of questions you have to answer and the time given for each exam paper, work out how much time you can afford to spend on each question. When that time is up, move on to the next question.
8. Make sure that you clearly understand each question you do and that you can do it properly. Answer only what is asked. Do not give irrelevant information. Give evidence, explanations and examples in your answers whenever possible.
9. Do the easier questions first to save time. If you get stuck on a question, move on to the next one. Leave space to come back and finish that difficult question later.
10. Do not leave out any questions. Do at least a part of the difficult ones in order to maximize your marks.
11. You do not have to answer the questions in the correct numerical order, but make sure you number correctly each question you answer.
12. Read over your work carefully. Look for errors and omissions. Check everything and spend the remaining minutes seeking to get additional marks.
Some students have better exam skills than others and may perform better in some exams than otherwise competent peers who lack these skills. The 12 exam tips for students listed above will help any student to improve exam performance.