1. Read to succeed
Although it may seem crazy to you, there is some logic behind those 10-15 minutes of allocated reading time in exams: to ensure that you actually read the question properly. This may sound simple but it’s surprising how many students launch vigorously into writing their responses only to realise halfway through that they’re not actually answering the question asked of them. So, read the question once, twice and thrice to make sure you’ve fully understood what is being asked of you. Whilst you may not necessarily need to use all of the allocated time, setting aside a few minutes at the beginning of the exam to read and plan will reap rewards in the long run. You’ll thank yourself later.
2. Hell no yes H₂O!
You’ve opened the exam paper, you’ve looked at the questions and you’ve come to the conclusion that there is no way on earth you will even be able to attempt answering any of them. Or at least that’s what you’re thinking in your panicked state. If you find yourself getting flustered at this stage, sit back for a moment, take a deep breath and a sip of water. Water can not only help calm and cool you down, it also helps keep you hydrated, which should lead to you making better, more measured decisions. And don’t forget to keep sipping throughout the exam, regardless of how pressed for time you feel. Likewise, for long exams, taking in a small snack can be a good idea, both to stave off hunger and to maintain concentration and focus. We recommend eating something like oatcakes or nuts, which should also help to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Obviously, check with your provider if food is permitted in the exam hall first – we don’t want you to get in trouble before you even begin!
3. Bullet points
Sometimes, despite meticulous planning, timings still go unexpectedly awry. Suddenly, out of the blue comes that dreaded announcement that there are only ten minutes remaining and you haven’t even managed to impart all the knowledge you’ve acquired over months of scrupulous revision. Instead of illegibly scribbling away until the bitter end, leading to a veritable tug of war over your exam paper with a stern invigilator, stop and think about the most important points you want to get across in this short space of time. Jot down a few concise bullet points which succinctly set out any information you haven't had the chance to write down in full. The examiner should be able to see in which direction you were planning to take your answer and it may even earn you an extra mark or two.
4. 1,2,3, relax
We know you might have another assessment the next morning and we would certainly never advocate that you do not devote sufficient time to all of your subjects, but be sure to give yourself at least a couple of hours off revision after an exam. Do something relaxing like watching a TV programme, reading a book or meeting up with a friend to talk about anything other than work. This way you will go back to your revision with a clearer mind and more ready to tackle the next load of work. Of course, if you have just finished your final exam, feel free to ignore all this advice and celebrate to your heart’s content!
Finally, good luck with all your exams!