Welcome to Part 2 of the “Simple Tips for Exam Success” blog. In Part 1 we outlined some tips and advice to follow during the upcoming weeks  on how you can prepare for exams. In this blog, part 2, we will be focussing more on how you can stay focussed during the exam as well as remembering why you shouldn’t dwell and panic once the exam is over. 

So, you’ve done all the study and pre exam preparation that you possible can and now its the morning of the exam. The alarm goes off and you feel ready. So, what happens now?

During Exams

The morning of the exam be sure to eat a good breakfast. This is the fuel that’s going to carry you through to the finish line of this exam paper. If like me, you can’t eat first thing in the morning bring something with you to eat on the bus or a little while before the exam like some breakfast biscuits and a banana. You don’t want to be distracted (or distract others) with grumbly belly sounds as well as the fact that you won’t be able to concentrate on the exam.

Make sure you know the layout of the exam paper before you enter the exam hall. This is something you should be really familiar with anyway but its no harm ensuring you know exactly what questions to answer and how much time you should spend answering each question too. Bring a watch into the exam hall with you so you can carefully keep an eye on the time.

Go to the toilet before you enter the exam hall. Some exams can be as long as almost 3.5 hours and even though this seems like a huge amount of time, when you’re only half way through the answer and see you only have 5 more minutes remaining, you’ll need all the time you can get. Try and avoid having to go to the toilet during an exam by going before hand but if you need to go you gotta go!

When you first receive your exam paper make sure and take 5 minutes to read the instructions and questions carefully. Highlight key words so you can easily differentiate between list, outline and explain. Mark what questions you are going to answer and jot down any immediate points that come to mind on what should be included in the answer. You should also determine what order you are going to complete the questions – this may depend on how confident you are in answering the question, the time required in answering etc. Its up to you but make sure and have a plan in place.

If for some reason you have a brain fart in the exam and think you have forgot everything, don’t panic, you haven’t forgot everything. The worst thing you can do is write nothing. Read the question and note the topics it covers. On the paper (not the exam booklet) jot down any words or phrases you can think of relevant to the topic and soon you will discover a flow of information coming back into your head. Now you have a glossary of terms to include and you can structure a great answer. Even if some of the information is irrelevant, you’re more likely to pick up attempt marks for trying rather than ignoring the question.

Try and write as neatly as possible so whoever is correcting your exam can give you as much marks as possible. Its also a great idea to allow some time (if you can) to proofread your answer to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything important. In exam situations our minds are racing and its so easy to over see or forget an important point. In exams, I found that my mind went 10x faster than my hands could write, so jotting down key terms and phrases on my exam paper as they came to mind (even if it was for a different question) helped me remember crucial information and include it in my answer.

After the Exam

Phew! Its done, handed up and you’ve done all you can at this point, there is no going back.

My only advice after you sit an exam is to NOT discuss it in depth with friends and classmates afterwards.

Me – “What did you put down for Q.5?”

Everyone replies “ Oh I got the answer 345, how about you?”

Me – “…. I answered the Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell”

Disaster! Now you’re worrying when in reality you could just as well be right and everyone else wrong. So, my advice is to just say the exam went well and then move on and change the subject.

We are all talented, skilled and will be successful in our own individual way. Imagine if animals entering the zoo were all judged by their ability to climb a tree? There wouldn’t be many elephants, seals, zebras or anything other than the monkey really would there? 

Another thing to remember is that at the end of the day, its just an exam. Is it the most important thing you’re doing at the moment? Yes, probably. Is it going to ruin your life and all possibilities of a successful future if you don’t do as well as you had hope? Absolutely not. Always look towards the bigger picture.

Albert Einstein was expelled from school. Richard Branson left school at 16. Steven Spielberg was rejected from Film School. There is no one path to your success so just keep that in mind. Everything happens for a reason so when it comes to exams, school and life in general – live it, love it and learn from it.