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So you have an exam tomorrow...?

Getting it right on the day
Getting it right on the day
Originally published 21 May 2003

You have done the revision and you are feeling relaxed and ready to face the exam. To make sure you get the most out of all your effort and achieve the results you need here are some exam tips that may help you avoid the obvious, and not so obvious, pitfalls on the day.

Preparing for the day of the exam...

Check the details of time and place. If you have not been to that building before why not make a visit and check out the exam room and the loos.

Understand the administration and format for the exam. Are there going to be different sections? How many questions from each section must you do?

Check your equipment. Make sure that anything you are allowed to take in is ready and free from any 'cribbing'.

Work out how much time you have for reading. Identify when you should be moving on to the next question.

Do what you can to ensure you are at peak performance for the exam:

  • eating properly
  • appropriate exercise
  • a good night's sleep

All of these will all help you get in shape for the challenge.

On the day...

Last minute cramming is not helpful but you may want to 'warm up' the brain so that you are thinking about the subject before you go into the exam. Flicking through cards and notes will help you to do this.

Arrive in plenty of time but avoid speaking with others about what you have or haven't done.

When you get your paper read the instructions very carefully.

Read the questions thoroughly and ask yourself 'what do I need to know in order to answer it well?' Choose your questions.

What order you do them in depends on you. Some people do their best question first as this boosts their confidence. Others prefer to do their best question second when they have warmed up.

Planning your answer before hand is important. It will avoid starting a question, getting half way through then realising you don't know enough. You then have a dilemma as to whether to try another question in just half the time.

Keep an eye on the clock at all times. It is important to attempt the number of questions required. Spending a long time on one or two questions in the hope of getting that extra mark or two will not get you as many marks as spending time on the final question.

If you find yourself running out of time, resort to note form.

If you have time, read through your answers, checking legibility and spelling. Cross out anything you do not wish to be marked.

After the exam take the time to reflect on your technique. How was your memory recall? Did you select topics wisely? How was your timing? Remember taking exams is a skill you can learn and improve on for next time.


If you need to talk to someone about exams more information about the University's Counselling Service is available on their website.

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