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8 Mistakes to Avoid in an Exam

Exams can be a difficult and stressful time for students of all ages, and for good reason. From elementary school through to university, exams play a major role in education, requiring students to learn a huge amount of content within a limited timeframe. Anyone involved in education will tell you that when it comes to exams, preparation is just as important as the information itself. Focusing solely on revising the required topics can cause students to make several crucial errors both in their preparation for and during an exam. Here are some tips of what NOT to do in, and leading up to, an exam.

1. Don’t procrastinate!

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When studying for an exam, the task of having to revise and remember everything you have learnt might seem rather daunting. Most students are aware that preparation is recommended in the lead up to exams, but for many, the actual hard work is pushed further and further down the priority list while they make endless multicoloured revision notes, timetables and notecards. Revising for an exam is never an enjoyable task, which is why we put it off for as long as possible. This doesn’t seem like such a problem when the exam date is still a long way off, but the date will creep up on you, and before you know it, it will be the night before the exam, and suddenly too late to do everything you need to do. Make useful and concise revision notes and establish a realistic timeframe in which to learn all the necessary information, and continually ask yourself whether what you’re doing is actually useful, or simply avoiding the inevitable!

2. Don’t pull an all-nighter!

For the vast majority of students, exams are stressful, and only the calmest of temperaments will allow you to sleep peacefully the night before, safe in the knowledge that you have done all you can. For most of us, the stress builds the closer we get to the date, leading to the belief that every last second count, and the temptation to stay up the night before the exam to cram the information and keep it fresh in our minds. Don’t do this! It is completely counter-productive and might actually hinder your performance. The best possible preparation for an exam is a good night’s sleep to ensure your brain is well-rested and ready for action.

3. Don’t panic!

Of course, this is easier said than done, but nevertheless something we should all focus on and try to keep in check. Worrying about failing or letting yourself down are common feelings, we all want to do our best and make others proud, as well as proving to ourselves that the hard work was worth it. Do not doubt yourself. If you have made the effort and feel well-prepared, then try to relax and just do the best you can do. Last-minute panicking won’t benefit you at all, and chances are everyone in there is feeling the same, so do yourself a favour, take some deep breaths and get writing. It will all be over soon!

4. Don’t ignore concepts you are confused by!

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Whilst this may seem obvious, human nature means that we enjoy the feeling that we are good at something, which makes it very tempting to focus your revision on the areas in which you excel. But don’t fall into this trap! As part of your exam preparation, identify your weaker areas and concentrate on them. This may involve extra research on your part, going back through lesson notes, or asking teachers for clarification. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, according to MWNS, students should be encouraged to question theories and proofs, not just accept them. It may not be an appealing prospect, but getting to grips with previously confusing topics will do wonders for your confidence and helping you feel prepared for the exam.

5. Don’t skip breakfast!

Arguably the most important meal of the day, this is never truer than on the morning of an exam. Regardless of whether you regularly eat breakfast, make sure you do it before leaving for the exam. Plenty of water and a healthy breakfast will go a long way to helping you feel prepared, there is nothing worse than hunger pangs to distract you from the task in hand. A high protein start to the day, such as fruit, grains, nuts or eggs, will stimulate your brain and help you concentrate. And don’t forget that bottle of water to take into the exam itself!

6. Don’t ignore the time!

As soon as you open your paper, calculate roughly how long you will have to spend on each question and then subdivide each section. For example, if you have an hour to answer an essay question, decide how long you should spend on the introduction, the main body and the conclusion. Once you are into your flow, it is easy to get carried away and lose track of the time, meaning that you may lose marks by having to rush through a section that required more time. If you have time to spare at the end, use it to read back through your work, checking answers and proofreading for spelling and grammar.

7. Don’t be unprepared!

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Pack your bag and get everything ready the night before, even down to laying out your clothes and putting your water bottle in, as well as packing all the books and equipment you will need. The last thing you want is to panic in the morning when you can’t find your calculator or finding out that the only pen you brought doesn’t work. Never turn up hoping that there will be spares, arriving prepared and organised will put you in the right frame of mind for achieving your best.

8. Don’t leave questions!

Leave no question blank. Even if you don’t feel like you know the answer, one thing is certain, if you don’t try, you won’t get any marks. Have a go at every question, because writing something will always be better than writing nothing. It is important to remember that points are awarded rather than taken away, and one or two extra points could make all the difference.

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