If you are not sitting exams right now keep this until you need it or pass this on to someone else.

Each of these mistakes really happens, so I am sure some have happened to your own friends. Exams are very stressful times and people make easy mistakes. Don’t fall for them!

General Advice: Get in the habit of doing everything slowly and carefully with anything to do for exams and with your mind in the ‘here and now’ and fully switched on.

  1. Not turning up or turning up to the wrong exam or the wrong place

PROBLEM: Although it may seem amazing year after year, an unlucky student ‘forgets’ about the exam, thinks it is the next day or the morning instead of the afternoon. I am sure that you are ‘way too good’ to make this mistake.

SOLUTION: Take the time to review on several occasions with your brain ‘switched on’ your exam timetable, and even review it with someone else. Do not rely on what your friend thinks or even what you think! Only believe in written down black and white! Double-check for yourself with the original information. Review it on

Saturday morning a week before the start of the exam and then every morning when you get up or before you go to sleep. Make sure you are certain where the exam will be held – don’t assume!

  1. Turning up with the wrong equipment

PROBLEM: The exam assumes that you have a calculator with you, but you didn’t bring yours! You either waste time trying to borrow one, but the person you borrow it from is going to need it too, or you try and make do. Neither very satisfactory!

SOLUTION: Check what you are allowed to take into an exam and make sure that you have all the equipment necessary one week before you will need it. If you can have two of everything – at worst you will be very popular with any friend that is not so organized as you!

  1. Missing out parts of the exam

PROBLEM: Out of 100 students several will miss parts of the exam by mistake.

SOLUTION: Go through the paper backwards at the very start of the exam starting from the back page so you can see where every question is and make sure that you have identified all the questions. I.e. if you have to choose 2 out of 6 questions to answer make sure that you have read all 6 questions.

  1. Doing ‘all’ the questions when it only says 3 out of 5 are asked for.

PROBLEM: Students will answer all the questions when only some are needed.

SOLUTION: Read the instructions carefully and slowly. Do not think you know it. It might have changed from exams you have had before.

If you are a brilliant student who writes really fast there is not a problem here. For the rest of us you have spent only 60% of available time answering questions that will be marked. The other 40% of your time you have completely wasted on answering questions that will not be marked. Chances are the examiners will choose the first, not the best. If you are not sure how many questions should be answered ask!

  1. Getting the numbering out of order

PROBLEM: This nightmare can happen when you take questions out of order. However in order to use your time efficiently you sometimes have to do this.

SOLUTION: Always speak the number of the question to yourself when you are answering it. Double check every question and answer especially in multiple choice questions

  1. Spending too much time answering one question.

PROBLEM: Even if you write a brilliant thesis on one question if the total marks available is only 20 out of an exam of 100 marks, that is the most you can get.

SOLUTION: In general make sure that you allocate time according to the marks available. If you have time left over you can come back and add points.

  1. Not making enough points in short notes or essays to get the marks available.

PROBLEM: If a part of a question is for 5 marks, you must say at least 5 separate thing if you want to get all the marks assuming there is one mark for each point. If you only say two things you will only get two points. If you say five things, you must have read the examiners mind and know exactly what he wants to get 5 marks.

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SOLUTION: In a short notes question like what were the reasons why…(5 marks) try to come up with 7 reasons, if you can, that way you can get one or two ‘wrong’ and still get full marks (check with your teacher that this will work). If you are given 5 lines to write on, then just give 5 and hope for the best. Similarly if an essay is for 25 marks then you must make at least 25 separate different sentences about the question to have a hope of getting all the marks – far better to make too many than too few.

  1. Not answering what is asked.

PROBLEM: This is dreadful – you work hard, you do a great job but the examiner will be forced to give only a few marks or maybe zero because you have not read the question properly.

SOLUTION: Take your time reading every question. Take it one–word–at–a–time–real–slow–like. Read it again. Go though it backwards with one finger under each word if there are say only 5 essay questions. Underline each important word. Then read again forwards. Reading the question is not the place to rush or whizz through.

  1. Getting stressed out because the first question is really difficult

PROBLEM: I once got stuck on a question that took me 1 1/2 hours in a 2 1/2 hour exam. I then had 1 hour to do 4 more questions!

SOLUTION: I’ve left the best till last this is really the single best idea for any exam:- Let your back brain do the work.

Read one question, if you do not really know the answer well, leave it (without allowing yourself to be stressed!) and move to the next. Keep going until you find one you know all about. If you don’t find the easy question – no matter!- go back through to the beginning of the exam paper again and find your ‘least bad’ question.

In the few minutes during which you have gone through the paper the question will have gone into you brain and the back brain will have done some work so you have a better chance of coming up with the answer. If you just look at the question waiting for the answer to come you can stress out and make a perfectly fine question seem like its been set in a totally different language! Let your back brain do the work -it keeps your stress levels low.

This report helps make sure that you perform at your best in the exam room.

In order that you do your best you need to be organized and use your time wisely.

Good luck with your exams

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