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Time is of the Essence – Making Every Exam Minute Count



Exams are a fixed length of time, so you don’t want to waste a second if you are doing the very best you can.


Allowing yourself to get stuck on a question or problem for too long can mean that you don’t get to other questions where you know the answer and can get more marks.

So what’s the secret to getting the most of those precious exam minutes?

The answer is PPS – Prepare, Plan, Stick to the plan!


Preparation – much of your succession the exam room will be based on what you do to prepare long before you get there. If you have done your revision and prepared your exam plan, then half the battle is won before the exam room door even opens.


Make sure you know what topics are your strongest. The things you know best and are well prepared for can give you a huge boost of confidence in the exam. If you know the subject well and are well prepared for the sort of questions that may come up, you can even have written some possible answers before the exam. So when you get into the exam room, look for the questions those topics and answer them first.


That way you not only make sure that you get marks for your strongest subjects by getting them done first, you will also increase your confidence in the exams you have already answered a number of questions. SO the better prepared you are for the exam, the better you will feel and perform.


Have a Plan – just going into an exam and hoping for the best, or just sitting down and starting at question 1 and working through the questions in order won’t make good use of the limited time you have available. You need a plan of action from the moment you sit down.


As soon as you sit down, prepare everything that you need for the exam. Don’t wait until you are told to start to get out your pens or calculator and to get your watch set up to keep an eye on the time. Have them ready before the exam starts.


As soon as the exam adjudicator says you can start, open the paper and before you start writing anything, SCAN plan the questions. Don’t’ worry if other people have started writing, follow your plan not theirs.


So what does SCAN plan mean?


S – Scan through all the questions quickly and identify those you are most confident about.

C – Choose the order in which you will answer them

A – Allocate the time between the questions

N – Now start writing your answers


Stick to the Plan – with limited time, you have to ration it. If there are 20 questions and you are confident about 10 of them, don’t allocate all the time to those, you can still score some marks on the others too, just maybe not as many.


So allocate about 50% of the time available to the questions you are confident about and divide it equally between them.


Then start writing and make sure that you stick as closely a possible to the timetable. If you get stuck, give it an extra few minutes, then move on to the next question and come back later if you have time.


At the end of that first half, have a quick check back over anything you weren’t sure about, but if it doesn’t immediately come clear, move on.


Then the second half is for answering as many of the other questions as you can. Again divide the time among the questions equally, but leave 15 minutes at the end for checking and anything else you have remembered. And if you find you only know a little bit for one of those questions, write the bit you know as well as you can. You may be surprised how many marks it gets you, if the core of the answer is what you put down and that can sometimes push you up over a grade boundary.


I was always surprised how once I had got the first set of questions answered, my mind calmed down as I had some marks in the bag. Then I would often remember answers to the other questions that had not immediately come to mind in the nerves of the first few minutes of the exam


This managing of your time and proper preparation and planning will make sure the most time goes where the most marks are likely to be scored, but ensure that other questions get significant time too, but once you have got some marks in the bag.