How to Effectively Allocate your Exam Time.

With exam season within sight, here are our top 6 tips to making the most out of every minute in your exam. Follow along with these steps, and you’ll be slaying those exams! 

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It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when sitting an exam or a test – especially when the clock’s ticking! With exam season within sight, here are our top 6 tips to making the most out of every minute in your exam. Follow along with these steps, and you’ll be slaying those exams! 
Make the most out of your reading time.

Nearly all exams have an allocated reading time at the start. Use this time wisely to collect your thoughts, read through all the questions very carefully and start mentally planning how you will answer your exam and in what order.

[For online remote exams: Make sure to allocate and use your reading time. 5-10 minutes at the start of the exam time will put you in a better place with a clear exam plan. You’ll also want to pay extra attention to the exam guidelines around how to submit your exam and how much time you’ve got.]

Start by marking out which sections you want to attempt first and jot down your initial thoughts and ideas. Use this time to read carefully through all the sections of the exam and carefully select questions you want to begin with.

It’s also a good idea to mentally map out which of the questions you’ll be able to complete quicker and easier than others, so you know what to focus your attention on and what might be a challenge later.

Brainstorm

After reading time, it’s best to put your plan into action and onto paper. Writing out your plan straight after reading time will ensure that you have a guide and ideas to refer back to as the exam goes on. This is the best time to jot down all ideas you might have about the topic and content on hand. Highlighting specific questions can also help focus your mind on the question/s on hand and help you narrow down on the vital information that you need.

For an essay based/short answer exam: Plan out your areas and points of discussion, make sure to note down any references and research you want to draw on and jot down any quotes you recall from your studies.

For MCQ exams: Names, dates, references and ideas are crucial to conquering MCQ exams. In your brainstorming and planning time, make sure to get out as much factual information as possible; you’ll never know how much help these prompts can have on your recall memory! 

Keep an eye on the clock 

It is so easy to get swept up into the heat of the moment and be totally in exam mode, which is fantastic! But also make sure that you are checking the time periodically. This will help you narrow your answering pace and see if you are on track to finish at the end of the exam.

Online/Remote exams: If you are sitting your exam remotely, it’s a good idea to set up a timer or have a countdown clock somewhere insight so that you can keep a close eye on the time. There are many tools and apps available, so have a play around and see what suits you best. Just make sure that whatever you do to keep track of time at home matches your exam requirements and guidelines. 

Sidenote: If you have set up a good pace and are working through the exam quite well, you can also factor in “exam breaks” (see point 5).

Time management through point management

The best way to keep on top of time (and make the most of your exam time) is through Point Management! These two options are the best to keep you on track! 

Option A: More points = more time
The basic rule is that if a question is worth more points, spend more time answering it.
  • For MCQ exams: Most of the point breakdowns are the same or vary slightly in terms of difficulty. Start with your most confident topics to accumulate your points and rack up extra time for the more challenging questions.
  • For essay/ short answer exams: Likewise, as MCQ exams, adjust the amount of time you spend on each question based on the number of points per question. Start by answering the basics of the questions to earn some points on each question before diving into the deeper, more abstract discussions of the question.

Option B: Build upwards
  • The scaffolding system: Most exam papers are arranged this way with the shorter (and lower point) questions at the beginning of the exam, which build up towards the more significant and more time-intensive questions at the end of the exam paper. With this method, start by answering all the shorter questions to accumulate as many points as possible before answering the longer and more tedious questions.

Pick which option works for your strong suit! You might fit your changes with different exams and different content but choose the system that allows you to get the most points! 
Take breaks

If you are starting to feel a bit sluggish, de-motivated during your exam, this is an excellent chance to take a ‘mini’ break and reflect! You might even feel inspired, recall more information and get some new ideas! 

Here are some of the ways you can take a quick “time-out” during an exam:
  • Going for a bathroom break to clear your head, getting up and having a slight stretch might help you clear your mind and re-focus.
  • Have a drink – keep a water bottle on hand and have a sip if you need a mini time out or some time to reflect.
  • Edit and read through different sections of your exam – does everything make sense and look right? Do you still agree with the answers you’ve written? 
  • Read through your plan – you might find some alternative information in there, and they might spark some new ideas! 
  • Add to your plan – If you get stuck in your exam, add to your brainstorm/plan – think back to the core concepts and themes. Think about what value or ideas you can bring into your current work or see if you can redirect your thoughts.
  • If Online/Remote Exam - Have a snack – sometimes some brain fuel will help power you through till the end of the exam and may spark the motivation and inspiration you are after.
Take some time to edit and fill in the final details (+ upload)

Editing and final read-throughs are super important if you want to catch some extra points! Save at least 10 minutes before the end of the exam to read through your work, add in some last-minute ideas, and tidy up your work. 

For the essay based/short answer exams: Make sure that everything makes sense and reads through nicely. This is also an excellent opportunity to make sure that your work lines up with the question. Make sure all of your answers answer the question, and make sure that you are answering all parts of the question.

For the MCQ exams: Read through all the questions and make sure that you would select the same answer again; if not, make some amendments. It’s also essential to make sure the answering sheet is filled in correctly, so double-check that the right boxes are filled in.

Before you go to submit your work:
  • Make sure your name and details are all correct and are in the right places.
  • Check that you’ve answered ALL the questions to your best ability.
  • If submitting online – check you are submitting the exam in the correct format and the right place.
  • Check again - that your name is on all documents to be submitted.
Everyone has the same amount of time to complete the exam, but you can put yourself into a better position and get those top grades with a great game plan! Plan early, keep an eye on the time, and you’ll rack up those answer points in no time! 

Wishing you all the best! 
-  Eleanor Almeida, Nxtstep Content Writer

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