Examinations. The word itself can inspire anxiety and fear amongst even the toughest, most seasoned of exam takers (yes, even the adults who have to take professional exams!) From PSLE to university final exams, we spend almost every year of our lives with exams in the back of our minds once we enter the formal schooling system. Put this way, aren’t exams a huge and important part of all our lives?
Having to demonstrate your understanding of a large amount of content in just a few hours is undeniably challenging and this is what makes examinations so stressful for students like you and me. Hence, the key to scoring well is to go into the exam hall fully prepared for both the course content as well as your mindset.
The good news is, there are some actions that you can take to prepare in advance of the exam, ensuring that you remain as cool as a cucumber during the papers! Read on to find out what these 5 exam prep tips are:
Most of us will have to commute to the exam venue, and what better way to make use of this spare window of time than to do some last-minute revision to solidify recall of key definitions and concepts? While you would already have gone over your notes multiple times prior to the exam day, this last-minute skimming of small pieces of information can help tremendously.
Choose to focus on the shorter pieces of information, such as the key points of an argument, or even definitions of important terms (as indicated in the syllabus). The point of this exercise is not to confuse or overwhelm, but to ensure that you feel confident when it comes to content mastery.
Furthermore, having something to do on the way to the exam venue can distract you from any anxious thoughts that you might have. Focus on reading and internalising the words on paper and take deep breaths to calm yourself down if you feel stressed out. Put away these flash cards once you get to the exam venue and focus on getting all your materials ready then.
In the lead up to your exams, you would no doubt have come across (and hopefully attempted) many sets of past years papers or the ten-year series. Besides testing your content mastery, these practice papers also help you become more familiar with the format of your actual exam. This is because the practice papers and your mock exams are deliberately structured to mimic your actual exams.
Do, of course, take note of any changes in the syllabus or format of the exam (such as if certain sections are added or removed). Once these changes are accounted for, you can plan in advance how much time you require for each long question/section. Then, set a timer for each long question/section every time you do a timed practice paper to ensure that you are able to complete the entire paper in time during the actual exam.
Pro-tip: bring your own watch to the exam so you can refer to the time you have set for yourself to complete every section without the need to glance up at the wall clock. Watches with a digital display are better at helping you help track of short amounts of time but bring what you are most comfortable with.
Check and note down in advance your seat number as well as the time and date of the exam. For national examinations, it would be important to prepare your entry proof (and make some spare copies if you’re prone to losing such documents!)
On the night before each of your papers, check that you have all the materials you need to get into the exam – entry proof, identification document, pencil case, rulers, calculators (if needed). Put them all in a big ziplock bag or file so you won’t have to hurriedly rummage through your bag to find your things 5 minutes before the exam.
Furthermore, make sure that you have enough time to get to the exam venue. Account for any possible traffic jams (which are common in the morning) or train closures and adjust your travel time accordingly. The last thing you would want is to be running to your exam venue all panicked and sweaty!
It might be really tempting to leave all your revision to the night before in the hopes of cramming all the information into your brain during an all-nighter, but from one student to another, don’t do it!
Cramming only serves to increase the levels of stress that you feel. It might even backfire due to poor information retention with the lack of sleep. Instead, you should set a cut off time to stop revising for the day and get a good 7-8 hours of sleep before waking up refreshed, ready to take on any exam.
If your exam is in the afternoon, do still wake up around the same time you do every day. This prevents your body from having to adapt to a sudden change in your sleep cycle and risk not being able to focus during the paper. Waking up early also gives you enough time to check that you have got all your exam materials and eat a nice meal before you have to leave the house.
While this is technically a tip to implement during the paper, it is a really useful one that not many students practice. When reading each question and its preamble information, underline the important details that you think would come in handy in your answer later. These details would include statistics, keywords, etc.
Use different types of annotations to note different things. For example, circle directive words in the question (these are words like “describe”, “define”, “explain”, “analyze” and “outline”) and underline important facts. This way, you can see at a quick glance all that you need to know, distilled from the question.
Each directive word requires you to respond in a different way. For example, “describe” merely requires you to write down what you already know, while the words “explain” and “analyze” would require you to further substantiate your description with evidence, which can sometimes be found in the preamble of the question. Having these words already underlined can guide you to structure your answer in a way that directly hits the question’s requirements.
With these exam prep tips in your toolbox, you are all set to confidently sail through your upcoming exams! Besides implementing these best practices and strategies, it is extremely important that you have mastered the content necessary for application.
If you think that you still require some more guidance ahead of your exams, FamilyTutor can help! As the leading home tuition agency in Singapore, FamilyTutor can help you get the resources you need in order to succeed in your examinations, especially if you are taking the national exams this year!
Having a 1-to-1 private tutor can help you to figure out the nitty-gritty details of exams, such as what you need to know in order to answer the questions, and how to structure your answer in order to score. This helps to reduce exam stress such that you can just focus on doing the paper well.
FamilyTutor as a home tuition wishes you all the very best for your upcoming exams! At the door of your exam hall, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you’ve got this!
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