Stressing about the finals? A reasonable amount of pre-exam anxiety is normal, and is in fact good for you because it motivates you to work smarter. However, no one likes to be nervous and stressed hours before an exam. Losing sleep before the night of an exam can lead to exhaustion, irritability and lack of concentration.
Cambridge Assessment International Education outlines a few tips on how to improve your answers and overcome any anxiety before you dive headfirst into your exams.
- Pay attention to command words
Command words are words at the start of a question that tell you what to do, so for example, “calculate the cost of…”, “compare the ratio of…”, “describe the nature of…” Each of these words serve a specific purpose and misunderstanding them could potentially ruin your answers, no matter how well you have crafted them. Therefore, make sure you understand the question first, before you attempt answering.
- Revise, revise, revise!
Revision is one of the most effective ways to retain information. So, learn the definitions and formulas like a parrot. Also, don’t revise the stuff that you know well, concentrate on your weak points and revise in small chunks. Your revision efficiency goes up quite dramatically if you revise with small breaks in between. You will also be able to recall more with repeated revision, so don’t ignore this very crucial aspect before an exam.
- Learn to cut through the waffle in the question
Questions usually have some kind of real world context. Most of this is irrelevant and just makes the question more interesting. Learn to cut out all the unnecessary waffle and get to the underlying science. Don’t waste time getting carried away pondering what the question could mean, focus on the command words and structure your answers based on that.
- State the obvious in your answers
Sometimes, answers are as obvious as they seem. You may think it is obvious to write that 1,000 m = 1 km – but write it anyway. Examiners expect that you fully understand concepts, so even though you may think you are stating the obvious, go ahead and say it but make sure you don’t repeat what they have told you.
- Don’t spend too much time on multiple choice answers
Multiple choice answers are generally perceived to be the quickest form of questions in an exam paper, but you could spend hours agonizing over the correct answer. Make sure you don’t spend too much time on one question. And remember, there is no pattern, you can get five Cs in a row. Also, watch out for distractors – a wrong answer that looks realistic but usually a misconception!
- Know your stuff!
And finally, know your subject and the content. Read the question well and use the information you have revised to write your answers. Download and use the Learners’ Guide and syllabus or ask your teacher for papers with examiner commentaries from the School Support Hub.