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6 Best Test-Taking Strategies to Ace Your Next Exam

Student Life

October 25, 2023

When exam season approaches, it is crucial to focus on two things. The first is your revision techniques - how you revise, what you revise, when you revise, and the second is the exam techniques. However, the exam techniques seem to get lost in a sea of revision materials.

What if I told you that students who drank water during their exams have been proven to have done 5% better than students who haven't? Of course, revision is such an essential factor in your exam outcomes, but an infinite number of small techniques can help you feel more confident during an exam.

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1. Drink your water.

As discussed in the opening, it has been scientifically proven that students who drink water while taking exams have been proven to do 5% better in their exams than students who do not. Staying hydrated increases your ability to recall information, stay focused on the task at hand, and boost your mood, all skills you need to perform well under exam pressure. In addition, direct links have been made between dehydration and anxiety, as dehydration has effects on your brain and body.

Drinking water in and before an exam can help calm those nerves and create feelings of confidence and relaxation. But always remember that when bringing a water bottle into the exam hall, ensure it meets the exam board requirements. For example, for some exams, water bottles must be clear with no writing or labels.

2. Answer all questions.

Feelings of panic and anxiety are all completely normal when taking an exam. Sometimes, these thoughts and feelings can cause us to doubt ourselves and our abilities. When we feel this way, many students skip exam questions out of fear of getting something wrong or not knowing enough to even attempt the question.

These feelings are common in exam conditions, but remember that not answering a question guarantees you no marks. By giving every question your very best go and writing something down for everyone, you can leave that exam hall feeling confident and knowing you gave every question one hundred percent, which is all anyone can ask of you. However, this isn't to say that skipping over questions is a lousy exam technique. Sometimes, by doing the easiest questions, we can build our confidence to tackle those more challenging questions.

3. Know your exam.

This following technique does link into revision tools but is very helpful when sitting your exam. Knowing your exam and your exam board is crucial for feeling confident in an exam. The best way to do this is through practice tests as part of your revision.

During these, you can understand what kinds of questions will be asked of you. When going through the answers, you can understand what the examiners are looking for and what keywords to be aware of. To improve this further, it is always helpful to bring highlighters or different colored pens into an exam to help make those keywords stand out on your page. If you use a laptop for exams, then using a highlighting feature will ensure the same outcome. This will help you to hone in on those words in your answers and achieve top marks. In addition, feeling prepared for an exam with the right equipment helps to reduce exam anxiety as you know you have everything you need to perform your very best. But remember to answer the question with the required colored pen (usually blue or black ink if writing by hand).

4. Rest before an exam.

Rest before an exam can take two forms. The first is making sure you have had adequate sleep the night before, which for a young person is around 8-10 hours per night. Sleep has been proven to help retain information in the long term, and getting enough sleep in the nights leading up to your exam helps to contribute to a calm and happy mood.

The second form of rest is to not cram right before your exam, no matter how tempted you may be. Realistically, you will not learn anything new at the last minute, so cramming will only have adverse effects. It will only increase stress and anxiety. Trust yourself and your hard work - I promise you it is enough! Instead of cramming the night before, spending time with your family or listening to your favorite songs will help to reduce stress. On the morning of your exam, eat a hearty breakfast, surround yourself with your friends, or spend some time for yourself - whatever will make you feel better.

5. Arrive Early.

Arriving early at your exam location can help to reduce stress right before an exam. Instead of frantically making your way to your exam destination and worrying about where you are sitting, try and get there 10-15 minutes early, allowing you to get into a positive state of mind before the exam commences. During this time, work out your seating arrangements, make sure you have the right equipment, and remember your water bottle!

In the time before your exam, the exam instructors will go through the rules and instructions, and it is imperative to listen to them. As tempting as it may be to block everything out before an exam starts and get focused, doing so may be detrimental to your exam results. Imagine revising for this big exam for months on end but writing all your answers in the wrong box - they may all be correct, but if they are not in the right space, they will not be marked.

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6. Believe in yourself.

Bringing your water, sleeping well, and arriving early are all tips that will boost your exam results. The most important advice to give is to believe in yourself, and easier said than done - do not stress. Exams are not meant to be fun experiences; not everyone thrives.

It is hard to show an examiner everything you know about a subject in one hour, but as long as you do your best, that's all anyone can ask of you. If an exam does not go your way, that is a perfect opportunity to reflect, revise, and do better next time. The worst that will happen is maybe you get extra support to help you in that subject. You re-do the test to get a better mark or revise a different way next time to find a better method to suit you. Exams are an essential part of a student's life. However, they do not define you or your talent, hard work, organization, passion, or determination.

By working hard and using these top tips, you are guaranteed a grade you are proud of. Drinking water, resting, being prompt, and knowing your exam are all so important, but looking after yourself and your mental well-being is crucial during exam season - you've got this!

Jasmin Huband
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Writer since Aug, 2023 · 4 published articles

Jasmin Huband is a college student hoping to study English Literature, Sociology and History A Levels. She is an aspiring Journalist/Broadcast Journalist and in the future hopes to act as a voice for those who cannot use their own, shining light on the issues of the world and how we can solve them. In her spare time Jasmin enjoys reading, experimenting with fashion and swimming.