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Exam techniques: When to move on to the next exam question

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Know when to move on to the next question

Don’t spend too much time trying to polish one answer for a few extra points. Generally speaking, you'll get the bulk of the marks for each question in the early stages of writing your answer. Two partly answered questions are worth more marks than one highly polished answer.

Imagine you have five equally weighted questions to answer and each question is worth a maximum of 20%. If you only answer three you can’t get more than 60% even with perfect answers.

If you attempt five questions you’ll get marks for each (even if you don’t write as much), and you’re likely to reach 60% or more.

3 x 20% = 60%

5 x 13% = 65%

Work this out for your own paper – your questions will be worth different amounts but you’ll soon see that attempting all the questions is really important if you want to get the most marks you can.

If your timing goes wrong and you end up with less time than you need to finish the last question then follow your plan by using the time to write out the main points in note or bullet point form, perhaps including an introduction and conclusion. This may earn you a few further valuable marks.

Check through your answers

Allow a few minutes to check through your paper, and add anything you’ve remembered, such as names, dates or details. Make sure that any additional material is easy to identify, perhaps using an asterisk to show the examiner where content has been added on a later page.

  • Check that any diagrams are correctly labelled
  • Ensure your work's legible
  • Take care that small mistakes are corrected
  • Check that all your answers are numbered
  • Make sure that your details are filled in on the front sheet.

This work at the end of an exam can gain you several marks, so make time for it.

Check all the paperwork

You’ll give in all the paper you’ve used, including your notes, so if you’ve made some notes because you didn’t have time to finish an answer don’t cross them through. Your examiner will read everything that hasn’t been crossed through.

Write the numbers of the questions you've attempted in the grid on the first answer book and write the number of answer books in the box on the desk record card. Attach the desk record and question paper to your answer books and make sure they're collected by the invigilator so they can be marked.

An identification number is used to identify your exam work rather than your name, so script markers don’t know whose work they have.

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