Five ways to manage your time on exam questions

Running out of time is one of the most frustrating thing about doing exams. Whether you’re on a roll with an essay question and lose track of time or have second thoughts about an answer, you don’t want to miss any of those all-important marks.

Use some of the exam hacks below to make your time management worries a thing of the past.

1) Make timed practice papers part of your revision

It might sound obvious but the best way to manage your time is to practice doing it. Exams have lots of different formats so you can use old papers to focus on the types of questions you struggle with. If essays always trip you up, why not time yourself and have a go at writing one from a practice paper? If you have to go over your allocated time to finish it, what could you cut out of the answer? It may be that you’re simply writing too much.

2) Skim through the paper before you start

Get a rough idea of how many questions there are and locate your high-mark questions. If there is a question that’s worth 25 per cent of the overall score, you may want to focus on it first or at least keep it in mind so you don’t get bogged down by smaller questions that are worth fewer marks. On the front of your paper it should say how many marks you can achieve in the exam; use this information to…

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3) Work out your time budget

There are two definitive ways to work out how long you should be spending on each question, which can help if you need a strict time schedule to get you through the exam:

a) Divide how much time you have by how many marks are in the exam in total

For instance, if you have a three-hour exam (180 minutes) and you can achieve 100 marks, which gives you just over one and a half minutes for every mark. Therefore, a six-mark question should take you nine minutes.

b) Find your high mark questions and see how much time you need to allocate to them

If one essay question is 50 per cent of your marks, it should take half the exam time. Once you work out how much time you need to spend on the bigger questions you can see how long you have to answer the smaller ones.

4) Answer the easy questions first

No one says you have to go from page one to page 20 in perfect order. Find your quick wins like the shorter questions or topics you know inside out. Then split your remaining time up so you know how long you need to spend on the bigger questions.

5) Keep an eye on the clock!

Making a habit of checking on the clock after every couple of questions will help you in the long run. Don’t panic if you’re a little behind, just focus on the highest mark questions and power through!

Bonus: Essay questions

A lot of students get the most fear from essay questions. This is mostly because they end up writing more than they need to, which takes more time. Five minutes of planning can go a long way. This helps you pick out the big topics, meaning you’ll focus on what’s important instead of waffling. Take a look at the mark schemes of practice papers to see how essay questions are marked and try answering in a way that fits the marking scheme.

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