Top 10 Mistakes People Make In Exams And How To Avoid Them

by Samuel Abasi Last updated on April 27th, 2017,

Top 10 Mistakes People Make in Exams And How To Avoid Them. Exams subject us to an uncomfortable amount of pressure, making us feel as though the entire sum of our education is leading up to this one chance to prove ourselves. The stress and pressure of the exam situation can lead you to make some silly mistakes that cost you marks, but by remaining calm and planning carefully, you can avoid losing precious marks and give yourself the best chance of achieving the top grades. Good exam technique can make the world of difference, and you can greatly improve your marks by not falling into the traps we discuss in this article.

 1 Attempting the question before reading it thoroughly

I’ve done this before… So you see a question which looks so easy, you blaze through it thinking you’ll get all the marks and then when you reach the end you check through your answers and think what the hell have I done here? That’s not what the question said at all. Read the question very carefully, and then read it again. To help you thoroughly absorb exactly what the question is asking, you can circle or underline important words to keep you on track – instructional words such as “compare and contrast”, for example.

Leaving a question blank

This is the number one no-no of an exam. NEVER leave a question blank. If you do, you’ve thrown away those marks and for what? At least if you tried you might have gotten one of those marks… But leaving the question blank isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Multiple choice questions are one of the easier styles of exam, as they give you a finite number of possible answers that can sometimes mean that even if you don’t know the answer, you can deduce it by working out which answers are less likely to be the right one. However, some students lose out on easy marks by not putting any answer at all for the questions they don’t know the answer to. You’re not going to lose marks for an incorrect answer, and the chances are one in four (or however many answer options you have) that you pick the right one – so you may as well make a guess at the questions for which you don’t know the answers. You’ll often be able to rule out some of the answers, which could narrow your choice down to one of two possible answers – so there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll get an extra mark, which is definitely a chance worth taking!

3 Accidentally picking the wrong answer in a multiple choice question

Then you have to make a poor attempt to erase the mark, which will probably smudge all over, or is just there to stay. Make sure to look which answer you’re choosing to avoid the mistake of picking “C” instead of “B” for example. Checking your answers after may help you find these little but costly mistakes.

4 A lack of time management

Make sure to have time at the end of the exam to look back at your answers. Make sure to not spend too much time on a question. Utilise the time given in the exam to give yourself the most efficient method of answering the questions. Keep a balance between speed and carefulness.

5 Not reviewing your answers

What does santa do after making his list? He checks it twice, just like you should once finishing all the questions. If you don’t check your answers over, who knows what mistakes you’ve made? You never know, you might have missed a whole page because they stuck together… Trust me, this has happened to me.

6 Too much revision

Too much is just as bad as not revising at all. If you revise too long it may turn you into a procrastinator or a perfectionist and whilst you’ve been spending so much time on the first two questions trying to perfect them, you’ve only done 2 out of 15 of the questions and used up half the time already.

7 Overthinking a question

You look at a question, answer it and then think something doesn’t look right. Sometimes it might be that you haven’t read the question properly so in that case read it properly and answer the question. Other times it may be the exam panic getting to you and it makes you think that you answered a question wrong when you didn’t. This leads to the overthinking and retraction of correct answers for the inclusion of wrong ones.

Not knowing the meaning of key words

By this I mean the “Explain” questions especially. Many people just describe for an explain question and pick up only 1 or 2 of the marks when there’s 6 available. For an Explain question use PEE. (I have no idea why it’s called that) Make a point, point out some evidence to support the point and then add an explanation for why this is the case. It’s that easy but we all fall into the trap of key words.

Not putting your name on the exam

And finally we have this failure. If you do this, all that effort you’ve put into the questions is probably going to go to waste because that invigilator who marks the exam papers doesn’t know you just by your handwriting. Even if your handwriting is as bad as mine, the invigilator will still not know and you will fail because you made this stupid mistake.

10 Bad spelling and grammar

Some questions, especially those with more marks will want good English to be used. This means no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors as if these are included, the chance of getting full marks on these questions becomes very hard if not impossible. If your answer paper is littered with errors, you’ll miss out on an easy few extra marks that could mean the difference between two different grades. Even if you consider yourself to be a grammar fiend, you’d be amazed at the simple mistakes it’s possible to make under pressure – writing “write” instead of “right”, for instance, or similarly elementary errors that you’d never make under normal circumstances.

When it comes to exams, sensible planning, careful timing and a diligent approach to each question is all it takes to pick up a few marks here and a few marks there. One or two marks here and there may not sound significant, but if you’re close to a grade boundary, it could mean the difference between an A and an A* (for example). And that could prove incredibly significant when it comes to your university application and the courses that will be available to you based on your grades. As you can see, though, there are numerous ways in which you can pick up extra marks in the exam room simply by avoiding common pitfalls.

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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