- Academic achievement

How to Optimize Performance in an Exam? – 15 Rules for Success in Academic Examinations

Rule 1: Attend all your lessons!

This may sound obvious, but attending all your lessons is the key to enhancing your knowledge and skills, whilst being the most effectual method for a comprehensive understanding and memorization of any topic. The memorization of a topic taught in a lesson proves to be more achievable because it is experience-based, whereas covering a topic by oneself at home or in the library is likely to be more tedious for the memory. Therefore if you can help it, do seriously consider not missing any lesson at all. (This rule is not applicable to Distance Learning programs which have a different structure to conventional studies)

Rule 2: Write, write and write even more!

Do not spend your student life reading and perusing books and files, but undertake to write as well. You should be able to develop your writing skill through homework, assignments and by routinely making notes while reading and revising. Academic achievement is underpinned by proficiency in writing. The more you write the higher your chances of academic success.

Rule 3: Pretend that you are a teacher/lecturer and set yourself questions in each topic that you cover!

Learn to look at topics from the examiner’s perspective, i.e., identify potential questions which may emanate from these topics. Write them down and attempt to answer them. You cannot adequately master a topic without actually tackling questions on the topic. Questions are there to make you analyze and think critically; subsequently allowing you understand and memorize a particular topic exhaustively.

Rule 4: Do your homework! I know doing homework is a pain, but do make an effort.

If you have failed to complete and submit any homework, then it is important that you discuss it with your teacher/lecturer who may be willing to compromise on an extended submission date. For most undergraduate and postgraduate studies where it is not common to set homework, students undertaking such courses of study ought to adhere to rule 3.

Rule 5: Attempt past exam papers!

Nothing can prepare you more substantively than the experience and rehearsal of a particular scenario prior to being confronted to the actual experience in real life. Imagine the US government sending our most honorable men and women to fight wars without having gone through simulated experience and practice of a real war. The consequence would undoubtedly be catastrophic. Such an underlying principle applies equally to academic examinations – students need to tackle exam papers, under exam conditions including being restricted to a set time frame. The value of such practice must never be under-estimated, whilst it cannot be sufficiently emphasized. It allows students to familiarize themselves with analyzing, planning and answering questions, to sharpen their writing skills and to enhance their ability to perform within a certain time parameter. (Note that, past exam papers can be found at the appropriate examining bodies’ websites)

Rule 6: Take notes, draw diagrams and do mind maps!

Simply reading is not enough. Learners ought to develop the habit of making notes, summarizing or jotting down bullet points. Some learners will make extensive notes, rewrite whole paragraphs in their own words and utilize extensive elaborated diagram and mind maps. Others may adopt a more simplistic style, but whichever the approach you adopt, it will ultimately benefit your learning to a greater degree than merely reading.

Rule 7: Be organized!

Ensure that all learning materials, such as notes, hand-outs, homework, assignments and so on, are promptly and systematically organized. Keep a calendar and record significant dates such as assignment submission deadlines and exam dates, well in advance.

Rule 8: Invest in purchasing basic materials!

In order to be efficaciously organized, it may be wise to make a list and subsequently purchase basic materials such as notebooks, memory sticks, folders, calendar, diary, paper clips, labels, extra pens, highlighter pens, etc. In addition, it would be advisable to keep your study area tidy.

Rule 9: Manage your time as effectively as possible!

Time management entails a proactive engagement in the meticulous allocation of time to one’s activities with an aim of increasing one’s potential and productivity in desired areas of one’s life, such as in education. Benefits of time management include successful outcomes as well as more time available to relax or indulge in recreational activities. Therefore, keep a detailed calendar and design a timetable in which you can plan and schedule your activities regularly by making use of a diary, word document or your mobile telephone. In addition, do prioritize your activities in accordance to the importance, demand and effort required in specific areas. Furthermore, you have to take the responsibility for your time management and try to avoid procrastination at all cost.

Rule 10: Hook up with other students!

Do your revision, homework and exam papers with your friends or other students who deem may be suitable for such an endeavor. Approach them and propose the idea of working together and see what they say. Check whether or not such an endeavor or the individual or group, you have hooked up with, is appropriate and beneficial to you.

Rule 11: Implement the following specific examination techniques in the exam!

i) Ensure that you have all the required materials such as pens, pencils, erasers, calculators, wristwatch, necessary reference materials etc.

ii) Read all preliminary instructions carefully.

iii) Read each question attentively. Re-read them from intermittently when you are writing your answer, particular where lengthy answers are required. This will allow you to view the question from fresh angles and it will also stimulate your thoughts, generate ideas and maintain your focus on the question.

iv) Do a time allocation plan, in which you will allocate specific amount of time in proportion to the demand and marks awarded for each question.

v) Do an answer-plan.

vi) Start by answering the easy questions first, and then tackle the hard ones. Subsequently, a comparatively larger amount of time can be apportioned to managing the harder questions later.

vii) Do not wait until the exam to implement these exam techniques, but they ought to be applied and practiced during your revision, particularly when you are tackling past exam papers.

Rule 12: Revision Tips!

i) Allow plenty of time for revision.

ii) Devise a plan and make it as visible as you can.

iii) Do a detailed checklist which allows to tick off completed tasks as you go along.

iv) Check the relevant syllabus and design your revision plan and checklist accordingly.

v) Make it clear to everyone that you are committed to your revision and that any interruption has to be kept to the minimum. Turn off your mobile phone.

vi) Use the internet with caution and discipline and avoid distracting to more entertaining websites.

vii) Ask your friends for group revision sessions.

viii) Peruse past exam papers and try to become as familiar with their structure and the inherent questioning patterns. ix) Try to tackle as many questions as possible.

Rule 13: Last minute revision tips!

i) It is important, at this stage, that you devise a plan. You have to have a plan, even though you may feel that you have insufficient time to do so.

ii) Do a relatively detailed checklist.

iii) Check the relevant syllabus and design your revision plan and checklist accordingly.

iv) Ask your friends for group revision sessions.

v) Venture into learning new topics strictly in proportion to the amount of time you have available – if you have several days left you may wish to look new topics in a reasonably comprehensive manner, whereas if you have only two days left then it may be preferable to consolidate existing knowledge.

vi) Peruse past exam papers and seek to be become as enlightened as you can, within the short amount of time available to you.

vii) Try to tackle as many questions as possible.

viii) Stay calm and focus.

Rule 14: Talk to someone!

Should you be experiencing personal problems, it would then be highly recommendable that you make an effort to talk to someone. The sooner you deal with the problem, the higher the probability of resolution or at least diminution of its impact over your life.

Rule 15: Attend the examination room as prepared as you can and not the reverse!

How to prepare for the exam? – Simply follow the rules in this article. Moreover, attempt to ‘evaluate’ your own progress and development. Remember no one is perfect and it is would be unreasonable to expect anyone to adhere to all the rules in their entirety. Nonetheless, do try your best. Every time you try, you shall inevitably enhance your likelihood of success in the exams. Finally, bear in mind that the above list is not exhaustive. You can acquire valuable exam tips also from your teachers, lecturers, other websites, friends and students. A word of caution though – Do not just read them, but equally seek to implement them!