How to finish exams on time
In order to reach your full potential in your exams you need to manage your time really well. That doesn't just mean in the run up to exams with a solid study routine and a revision plan. It means in the exam itself.
In today's post I'm going to be giving you my top tips on how to finish exams on time – to make sure you get as many marks as possible and the grade you truly deserve.
How to finish exams on time
1. Practice makes perfect
Practicing exam technique is the most important thing you can do to learn how to finish exams faster. Just like an Olympic sprinter who is trying to run the fastest time possible, you're not going to get quicker by doing nothing about it. Olympic sprinters train day in and day out to improve their times. If you want to finish faster in your exam you need to:
- Have total command of your subject knowledge
- Be a total pro at answering the types of questions you'll be asked in this exam
Lucky for you, I've got the perfect way for you to top up your knowledge and perfect your exam technique. It's called the revision power hour.
2. Improve your writing
One of the worst things about exams is the ache you get in your arm, wrist and hand after hours of intense writing. I'll never forget how painful my hand was during the last of my finals (I had to do nine hours of exams in two days – that's nine essays!).
Just like any physical strength you only build it by using it. The other day I spent five hours tutoring someone for their geography A-Level. Before I met him his mum told me that he had a problem with how fast he wrote and often didn't answer all the questions in his exam because he wrote so slowly. If you're like this young man, you need to practice writing as much as you possibly can just to gain the strength to get you through.
3. Make a plan
If you find that you often don't finish in exams, particularly with longer essay-style questions, you need to make a plan and get disciplined. Just like your school timetable budgets how much time you spend on each subject in each week and when you learn about each subject, you need to know what you're going to write in your essay, in what order and for how long.
So, the first step is to create a detailed plan for your essay. Write down all the points you want to make. Work out how many paragraphs that is and how many minutes you've got for each paragraph. A typical essay is usually five paragraphs plus an introduction and conclusion. That's seven paragraphs in total. If you've got an hour total I'd give myself 10 minutes for planning and divide the remaining 50 minutes by 7. That's just over 7 minutes per paragraph. If you want time to read through what you've written you need to take some time off.
As you're writing your essay make sure that you never spend more than 7 minutes on a paragraph. When you get to seven minutes, finish your sentence and move on to the next paragraph.
This way you should get enough time to finish the essay.
And, if you practice this in your power hours you'll be really good at it by the time you go into the exam.
4. Keep your head down and focus
In essay-style exams no-one has time to waste. So don't look around at other people seeing how they're working. Keep your attention on your own game.
Occasionally you might need to take a moment to think through your argument, how to phrase the point you're making or to dredge up some piece of knowledge from the less used parts of your brain. That's fine and it's healthy. The key thing is to stay mentally focused on what you're trying to achieve.
5. Start with the low-hanging fruit
By this, I mean get the marks in the bank that you're sure you can get. Whether that's doing the easy short answer questions first or starting with the essay that you're most excited to get your teeth into, starting with the easier stuff builds your confidence and your momentum for the whole exam.
6. Ask for more paper before you need it
The last thing you want to be doing is waiting for an invigilator to bring you more paper. If you can see you're getting to the end of your paper, put your hand in the air while you're writing to re-stock before you start wasting time.
7. Never give up
If you particularly struggle to get through exams in the time available it can be really tempting to give up. Don't. This is the worst thing you can do. Just keep writing until you're told to stop and all the time has gone.
Need more exam help?
If you're looking for more help to reach your full potential in your GCSE or A Level exams then check out my exam success resources page or my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. You might also be interested in working with me one-to-one.
Over to you…
Now you've read this post I'd love to hear from you. What are your top tips on how to finish exams on time? Have you got any more questions about this subject? Let me know in the comments below.