Planning Your Exam

If you are a student in class 12 and are planning to do a course in Engineering, Medicine or Architecture, you are very likely preparing to write some entrance examinations – JEE Main 2015, BITSAT, or some other. You have probably finished the syllabus twice over as well. If so, this is great.

However, there is more to writing an examination than knowledge and application of concepts. An examination is not just a test of knowledge and application but also – perhaps primarily – about time management. If you have prepared well for the entrance examinations, then very likely, given enough time, you will be able to solve most of the questions in a question paper. It may take you an hour more, a day more, a week more. But very likely you will be able to solve most of the paper eventually.

A Battle Against Time

However, when you are writing an examination, you do not have the luxury of unlimited time. More to the point, given the very nature of the entrance examinations, only a very small fraction of the candidates will be able to solve all the questions in the allotted time. And very likely not even one candidate will be able to solve every question correctly in the given time.

What this means is that you will be fighting the clock for the entire duration of the examination. And the goal becomes not one of solving the questions, but of maximizing the marks you can get in the allotted time. It is less fruitful, given the purpose of the examinations, to solve one tough question for 6 marks than it is to solve two easier questions for 8 marks. In the end, where you got the marks do not count at all.

So how does one go about maximizing one’s marks in a time-crunch examination? Allow us to suggest a few crucial steps that you can consciously take while writing the examination that will help you to come out of the examination hall with the maximum possible marks given how prepared you are.

The Virtue of Reading

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First, read the paper. This may seem like a cliché. Teachers and parents have said this time and again, but most students ignore this cardinal rule. The image alongside shows how one teacher trolled students in a test by using against them the fact that most students do not read a question paper thoroughly before beginning to answer the questions.

Now the entrance examination papers will not troll the candidates. However, there are other reasons for which reading the paper is important.

  1. It helps prioritize questions. Remember, unlike in a board examination, in the entrance examinations, the easier questions do not come earlier. Quite often the paper setters place difficult questions at the start just be able to sift through candidates who are not playing to their strengths but who are blindly trying to answer questions in the order in which they appear.
  2. It helps to have a realistic picture of how long the paper is. Too often candidates begin answering questions in order and think they are doing well only to find later on that they are running out of time to solve relatively easy questions. Reading the paper first enables the candidate to have an idea of how long each question should take to solve. Then the candidate can set milestone targets within the paper to gauge if time is being used wisely. For example, the candidate could plan to solve the first ten easy questions in fifteen minutes followed by the next ten (tougher) questions in perhaps twenty minutes, etc.
  3. It helps to get the subject the candidate is weakest in out of the way. In order to qualify through the entrance examinations a candidate will have to score a minimum in each subject. If a candidate is weak in, say, Mathematics, then getting the minimum in Mathematics should be one of the first goals while writing the paper. This is done quickest by attempting a few of the easiest questions in Mathematics. Then the candidate can focus on the subjects in which he or she is better and thereby score higher.

The benefits of reading the entire paper before starting to solve the questions are many and this is a crucial part of an exam strategy. If it takes a candidate ten minutes to read the paper and prioritize questions, then that is ten minutes well spent!

To summarize

Read the entire paper

Target getting the minimum qualification marks in your weakest subject first

Complete the easy questions before going to the tougher ones

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