You have spent weeks or months preparing for this day so it is important that nothing goes wrong on that day. Here, we are talking about exam day and let us share some tips that will help you to perform successfully in your exams.


Shaking fingers and butterflies in the stomach are common natural symptoms on the day of the exam. Accept that these feelings are perfectly normal.

How to calm your nerves?
• Go early to the exam hall – do not rush so that you will not arrive tensed and panicky.
• Stay away from the crowd as sometimes friends may bring up something which you have not studied!
• Go somewhere to relax and take a few deep breaths to deal with the nerves.

During the Exam

1) Read instructions and questions carefully (e.g., answer 3 out of 5 questions). Underline key words in the instructions and questions to know precisely what is being asked.

2) Aim to answer the required questions so you can score better overall. Any required question that is not answered will get ZERO mark, no matter how well or perfect you have answered the other questions!

3) Choose the easier questions to answer first to get your confidence up! Leave the more difficult questions to the last.

Time management

Allocate time based on number of questions as well as the marks allocated. Try the following strategy for each question:

20% : Planning
70% : Writing
10% : Checking

If time is up for each question, STOP writing and go immediately to the next question, even if you have not completed your answer (refer to point 2 above). Leave some writing space so you can come back to the unfinished part later on, if there’s time left.

If time is running out, jot down remaining answer in bullet point form – this will generally help to get you some marks.

Handling Exam Questions

Here are some pointers on handling exam questions:

(a) Essay questions
• Jot the main points during the ‘Planning’ phase
• Jot notes or points as they occur to you, even while you are answering other questions
• Start a new question on a fresh page (don’t worry about “wasting” paper)
• Leave space at the end of each question in case you wish to add more later on

(b) Multiple questions
Make an intelligent guess when you encounter difficulty, but make sure there is NO penalty for WRONG answers. Therefore, it’s important to read the Instructions very carefully (refer to point 1 above)! If there are penalties for wrong answers, it is better not to guess or else you will lose marks for the wrong answers.

(c) Difficult question
• Close your eyes to stay calm
• Make conscious effort to practise relaxation (focus on your breathing & say the word “relax” as you breathe out) – being relaxed helps with recall
• Mentally review and write down the most basic or key concepts for the topic which might help to focus back on the question
• Even try to visualize or recall the words spoken by the lecturer during class

(d) Other tips
• When you make any mistake, simply cancel or cross it out. Don’t waste time erasing or using correcting fluid
• Do not pay attention to what other students are doing during the exams – you don’t know whether they are indeed answering the questions correctly!

After the Exam

• Tell yourself: “What’s done is done!”
• Do not get involved in ‘post mortems’, i.e., post-exams discussions about the paper
• Do not reflect on your exam performance (you cannot re-do the paper). Instead, focus your energy and attention in preparing for the NEXT paper
• ‘Post mortems’ will interfere with your revision and performance of the next paper
• Leave the exam venue as soon as possible – it is better to go away somewhere to unwind and relax, e.g., go to the Library cafe and read your favourite magazine, catch a movie (only if there’s at least a 1-day break between papers), watch something on Youtube or play computer games (within limits, of course

Finally, remember the 3 Cs for the golden exam rules: COOL, CALM and CONCENTRATE!
Good Luck!!

Source: NYP Counselling Services, August 2009.