Pass those exams with flying colours

It's that time of the year again – not only for Matrics, but for many others as well. And while one three-hour exam seems an unfair way to test a whole year's work, there is no getting around it.

Let's face it, getting your knickers in a knot or having a panic attack won't get you out of having to write the exam. You'll just have to buckle down and do it.

So what can you do to make sure that you get through this one successfully?

Have a good night's sleep. A tired brain cannot think or remember properly and is likely to make mistakes under exam conditions. If you are really tired, you will also be unable to remember things that were said in class during the year.

Have the right stuff. Make sure you have the equipment you need. It will disrupt you and the others around you if you have to borrow things during the exam.

Take ten. Take ten minutes at the beginning of the exam to read through the paper. See what choices you have and get an idea of which questions have been asked.

Follow instructions. If Question A is compulsory and you have to choose between Questions B and C, you will fail if you answer B and C and A not at all. Reading the instructions is probably the most important thing to do in an exam. If you are unsure, ask the invigilator to explain it to you. They are allowed to do that.

Best foot forward.Start with the section with which you feel most confident. Answering this first will calm you down and will equip you to deal with the more difficult stuff.

Don't waste time on the no-hopers. Go right through the paper and answer everything that you can. Leave a gap for the not-so-sure questions and carry on. Many people fail their exams because they get stuck on Question 3a, about which they have no clue, and end up running out of time and handing in a paper in which they have left out questions they could have answered.

Plan your time allocation. This is really important. If the paper is three hours long and counts 200 marks, this means roughly seventy marks per hour must be answered for you to get through this. Stick to this. If you get full marks for the first section, but never got round to the second or third section, you will still fail.

Read the questions. Don't answer what you think is being asked – look at the question carefully. This is where most candidates fall short. The minute or two you spend on reading the question is certainly not time wasted.

Emergency supplies. Take tissues, tampons(if you need them) or a handkerchief with you. A headache tablet, a bottle of water or a throat lozenge can also be a good idea. If you suffer from asthma, take your asthma pump with you. The point is you need to think ahead.

Don't choose questions containing unknown words. This is especially true for essay questions, If you don't know what 'humorous' means, don't attempt the question.

Consider the marker. People who mark Matric papers do it for the money, not for the fun. They sit in large halls under neon lights for hours on end in the December heat. Your paper might be the one they get to at ten o'clock at night. Write in black or dark blue pen, mark your questions clearly and leave a line open in between each question.

Forget about the other candidates. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by someone's bleeding nose or exam jitters or dramas. If someone is doing something that is distracting you, complain to the invigilators. This is the one time you are allowed to be selfish.

Take an extra pen. Pens have a habit of dying in the middle of an exam. If you don't have an extra one, borrowing another one could take five minutes of your precious time. Don't do it to yourself not to have an extra one.

Wear comfortable clothes. An exam is not a fashion parade. Don't spend half the exam time worrying about your jeans that are too tight or the blister you are getting on your heel.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)

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