Sitting exams is often a skill in itself – how you prepare for each exam and your behaviour in the exam hall can make a real difference to your final grade. Find out how to boost your chances of exam success with our quick guide.

Exam preparation

Ask your teacher for some past exam papers. Test yourself to find out which areas you need to focus on in your revision, and practice answering questions in a timed setting. This can help familiarise yourself with the likely format of the papers and help you develop your exam skills.

Make sure you have any materials or equipment you need for each exam, such as calculators or rulers. Your school or college will let you know what you can and can’t bring with you.

In the exam

Don’t rush, try to stay focused and remain calm. Taking some deep breaths can help steady your nerves.

Read the exam instructions carefully, taking particular note of how many questions you are required to answer. The format may have changed from previous years so don’t assume it will be the same as past papers you may have seen – make sure you are following the instructions on the paper in front of you.

Make a rough note of how long to spend on each section. Try and divide your time according to the mark scheme (so in a two-hour exam, if section one is worth 50 per cent, and section two and three are worth 25 per cent each, then try to spend an hour on section one, and 30 minutes on each remaining section). Keep an eye on the clock and try and pace yourself.

If you have a choice of questions, tick the ones you intend to answer. Remember to analyse the precise wording of each question.
For essay-based questions, it can be helpful to make a brief outline plan of your answer, perhaps using bullet points to remind you of the areas you want to cover. This can help structure your argument. You may want to start with the question you think will be easiest as getting going can boost your confidence and help you settle into the exam.

Don’t dwell on a question you are struggling to answer. Instead, focus on answering (and getting marks for) something else – you can always come back to blank areas later in the exam.

It’s difficult when you’re surrounded by other people, but try to ignore everyone else. Just because the person next to you starts scribbling away immediately, it doesn’t mean that they are answering questions correctly. Remember, minutes spent reading instructions, choosing questions and considering answers, can make a real difference to your marks.

Finally, try and allow some time at the end to review what you’ve written and correct any mistakes.