Follow these practical tips to avoid being stymied by blanks during exams
WITH matric exams under way and other grades’ exams not far behind, education expert Dr Gillian Mooney, of the Independent Institute of Education (IIE), has shared some advice designed to help pupils avoid those dreaded blanks when they see their exam paper for the first time.
She also addressed issues such as runaway nerves, advising pupils how to regain their equilibrium and confidence to tackle the exam.
“Writing an exam can be a very stressful experience for many learners, even when they were diligent in their revision,” Mooney said.
The exam environment could be unfamiliar and daunting. The environment was formal, with rules about where to sit, what you can do and what you can have with you.
Exam nerves were quite normal, she said.
But when pupils become so overwhelmed that they cannot remember the material they’ve spent so much time reviewing, nerves can turn to panic.
Mooney has the following suggestions for pupils:
“Firstly, when you receive the paper, carefully read through all the instructions and every page of the paper.
“Then re-read all the instructions. This will give you a sense of what is expected of you.
“Remind yourself that even if you do forget some details, it is unlikely that you will completely forget everything.
“While reading through the paper, mark all the questions that you can answer. Start with these questions first.
“That will give you some confidence and allow your mind some time to process, as well as to start accumulating some marks for the paper.”
If you still feel overwhelmed:
Don’t panic: If you feel panicked, take long, slow and deep breaths.
Doing this will calm you physically. Getting the physical panic under control is an important step in calming your mind.
Calm down: Once you have calmed your body, it is time to calm your mind. Give yourself a mental pep-talk by repeating to yourself: “I am calm. I have worked hard. I know my work.” You can also give yourself this pep-talk while you are taking deep breaths.
Get back to business: Once you are feeling a bit calmer, go back to the questions you believed you could not answer. Try to jot down anything and everything that you can remember about the material. You can always cross this out to indicate it should not be marked.
Visualise: If you cannot remember any of the material, try to use some memory tricks to assist you. For example, try to visualise sitting in class when the material was covered, or try to picture yourself in your study area with your notes in front of you. Often thinking about the context of the material can help you to remember it.
Reconstruct your memories:
If you are able to jot down notes about the material, review these notes and see how the information you have remembered relates to the question.
Try to reformulate your notes into a response to the question posed.
Remember the big picture:
Keep in mind that what you are usually marked on, is your ability to answer the question. In the worst-case scenario, where you cannot remember a single piece of information from your course material, simply try to answer the question from a common sense perspective. You may find you do actually know quite a bit about the question, and may be awarded some marks for your general knowledge.
Doing this may also prompt you to remember the course material.
“Staying calm is your most important weapon in the exam room, as is keeping a sense of perspective at all times, and endeavouring only to do your best in whichever situation you find yourself,” Mooney advised.