Exam essentials: Understanding your exam paper

This article was first published on 22 January 2019.

How well do you know your exam paper?

Knowing the structure of your paper, and how to tackle it, could give you the edge you need to get the grades you crave.

Here are some pointers to get you started:

  • Read your exam paper all the way through before you start. Don't forget to check the back of the paper for questions you might not have noticed!

  • Mentally note how many questions there are, and how many marks each question is worth

  • Practise with past papers so you are familiar with the format of the paper and the type of questions asked.

Grace recounts how she coped with her first exam, and her teacher's tips that saved the day.

Let's recap

Once the exam starts, it's tempting to jump right in and just start writing, but taking a few minutes at the start of the exam can actually improve your overall performance and possibly your grade.

Put a few minutes aside before you start answering questions, and read through your exam paper. In particular watch out for:

  • How many questions there are

  • The different marks on offer

  • Which questions are compulsory

  • Which questions you can answer quickly

  • Which questions will require more time and thought

  • Questions on the back page, which you might not notice.

Use this information to work out how much time you need to spend on each question.

Another useful tip is to familarise yourself with the paper structure beforehand by going over past papers. Ask your teacher if you are not sure how to get hold of them.

Now you really are ready. Good luck!

Exam essentials: Handling exam day
Revision: How to stay motivated
Exam essentials: Using past papers