Your hand is starting to shake as you frantically write. You struggle to grip your pen. Your palm is sweating and your hand is aching. Your writing is now almost completely illegible. "Pens down." Before you know it, time runs run out. You suddenly realize there are still 10 questions you hadn't attempted yet.
If you've found yourself in this situation before, you've come to the right place; here are some tips on how to manage your time during high school exams (particularly for the HSC).
In some subjects, the amount of marks allocated to a question can help guide you on the amount of time which should be required for it. For example, if it is a 60 minute exam with 30 questions, technically you should be allocating around 2 minutes for each mark (e.g. use about 4 minutes for a two mark question).
However, in reality (especially in the HSC), not only would you also need time to double check, two or three mark questions usually require disproportionately more time than one markers as they are usually harder. Hence, you may be able to do an easy one mark question in just half a minute instead of two without compromising on the quality of your answer, and used this saved up time for harder questions.
If it helps, try writing the amount of time you should be using beside each question to prevent you from losing track of it.
For some subjects though (such as HSC Mathematics), questions near the end are usually much harder than those at the beginning even when the same amount of marks are allocated. Hence, without compromising on the quality of your answers, it is reasonable to try to finish the questions at the start faster than what the marks would suggest and spend more time at the end.
Leave time for double-checking
Remember when you and your friends came out of exam rooms and asked one another how many pages everyone wrote? Well, in reality, quality is usually better appreciated by teachers rather than the amount of pages you wrote. One of the biggest mistakes I used to make was always trying to write as much as I can during my English exams; it would be wise to leave around 10 minutes afterwards (depending on the subject) to read over and check there aren't any mistakes, rather than use that time to make another new point; expression is usually a critically marked component.
Similarly for maths and science subjects, it's always good to double check your workings and calculations to avoid simple mistakes. There's nothing worse than dedicating a large amount of time to answer a hard question correctly and getting hard earned marks, only to lose marks on easy questions simply because you pressed the wrong thing on your calculator.
A good way to judge how much time is needed for particular questions is to do timed practice or past papers beforehand. It will also allow you to get a better idea of the time needed for the exam as a whole and whether you should speed up or slow down your response time overall. Additionally, you'll familiarise yourself with the styles of various questions which can help your brain click and recognise key words or question styles faster during exams.
Have a think about these tips and if you think they might be helpful, give them a go next time assessment week comes around. Remember though, actually knowing your stuff when you walk into the exam room can save just as much time as having smart time management techniques.
Jack Zheng | N° 7