NZQA Help for Students
Over the last days, teachers give helpful study hints to all senior students sitting exams. Take careful note of these. The main message is:
"Don’t panic. Do study. Get organised so you can get the most benefit from the time you’ve got."
Sitting Exams with Confidence
- Make sure breakfast is a calm, unhurried and healthy start to the day.
- Get prepared the night before – pens that work, a fresh battery in the calculator and anything else you need.
- Use sound exam techniques:
- Read the instruction carefully and mark the questions that have to be answered.
- Read the question carefully to understand it.
- Jot down ideas and notes.
- Change an answer if necessary.
- Work at a steady pace and take no notice of others finishing early.
- Relax nerves by deep breathing.
- Have a go at difficult questions – there are no marks for blank pages.
- Keep work legible and tidily set out.
- Use time at the end to read over, correct and make changes.
You’ll use your study time far more efficiently if you invest a little time in organising yourself.
Make sure you’ve got a space that’s just for study – then you’re less likely to be distracted. If there’s no quiet space to call your own at home, go to the quietest corner of your local library.
Keep all your study stuff – books, papers, pens, pencils – together as much as possible. Then you won’t waste time searching for things.
If you’ve got heaps of notes and loose pages, put each subject on a separate folder. Paper clip or staple the pages relating to various topics to each other within those folders. Then you’ll be able to see how much you have to cover on each topic and subject, and it’ll be easier to allocate your time properly.
Studying with friends can be tempting, but think seriously about how much work you’ll actually get done – and if the answer’s not much, try to study by yourself and save the socialising for after exams.
Some STUDY POINTERS from Te Tari Awhina Learning Support at Unitec:
- Recognise your own preferences and commitments and build them into your study timetable.
- Work out your best times for concentrating and make use of them.
- Take 10 minutes break every hour.
- Set realistic goals; break big tasks down into smaller parts and define them very clearly.
- Try using a variety of techniques to help you remember things.
- Have a clear idea of what you want to do, and why.
- You could try doing the things you don’t like first, and allowing more time for things you find especially difficult.
- Think of ways to reward yourself for the study you’ve done.
Planning Your Study Time
You need to do well in your final school exams to get into your tertiary course, and you’re starting to panic? Don’t panic, do study. Get organised and you can get the most benefit from the time you’ve got.
Exam Day Checklists
Familiarise yourself with the following checklists, memorising in particular the ones to use in the examination room. As you go over the points, try to visualise yourself in the examination room, imagining yourself in situations where you can use these techniques. Doing this will help you bring the techniques immediately to use should you need them.
Do This Now:
Know the DATE and TIME of each exam. Every year some students turn up on the wrong day, or at the wrong time for an exam. Their whole year's work is jeopardised. Colour code your exam times on your revision planner-one colour for morning exams; a second colour for afternoon exams.
Before the Exam:
- Have a good night's sleep. You cannot give a true account of what you have learned if you are tired. Remember that sitting and writing for two to three hours is quite tiring enough, so make sure you're physically fresh. Keep off artificial stimulants.
- Avoid cramming on the last evening or even just before an exam. Cramming is a poor substitute for regular learning and can lead to confusion. BUT checking over key points and main ideas is sensible revision.
- Enjoy a good breakfast. You will need all the energy this will provide.
- Remember to take all the materials you need into the exam room. These include spare pens, pencils, rubber, calculator, etc.Arrive in good time-well before the scheduled starting time. Have an accurate watch with you to keep track of time.
- Relax.While a little anxiety before an exam is a good sign (if shows you are concerned about the exam and not overconfident), you should try to relax as much as possible. As one writer says, "It's OK to have butterflies in your stomach as long as they fly in formation."
- Keep away from nervous and jittery friends. They may confuse you and destroy your confidence. It is better to spend time in peace and quiet, and to stay calm and positive.
In the Exam Room:
Aim for mental calm-get comfortably settled. If you are nervous, take slow, deep breaths. If you become tired during the exam, try these techniques:
- Close your eyes and take deep breaths; slowly and quietly say "relax" to yourself.
- Let your arms and hands dangle.
- Flex and relax your finger muscles.
- Change your body position at your desk without disrupting other candidates. This will let blood flow to your thighs, buttocks and back. Stretch your arms, legs, back and neck. Breathe deeply again.
- If you suffer from writers' cramp during an exam, let your arm dangle by your side, then flex your hand muscles. Vary your pace by attempting a different style of question, for example, multi-choice, to give your writing muscles a rest.If you experience a mental block, don't panic. Take a deep breath and relax. Think back to class time and your notes and try to remember some point. Did you make a mindmap of this topic, or draw a diagram, or see a video? If the blank persists, leave the question, and come back to it later. Your mind will continue to work on this problem while you concentrate on something else
Read the exam carefully. Make sure you note all of the following:
- The number of questions in the exam paper and whether they are arranged in Sections.
- How many questions in total you must answer, and how many you must answer from each section.
- Whether there are any compulsory questions.
- Whether each question is to be answered on a new page.
- Whether there is a specified order of answering questions.
- How many marks each question is worth.
- How your answers are to be recorded. This is especially important if computer-scored answer sheets are used.
- How the answer booklets are to be headed.
- Where your code number (if applicable) is to be written.
- Any other directives from the examiner.
Plan your time carefully and accurately - according to the marks for each question. For example, if you have three hours (180 minutes) for a 100-mark paper, this equates to roughly 18 minutes for a 10 mark question. If you allocate 16 minutes for each 10mark question (32 minutes for 20 marks), this will leave 20 minutes for familiarising yourself with the paper at the start and, at the end, will enable you to re-read your answers, add to them if necessary and generally check what you have written. Keep to your time limit per question. Some give and take might be possible if you finish one question early and go slightly over time in another.
- If you leave a question or want to return to it, make a note on your paper, use a symbol to remind you-so you won't forget in the later stages of the exam.
- Number your answers correctly.
- Answer an "easy" question first. With a good start, you will think more effectively for all questions and become calmer and more positive.
- Answer each new question on a new page unless instructed otherwise.
- Note carefully the meaning of terms asked in each question
- Check the wording and underline key words.
- On spare paper jot down your ideas on the main points, ideas and facts to include in the essay. This is brainstorming.
- Sort out your brainstorming ideas into a logical form or order.
- Do not start your essay until you know how you are going to begin and end your answer.
- Write or print legibly. This will make your answer easier to read and will be appreciated by the examiner, particularly if he or she is marking at 1.00 am!
- Keep to the word limits of the answer. If a question asks for 200 words, 50 will be too few, 300 too many.Write a short but arresting introduction.
- Develop your answer in the body of the essay. Be logical, write in paragraphs and take care over spelling and terminology.
- End with a persuasive summary or conclusion. Sometimes you can include wording from the essay question to emphasize that you have answered the question as asked.
Short Answer and Multi-choice Questions
- Make sure you know the method needed to answer the questions, for example, ticking or crossing in boxes, blacking out a space or writing a letter (A B C D E).
- Take care completing these questions. If your mark extends into two boxes, if the letter you write is unclear, or if the space you blacken is not completely covered, you may not get the credit for your answer.
- Work through questions fairly rapidly but carefully. If the correct answer looks obvious, still check the other alternatives. There may be a better answer further on. Delete obvious non-answers first, then make a choice. Have confidence in your ability to answer correctly. If you decide that the answer you have written is wrong, then change it, but only after careful checking.
- Check whether the answer you are to choose is the best one or the only true and correct one. Be especially careful with questions that contain negatives, for example, "Which of these is NOT..." or "All of these except..."
- If you cannot answer a question, leave it and return to it later. BUT: In your final check, make sure that you have answered ALL questions. A blank won't get any marks.
- Write down any formulae that you may need, and that are not provided in the exam paper, as soon as you can.
- If you cannot quickly see how to do a problem, leave it and return to it later.
- Write something in answer to every problem. By stating part of the correct formula or answer, your may get one or two marks. Every mark is worth having.
- It Label all working stages clearly so that these can be followed easily by the marker.
Near the End of the Exam
- Make sure you have attempted all the questions you have been asked to. Remember, it's easier to get the first five marks for an essay or problem than it is to get the last few marks. So every question you attempt normally adds some marks to your total.
- Check all your answers. Look for words that are illegible, unclear or misspelt. If you are having difficulty reading or understanding your answer, the marker will find it even harder!
- Make sure ALL questions are correctly numbered.
- Never leave the exam room before time is up. Continual checking and refining can only help.