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How to have better time management during examination

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

“The time now is 8 o’clock, you have 2 hours and you may begin”

You hear the flipping of pages, you see the clock starts ticking, and there you are –


I am sure that all of you students are familiar with hearing this instruction when an examination starts, and it is bound to be really nerve-wrecking. The moment you flip over the cover page of the examination papers, and you are literally stuck at what to do first – Do you begin doing the first question? Or do you check to see the total number of pages of the examination papers?

While you are pondering over what to do first, you are losing valuable time and every single minute counts in an examination.

Today, Math Lobby will be discussing examination strategies on how we can better manage time during examinations, and what key points to take note to ensure that you utilize each and every second usefully.

1. Plan beforehand on how you are going to tackle each and every type of the questions

First of all, you have to plan ahead of time – There is no way you are going to excel in an examination battlefield without thoroughly planning out strategies and tactics to maneuver through the each and every question. So, during your revisions, circle and highlight topics that you are weak in, especially if your examination dates are drawing close and you are unable to do a full revision on all the topics tested, and place emphasis on those topics first. Look out for the different types of possible scenarios that might appear in a particular type of question and plan on how to tackle them.

For example: If you are provided with a graph paper, you should know that there might be a question on Functions and Graphs. Hence, you should know that drawing a graph takes up quite a lot of time, so you can first plan take a look at the equation and identify if it is a positive or negative curve, then look for the x and y-intercepts, work out the maxima or minima if possible and so on.

This will allow you to enter the examination with an organized and well-prepared mindset, which will save you a lot of time rather than wasting time and doing it on the spot. Unsure how to construct a concise revision plan? You can approach Math Lobby for help and there will be tutors available that are glad to work this through with you! We provide study skills and examination workshops to teach students these useful skills and tips which are not taught in schools. These are the tips which differentiates an A student from a C student.

2. Scan through all questions at the start of the examination

So, after you have everything well-planned out, now it is time to talk about what you should do DURING the examination. When the clock first starts ticking, students tend to just flip over the cover page and go on with the first question. This is a mistake because you are unaware of the general difficulty level of the whole examination paper, and if you get stuck on the first question, a lot of time will be wasted unnecessarily.

What you should do first is to SCAN through all the questions in the whole paper, identify the topics tested and circle those that you are familiar with. This way you can go on and do the questions you are well-prepared for first, and secure those marks confidently. This will ensure that your momentum during the examination is in top form, and is not obstructed in the midst and ending in time wastage.

3. When you are stuck on a question, move on and come back to it later

We know that regardless of how well-prepared we are for an examination; we are bound to face some form of difficulties in one way or another. Hence, what should we do? The number one rule when facing a question that you have difficulty doing is: DO NOT PANIC!

When we panic, it will cause our thinking to be temporarily muddled and impaired, which can result in thoughts being illusive and things that you studied for will seem hard to comprehend and recall. This will really hinder and affect your momentum for the subsequent remaining part of your examination.

Therefore, what you should do is to take note of the page number, and remind yourself to come back to it later after you have finished all of the questions you are confident of scoring.

Remember: securing marks that you have confidence in getting is of the utmost priority in an examination, rather than placing emphasis on questions that you are unsure of how to proceed with first and risk compromising the marks left unattended in the other questions in case you run out of time.

4. Allocate the amount of time to use based on the number of marks awarded by the question

If you are uncertain of how much time you should be spending on a particular question, a useful way would be to use the marks awarded for the particular question as a general guideline to allocate the amount of time you would be spending on the questions. For example, in an examination with a total of 100 marks which you have 3 hours or 180 minutes to complete, you are suppose to spend 1.8 minutes, or 1 minute and 48 seconds on each mark awarded for the questions on average. Hence, a question that awards 5 marks will allow you to spend a maximum of 9 minutes on it.

Of course, this is a hypothetically ideal scenario, assuming that there will be no hiccups during the whole examination, which is quite unlikely. Therefore, for questions that you are able to complete at a quicker pace, spend the extra time you have on the questions that you have skipped, or generally requires you to spend longer time on it due to the nature of it, like graph drawing which requires pinpoint precision. This will ensure that your time is utilized fully and efficiently, salvaging each and every second in the examination.

We all know that time is never on our side when we are in an examination, but through better time management with a well-thought-out plan that we can execute during an examination, we can make time our best friend.

With that being said, we have come to the end of this discussion, so let’s recap and give a brief summary on what we have went through so far:

1. Plan beforehand on how you are going to tackle each and every type of the questions – Circle and highlight topics that you have difficulties in during your revisions, devise a proper plan for execution before enter the examination hall.

2. Scan through all questions at the start of the examination – Do not rush into starting off with the first question right at the beginning, spend a minute or two in identifying the topics tested in the questions and have a good grasp of the general difficulty of the paper.

3. When you are stuck on a question, move on and come back to it later – When you are stuck on a question, do not panic and take note of the page number. Come back to it once you have completed all the questions you have confidence in doing.

4. Allocate the amount of time to use based on the number of marks awarded by the question – If you do not know how much time to spend on a question, use the marks awarded as a general guideline by dividing the total number of marks in the paper by the number of minutes you are given to complete the whole paper, and that will be the amount of time you are suppose to spend on each question.

We hope that through this discussion, you have learnt how to manage your time better during examinations and be more efficient in not only working hard, but also working smart. Study hard, stay motivated and we wish all students a successful and enjoyable journey with Math Lobby!

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