Writing an Exam
Preparations for Exams


When you are in the examination room to write a two- or three-hour examination, follow these steps to make sure that you do as well on the examination as possible.

Skim the exam

Skim through the examination carefully, noting how many questions you have to answer. Quite often students will answer all the questions instead of the required number. This involves wasting time for which they can get no credit. A standard policy for the examiner is to not grade the last questions in the answer booklet, even though they might have been the best answers.

Choose the questions that you intend to answer, and place a mark by these questions. Obviously, choose the ones that you consider the easiest.

Take a moment to jot down by each question some major points that you want to include in your answer. These points can be the main ideas for each body paragraph. Otherwise, you may forget some of these points later during the examination.

Number the questions in the sequence in which you intend to answer them. Always answer the easiest question first because this will boost your confidence. Leave the most difficult question to last.

Budget your time

Budget your time, so that you do not run out of time. If you have five questions to answer in three hours and each question is of equal value, then allocate about 30 minutes for each question. This will give you a few minutes at the end of the examination to proofread your answers and add any additional material.

Students who do not budget their time could run out of time at the end of the examination even though they still have other questions to answer. It is easy to become oblivious to the time, so check your watch periodically. You cannot get marks for questions that you have not answered.

Recently, a law school student had to write a bar exam consisting of 240 objective questions in seven hours. He was allowed to use his textbook and notes, which could be a blessing or a curse. It is easy to spend too much time searching for the answer to one question. Therefore, he knew that he had to be organized to finish the exam on time. Before he entered the examination room, he set a pace for himself. He knew that by the end of every 30 minutes, he had to be at a certain objective number. If he did not maintain that pace during the exam, he could easily run out of time. Being organized helped him to complete the exam with a few minutes to spare!

Begin writing

Begin writing your first answer, following the format prescribed by the examiner. If the answer requires an essay format, follow these steps:

  • Begin your answer with a brief introductory paragraph, in which you state the points you will use to develop your answer.
  • Begin each new paragraph of your essay answer with a topic sentence stating the main idea that you will develop in that paragraph. Give ample evidence to prove your point. Then end your paragraph with a brief concluding sentence.
  • Proceed to the next paragraphs, using the same format.
  • At the end of your essay, use a brief concluding paragraph to summarize the points that you have used to develop your answer.

Leave some blank space at the end of your answer in case there are points that you want to add during the proofreading session.

Proceed to the next question.

Edit and revise

After you have answered all the questions (double check to make sure that all questions have been answered), take a few minutes to read through your answers and make any necessary revisions.

  • If you have made a mistake, such as using the wrong word, neatly draw a line through that word and write the correct word in the space over it. A neat answer is easier for the examiner to read.
  • If there is some additional information that you want to include in your answer, write it in the blank space at the end of the answer and draw a line to show the examiner where it should be inserted in your answer.


Avoid leaving the examination room before the allotted time. You may recall some other important points that you want to include in your answers. It is too late after you have left the examination room.


Always take into the examination room all the equipment you will need to write the examination. This includes extra pens in case one runs dry, or pencils and erasers to do objective tests that involve your shading the correct answer. It is easier to erase pencil shading than ink shading. Being prepared will enable you to relax in what could be a stressful environment.

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