Home Competitive Exam Tips 6 Mistakes to avoid in any exam

6 Mistakes to avoid in any exam

by Chetna Vasishth

Exam blues!! Take a chill pill.
Have you ever experienced that sometimes, even when we are so well prepared for an exam, we end up getting disappointing scores. So, today I will tell you about the 6 biggest and costliest mistakes that students tend to make in exams, so by the end of this video you will save yourself plenty of marks.

  1. Where to begin? 

The big question is – should I start with the biggest and most difficult problem first OR just go in serial order OR should I tackle the easy peasy questions first? 

Research has shown that the best way for you to solve your paper is to first give all the questions a quick read and if there are some really easy quick wins that you spot, then go for them. Next, move on to the difficult questions. But the problem is that when we encounter this long and difficult problem our entire time management goes for a toss. 

So, Try this: Solve a few challenging questions and when you reach a point where you can’t make out the head or tail of the question switch to the easier questions and you’ll glide through them. And when you come back to this difficult problem, your brain would have already figured it out.

In her book a mind for numbers Barbara Oakley calls this the Hard start – jump to easy technique, which means start with the hard and when stuck – jump to easy questions.  

Our brain is very powerful, and it keeps working in the background. 

But to make sure that we are always on track – One important thing to do is to plan out the time per question in pencil while the papers are being handed out. This will be the magic wand that will help you save up on time for revision!

  1. ‘The NOTTY Problem’ – 

One common mistake is rushing through the paper. The moment we spot a few familiar keywords in the question, we start writing. Read, Pause and Read the question a second time – at times we might miss out the NOT in the question and end up losing marks. 

Example – Which of the following is not a fortified town in Humpy? 


Atul covers distance by car driving at 60 kmph and returns to the starting point riding on a scooter at 45 kmph. Which of the following is not his average speed?

  1. 50.12 km                          (b) 50.6 km                       (c) 51.52 km                 (d) 51.42

The effect of a second reading is not twice that of a single reading. It is much greater – based on scientific research. They have found the effect to be ten times greater. If after a first reading you remember and observe 7%, after a second reading you will observe 70%.

Carefully read the command words – are they asking you to list, compare and contrast, give advantages of or describe. Pay special attention to the ‘answer any three’ type words which will save you a ton of time. Also underline all data given in the question. The most annoying words are ‘Copied Wrong’.

  1. Word Vomit

Most of us just read and start writing and so big mistake no. 3 is called word vomit. Did you know that the structure of an answer has almost as many marks as the content itself. So, ‘plan like iron man’, write an intro line, in science and social studies papers – write in points, do not write in points in English papers. 

Explore both sides of an argument and then make sure you  write a conclusion line stating clearly the summary of the arguments. 

If you’re writing an essay, jot down your key points on the side before deciding the order. They say that Fixing problems with your overall structure will fix 80% of the problems with your essay.  

The number of lines you write per answer should be proportional to the number of marks the question carries. So for a 3 mark question write one longish paragraph and for a 1-2 mark question write a couple of lines.


  1. The Unit Conundrum

One common mistake is to forget to write the units, especially in the math paper. Like centimeters, rupees or cubic meters. Also draw this neat box around your answer, write the units correctly and leave a line after each question. 

Teachers are exhausted after reading hundreds of papers. Make their job easier.


  1. Giving up early

There have been times when I have come out of the exam early and realised that the question I left was actually quite simple. So make sure you attempt every question. Write a few lines. I am saying this in bold letters – DO NOT SKIP QUESTIONS. And especially if there is no negative marking please attempt all multiple choice questions as well. If you want more detailed tricks on how to guess MCQ’s intelligently then I will drop a link for you in the description box below.


And talking about skipping questions. If you do skip questions and go to the next one, make sure you circle the skipped question, so you remember to go back to it later.

  1. Social Distancing

No no, this is not the mask variety. This is about keeping some distance from your friends before and after the exam. Three big mistakes in this category are

  1. Comparing your preparation with friends
  2. Discussing the chapters till the last minute even while walking into the exam hall
  3. Comparing answers after the paper

These are the three devils – minus the red face and horns of course. Avoid all these things. 



Smile and Breathe: No matter what, tell yourself you will do well. You have to let go of all the negativity and remember to ‘Smile at the exam paper and it will smile back at you’. And just deep breathe. Trust me – it WORKS!!! 

And it is a good idea to go simply dressed for your exam. Some people even recommend that you wear the same or similar attire to the one you have on your admit card. And one last but very important thing – remember that it is just one exam. You will always get another chance if things don’t go your way. So chill, smile and stay confident.

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