Does it happen to you that are very well prepared and know everything, but somehow you just don’t score well on exams. And do you know that knowing the content well and scoring well are two different things. For this topic, I spoke to principals and examiners and also looked at several answer books of toppers and analysed them. So in this article we will cover
a) Exam To-Do’s
b) Paper Presentation Tips
and I will show you examples from topper’s papers – with specific tips for Science, Math, English and Social Sciences papers
First thing when you get the paper, put down the timings against each question. Leave 15 mins at the end for revision. Divide the overall time between different sections e.g. 45 minutes for 10 short answers if they are for 2 marks each. 2 hours for the 3/5 long answers which are of 10 marks each. Sometimes we spend so much time writing the short answers neatly and accurately and rush through the last few 10 mark answers. And that’s where we lose marks even though we knew everything.
You can plan these timings beforehand while doing your practice papers to save time. Wear a wrist watch, do not depend on the wall clock and stick to the timings. If you are not sure of a particular answer, skip it and move forward.
2. Read each question twice
notice the command words and read the entire question twice – e.g. describe is different from list, distinguish is different from give advantages of. Underline the command word if you are allowed to. Sometimes in our excitement, we just read the first few words of the question and jump in to start answering it since we have read a similar question before. This is a trap !! Be careful.
3. Tick off completed answers on the question paper,
to ensure that you don’t accidentally leave any question unanswered
4. The next tip is for CBSE students
– sometimes you get a question which is out of your syllabus and many students leave the answer blank. But once in the past this had happened and the CBSE later ruled that if a student has attempted that answer he should be given marks. Irrespective of whether the answer was right or wrong. So don’t leave any question unanswered on your paper (especially because there are no negative marks)
Paper Presentation Tips
Now we all agree that content is king, but presentation and creating the right impression goes a long way. Since most of you know the content, this is where you could end up losing marks.
1. Science and Social Sciences – As far as possible, begin the answer by directly answering the question in the first line itself.
e.g. A science Question is – List three characteristics of lungs which make it an efficient respiratory surface.
Start your answer with – The characteristics of lungs make it an efficient respiratory surface are:-
or A social Science question is – Why did Gandhiji decide to call off the Non-Co-operation movement.
Begin the answer with – Gandhiji decided to call of the Non Co-operation movement because –
and then give the reasons point wise. Preferably keep the points in an orderly fashion, with the most important points first.
2. When answering objective type questions, Underline the answer or the main keyword. Or you can put a box around it. You can also highlight / underline / draw boxes around important points.
e.g. A social sciences question is – Name a political party in India that grew out of a movement.
Answer – The political party in India that grew out of a movement is AIADMK (and put a box around AIADMK)
3. If the question is on distinguish between, then answer this question in columns. If it is a 2 mark question, write at least 4 points and try giving examples. Use a pencil and ruler for making the columns.
4. If the question is for five marks, most often you would be expected to write about 5 points and always summarize in the last sentence
5. In Science – Draw diagrams if possible – use a sharp pencil, draw neat diagrams and label them. Also give a proper title to each diagram. Do this for questions that are at least for 5 marks or more.
6. In social science if you have map work – please put the question number on the top left corner of the map and circle it.
7. While reading a question, write down all the given information in order as it appears, first thing in the answer – The format for a math answer should be – Given, To Find, Formulae, Proof Format and Answer in units
8 In math even if your answer is correct but you forget to write the units – That could be a costly mistake. Like cm or rupees. If there are no specified units in the question then write your answer as 12 units.
9 Put the final answer in a box (with units)
10 If there are tables required to be drawn in the Math paper, draw them using a pencil and ruler.
11. For all subjects, Draw a margin on the left side because once you attach the supplementary sheets, the stuff written on the inner edges will not be visible. And in Math draw a margin on the right hand side as well where you can do your rough work. Remember to cut out the rough work later.
12. In school, if I had time before the paper started, I would quickly draw my trigonometric tables on the last page for reference during the paper.
13. If there is a graph paper, make sure you write the question number on the graph paper and also the scale. Mark and label the axis. Don’t attach the graph paper at the end of the supplementary sheet as it might get detached. Keep it in the middle of the sheet, next to the question.
Let’s take a look at your English Paper
14. In English if you have a reading comprehension type question, then always read the questions before reading the passage. This way you will know what to look for while reading the passage
15. In the writing section of English where you have to write a letter or an essay, keep in mind the word limits.
General Tips on Paper Presentation
16. Write neatly and legibly. If you cut something out, give some space and write it neatly on a different page. Leave a line between answers.
17. Draw a line at the end of every answer, so that the examiner knows clearly that your answer ends at that point.
18. Don’t give extra information. E.g. they have asked you to write the advantages of AC current, stick to the advantages. Don’t give disadvantages also just because you know them.
19. At the end, revise the paper, check if all questions have been attempted and also check if you have written the question numbers correctly.
20. Attempt the question in sequence as far as possible. Let’s say you are not sure about Q4, then you can leave some blank space after Q3 and go on to Q5. You may do Section D before doing Section C, but once you start a particular section. Complete all the questions in one go.
21. Write your paper in blue or black ball point pens preferably
22. If you make a mistake, just cancel it with one single line, don’t make a full spider web over that cancelled answer
23. Don’t use SMS language and short forms. Use formal vocabulary and the appropriate technical words
See this for how to structure long answers
How to read a textbook effectively and remember what you read