Quite often I see students working very quickly, almost racing through their work – however making many careless mistakes. On the other hand I also see students carefully thinking about each step and understanding how to answer a question correctly, but run out of time in the exam. So how can you as a student develop the right balance between speed and accuracy? This is very important for mastering your VCE SACs and exams.
It’s not a race!
Firstly there is nothing impressive about being the first one to finishing a test – ultimately your marks matter, not how quickly you have completed your work. There is no point rushing through a test or exam and find yourself with dozens of mistakes. Many students that rush through their work do not achieve high marks because quality also counts.
I’ve seen cases of where students have rushed through exams that they incorrectly read instructions, made mistakes in marking their multiple choice answer sheets, forgot to look at the back page of the exam … this is all a result of being careless.
Read the question carefully
Don’t just skim through the question, be sure to use your reading time appropriately. Make sure that you think about the question and be aware of any “tricks” the question could have. For example if there is a domain or important key work, take a mental note of it. Try to work through the question mentally as this helps you relax and remember key steps.
Be careful with questions you get “stuck” on!
In a VCE SAC or exam it is very important to be careful with timing. It is very tempting to spend a long time figuring out a question! In your own study time, it is beneficial to work on deciphering a question however in the exam there is little time for this. Be sure to leave the question and come back to it later. Sometimes when we stop forcing the situation, it is easier to come up with the strategy of completing the question.
Working too slowly? Time to practice the foundations!
If you find that it is taking you a long time to answer questions it is usually because (a) your foundations are weak (b) you haven’t practiced enough. When we learn something new, it often takes a long time to get used to it. The neuronal connections are not too developed yet and therefore it takes a longer time to process information. Therefore you usually work slower and have to think about each step carefully. However, eventually there is a moment where you begin to complete questions faster because of repeating the same steps.
Practice answering questions under exam conditions
Perfecting timing usually requires doing practice exams under exam conditions. Often students don’t sit down and time themselves when completing an exam. They focus on how to answer the question and miss the timing factor completely. It is vital that you practice at least 5 exams under exam conditions so that you can become more confident with timing. This way you will develop an understanding of the length of an exam – and it will also train you to stay alert and focused, especially for 3 hour exams!
If you have time, go through your exam again
Try to edit your work to improve the quality. So if you have some extra time – go through your exam or test and try to improve it. Elaborate on your responses and check for calculation or spelling mistakes. The presentation of your work will make it more “marking friendly” and teachers really appreciate this.