Tips for exam day

To say that exams are stressful is an understatement – the horror can stay with us for the rest of our lives. I calculate that there are over 6.5m GCSE and A level exams taken every year, this adds up to a whole lot of pain.

So you’ve done as much revision as you meaningfully can. What tips can an examiner give you? Well, these are from George Turnbull, the Exam Doctor.

Before the exam:

  • Know when and where your exams are being held.
  • Check your equipment, make sure that it is in good working order, and know what is to be provided by your school.
  • Check you don’t have two exams at the same time. Special arrangements need to be made.
  • Don’t cheat or break any rules. You could be disqualified or even arrested. Mobile phones are a menace and barred from the exam hall. Don’t take one in.
  • Have a leisurely breakfast or lunch and walk to school, if possible. Be there in good time.
  • Avoid friends outside the exam hall. They could confuse you. Keep your thoughts to yourself and concentrate on the exam. That’s why you are there.


In the exam room:

  • Take six deep breaths, ignore everyone else and concentrate solely on what you have to do.
  • Have a glucose sweet, to boost energy to your brain – but don’t crunch.
  • Read the instructions on the exam papers carefully – do the appropriate number of questions from the right sections, and answer compulsory questions.
  • Know how many marks each question carries – don’t spend too long on any one. Use the number of marks on the paper as a guide.
  • Read questions carefully before you write anything. Time is allowed for this. Use that time to choose your questions, and write notes on the question paper to help you remember later.
  • Make sure you answer the question asked.  No marks if you don’t.
  • If you run out of time, more marks can be gained by completing your remaining answers in outline only.  State what you would do and how to do it, by outlining your main arguments in an essay – without writing the essay – and by jotting down formulae in science – stating how you would complete the question – without doing the calculations.


Good advice, I am sure you will agree. After the exam – no post-mortems. Don’t worry about the exam you have just taken – you can’t do anything about it now.  Put the papers in a drawer and look at them again only when your own grandchildren ask to see them. Concentrate instead on the next exam, where you can influence the result.”

Finally, all that is left is to wish you all good luck in your exams.


The secret of exam success

I don’t know about you, learning doesn’t always come easy to me. I recall taking my mock GCSE exams and staring at my revision, wondering why some kids do really well seemingly without trying, whereas for me it was a battle.

There is a great debate about nature versus nurture. Is academic success due to some special chromosome or is to just down to the way you are taught to learn, and the effort you put in.

An article from Matthew Syed has shed some light on the conundrum. He has found that many studies have found that top performers learn no faster than those who reach lower levels of attainment – hour after hour, they improve at almost identical rates. The difference is simply that high achievers practise for more hours. This was a Eureka moment for me, so it’s about the hard yards – structured and regular studying is the secret.

Syed has found further research which has shown that when students seem to possess a particular gift, it is often because they have been given extra tuition at home, by tutors or parents.

This is not to deny that some kids start out better than others – it is merely to suggest that the starting point we have in life is not particularly relevant.

So many kids, develop a mindset that rationalise poor exam results with a feeling that they are somehow not bright enough. This mindset has a way of becoming self-fulfilling, as it leads to a lowering of expectations.

So with so many kids revising for their summer exams, what words of wisdom can we impart? Well, it is as simple as giving plenty of time for revision, covering the subjects as many times as you feel necessary until you feel that you know the answer. If you don’t understand something, then you can visit Tutorhub for some one to one help online, of course.

Good words of advice, I think. Best of luck kids.