Tactics During the Exam.


I recommend that students think of the exam like a football match. We are in a competitive situation. There is a time limit divided up into segments. We need to score a certain number of points to pass or to get the mark we are after for the subject.

Good football teams have strategies and tactics that they know well before the match starts. The players go into the match knowing what to do and when.

"Tactics" are the practical actions we take as part of a strategy.

Successful students go into the exam with a plan of action. This means they can "hit the ground running." The last thing we want is for the exam to start and we are not clear on our tactics. Examples of these tactics are:

  • Spend reading time working out which questions you plan to do, if there is a choice.
  • Spend the first couple of minutes writing out your strategy for the exam. This can be a check-list of the things you need to do during the exam.
  • If there is a choice of questions, write down the number of each that you intend to answer.
  • Write down the time you intend to spend on each question in minutes. This will depend on the weighting of the marks each question has (see the techniques on "Balance" and "Weighting").
  • You may wish to write the actual start and finish time for each question.
  • The list we write may look like:

    I recommend that students set space on the inside cover as a place to make notes of things they may think of during the exam ("Pop-Ins"). While you are answering one question you may suddenly remember something you should add to another. I suggest writing down this pop-in and then going back later to add this work to the relevant question. Writing it down in a notes section will help stop you forgetting it (The terrible "Pop-out" ;-) ).

    If answering a question involves a relatively complex model or framework, I suggest students write out that model first. This helps them ensure that they write about all the relevant aspects of the model. If we just run straight into writing we can easily forget part of the model that we should write about. This will then lose marks.