Get the Balance Right.

A common mistake that students make is to write too much on the one or two questions of the exam that they are most familiar with.

To maximize our marks we need to balance our time across the exam.

An example of Balance

I like to use the following example with students. We have $200 to spend over 4 days. Obviously we have an average of $50 per day to spend. Our spending does not have to be exactly $50 per day but if we spent most of the $200 in the first day then our spending is right out of balance and the last couple of days are going to be pretty crap ;-)

If our money lasts until the end of the forth day then our spending is in balance.

It is the same with the timing in an exam.

An example;

If an exam is 2 hours long and there are 5 questions that are equally weighted then we should probably spend around 24 minutes on each question.

Using another of my dumb examples;

Here there are 5 questions equally weighted.

Answering question c well should get us most of the 20 marks. However, even if we spend a full hour answering this question the most we can get for it is still 20 marks. This would mean that our exam is out of balance. We may have written the worlds best answer on the type of rat most commonly kept as a pet, but unfortunately this is not going to get us a pass!

Obviously, if a student knows the theory for one question a lot better than for the others they will be able to race through that one. This means that they can then spend more time answering another question.


Do you notice that question b is actually divided into 2 sub-questions? This means we need to divide the 24 minutes into approximately 12 minutes explaining which is the largest rat and approximately 12 minutes explaining where it is found.

So a more detailed timing structure actually looks like;