How to Take Exams: 25 Successful Exam Techniques for Multiple Choice, Essay, and Mathematics Questions

Got a final exam coming up and worried about how to approach it? It’s that time of the year now where there will be all sorts of exams coming up: term tests, final exams, midterm exams, etc. and if it’s worth a big percentage of your grade, it can be pretty intimidating. Especially so if you’re going in without a plan or strategy in mind.

That’s why we’re here! We got you covered with 15 specific techniques for multiple choice, essay, and quantitative questions AND 10 essential general exam writing techniques.

15 Exam Tips for Multiple Choice, Essay, and Quantitative Questions

Multiple Choice Questions

1. Read the Entire Question
Even if you believe you know the answer after reading a few words, make sure you read the whole question before you record your answer. Taking a few more seconds to read the questions could make the difference between a right and wrong answer.

2. Answer First
Try to answer the question before seeing the answers. This allows you to be the most certain of your answer instead of just choosing one of the potential answers without deciding on your own.

3. Process of Elimination
Read each answer and cross out the ones you know for sure are incorrect. This will make choosing the right answer much easier because you can visually see the number of options decrease and narrow down, making the decision clearer and easier to make.

4. On to the Next One
Stuck on a question? To save time, move to the next question and solve the ones that you know first. Then, come back to the ones you were unsure about. This will save you time and potential stress from facing a challenging question.

5. No Blanks
Even if you tried multiple tactics and are still unsure of a question, make sure to make an educated guess. Usually, leaving a question blank will still result in a wrong answer so you might as well have a chance at getting the question right through a guess than not having a chance at all by leaving it blank.

Essay Questions

1. Outline
It’s tempting to just start throwing whatever is in your mind down on the paper but taking the extra few minutes to create an outline will make writing it so much easier. It will give you a much better organized and ultimately save you time in the long run. Also, if you run out of time, you can still get part marks for your outline.

2. Double Space
A very small thing to keep in mind but it can make a big impact on your grade. Double spacing will make your professor/examiner’s job that much easier and that itself can go a long way.

3. Read the Question
Of course, understanding what topic to write about is important but equally, if not more, important is what exactly about the topic the question is asking about. Pay attention to words like discuss, compare, analyze, etc.
-Discuss: Give overall picture. Broad understanding
-Compare: Compare two topics/items
-Analyze: Give a detailed analysis of the topic

4. Concise Sentences
Make sure that your sentences are not ongoing and it sounds like you’re rambling. Writing in clear and concise sentences is a lot easier for your examiner to understand and be convinced that you are sure of what you are talking about.

5. What is the Question?
When writing an essay it’s very easy to get lost in the many sentences you’re writing. Always make sure that what you’re writing is tying back to the main question at hand and is contributing to answering it.

Mathematics Questions

1. Formulas
If you’re not allowed a cheat sheet, make sure you write down the formulas you need somewhere on your exam before starting to make sure you don’t forget them. If you don’t know the formula you won’t be able to answer the question!

2. Check
Since there are many steps where numbers can be miscalculated, especially in a long question, make sure to check if your answer makes sense. If your answer to a question about how much revenue a huge company like Apple generated in a year is $500, you’re most likely wrong. Work backwards to see where you miscalculated!

3. Organization
When showing calculation steps, make sure to be as organized as possible. Even if you get the wrong final answer, it is very likely you’ll get part marks for attempting and showing the right steps.

4. Word Problems
In a long word problem, make sure to give it a thorough read and highlight/circle the numbers and key facts so you don’t have to focus on the irrelevant details (since word problems include these details to throw you off). Always ask if there is information you don’t need and cross them off or ignore them.

5. Don’t Forget the Small Things
Sometimes the small things can have big impacts. Make sure to have the proper units (kg, g, mg, etc.) and appropriate decimals

If you keep even just a few of these techniques in mind, it’ll help a great deal with your organization and confidence when going into your next multiple choice, essay, or quantitative exam. To make sure you can get all of the resources as you can to help you with your next exam, we have 10 of the top general techniques for your exams right below, check it out!

TOP 10 General Exam Techniques

1. Attitude
Before even looking at your exam paper, make sure you’re in a positive mindset rather than a negative one. Starting a 3 hour exam that’s worth 50% of your grade is daunting task for sure but feeling anxious and nervous won’t help the situation especially if you don’t have a strategy or technique to convert those negative feelings into positivity and productivity.

Take a few deep breaths, realize that you know more about the subject than you think (this is often the case), and start your exam with a positive attitude

2. Quick Scan
Once you open your exam, make sure to quickly but thoroughly read over the instructions and questions to make sure everything is clear. This also gives you the chance to see how much each question is worth to give you an idea of how long you should spend on each question.

This will make sure you don’t spend an hour on a question that’s worth only 10% of your exam!

3. Make a Plan
If there are options, choose which ones you are going to answer. Of course, choose the ones that you know the most about!
Plan how long you will spend on each question and what order you’ll answer the questions in based on their weighting and difficulty.

4. Easy Questions First
Solving the easy questions first will make sure you’re getting marks for the questions that you know you can solve for sure; and of course, every mark counts.
Additionally, it will create confidence and momentum going forward which will be very useful for the more challenging questions.

5. Clear and Concise
When answering a question, it is almost always better to be clear and to the point than to ramble on about something unrelated to the question. It wastes your time and your energy and suggests to the examiner/marker that you aren’t sure of your answer.

In addition, the examiner probably has hundreds of exams to mark so making it easy for them will benefit you as well. So ensure your answers clear and concise, easy to read, and organized. A small thing like this can really go a long way.

6. Time Management
Always make sure you are looking at the time. You could be stuck on a question and next thing you know an hour passes! Make sure you are going to the pace that you had planned for yourself.

One thing that makes exams such a stressful task is the time crunch. It can really throw students off their focus and concentration, leaving them frustrated and overly stressed during the exam. If this happens, take a 1-2 minute break by putting your pen down, and closing your eyes. Sometimes we all need a break and 1-2 minutes can help you refocus and potentially make the difference between a pass or a fail!

7. Brain Food
If you are allowed, try to bring in water and some snacks that you can nibble on during the exam. Not only will it give you something to destress with while taking a short break, but healthy snacks can give you that extra boost or kick to help you stay focused and alert during an exam. Some great brain food examples are:

-Nuts (all kinds, especially walnuts)
-Dark Chocolate
-Anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables: Blueberries, Citrus Fruit and Peppers
-Naturally caffeinated drinks: Green tea, Coffee

8. Review
A lot of people may not think this is important but it’s something that is strongly recommended. If you just spend 5 minutes maximum to quickly go through your answers, it could save you a lot of marks that you would have gotten wrong otherwise.
Reviewing can help you spot answers that on second thought don’t make sense, calculation errors, etc.

9. Essential Things to Remember
The following may seem obvious but there is a surprising amount of incidents where these are forgotten or done incorrectly.
-Check both sides of each paper to make sure you don’t miss any questions

-Don’t forget your name and date. Also, if you have a nickname and an official name, make sure you put the official name that is registered with the university!
-Fill in the scantron properly. Make sure you’re filling in the answers for the right question, or else the incorrect order of your answers could result in all of the following answers being wrong!
Making sure to do these could really make the difference in a pass or a fail so make sure you don’t make these silly errors!

10. MOST IMPORTANT: Prepare!
These tips will help you during an exam but it goes without saying that the most important thing to do to ace an exam is to, you guessed it, STUDY!

If you know the material like the back of your hand then it will be much easier for you to get that A. Of course, it’s easier said than done so we have some great note taking tips and memorization tips to help you study for your next exam, check them out!

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