TIPS in the Exam Hall!

February 15, 2024

Each year, batches of Class X and Class XII students are rolled out before the altar of the dreaded ‘board exams.’ Writing the exam and acing it, is a matter of honour for some and for the vast majority of others, it’s a nightmare. No matter how good you are, it all boils down to the ‘final writing part’ in the exam hall. Students these days are so over burdened by the pressure to do well that they tend to lose control of their nerves just at the peak of the hour, ending up performing badly. Though the time in the hall is pretty stressful, it’s completely possible to manage some of the stress if you use different strategies.

I am not a psychologist nor an expert on examinations. However, before I obtained my graduation degrees – Commerce and Law; the global American Anti-Money Laundering and the Australian Banking qualifications, I had to attain my SSLC and PUC Certificates. Hence, I write by experience. In this piece of writing, I would like to expand the word TIPS to give you a few ideas that might help out.

T - Train Yourself to be POSITIVE

Acquainting yourself with the ‘question paper pattern’ is a must and goes a long way in planning and executing the examination paper.

  • Any vices while studying, need to be discontinued in the runup to the exam as those privileges are not available in the exam hall.
  • Get the date, time and location of the exams ‘100% right’ from your hall ticket/admission card.
  • If your examination centre is different from your school/college of study, make it a point to visit the location beforehand and plan the mode of transport you would take.
  • Keep your dress ready for the exam day - be it your uniform or otherwise. A ‘comfortable attire’ for a sitting posture is what you need to look out for.
  • Organise your hall ticket/admission card and the things you need to take to the exam hall the previous night itself, especially if your exams are in the morning.
  • Pack adequate stationery. I used to carry three blue pens, a pencil, an eraser and a ruler along with a bottle of water.
  • A good night’s sleep is essential before the exam. Not getting enough sleep reduces your ability to retain information.
  • Before setting off for the exam, eat light, energy giving food in moderation, which does not weigh heavy on the stomach.
  • Stop studying/revising at least two hours before your exam starts. Adequate rest is required for your brain to put out whatever it has taken in.
  • Listening to your favourite songs/instrumentals at home before you start or on the way to the exam hall will help soothe your nerves.
  • Start early. You don't want to be late because there are a lot of things that can go wrong on the way.

  • Do not discuss things just before the exam. Many a times, such discussions, lead to a loss of confidence and you tend to mess up what you have already prepared.
  • Being slightly under-confident, I reckon brings out the best in you. Just being confident is always recommended. Over-confidence may end up in disaster.
  • Inside the exam hall, neglect the small distractions of a shaky bench, sound of construction and the like. Concentrate on the larger picture - your exams that are in progress!
  • A lot of negativities will hit you, particularly on the days of your exam as you are in a weaker emotional state. Nullify them with positive thoughts.
  • Think about the good times ahead after finishing all of your exams like a planned holiday, immersing in your hobbies etc. Visualise the happiness on your face when the stressful period is over. It will make you feel lighter, while you are concentrating on the present.

Most importantly, do not spend too much time wondering what will happen if you are unable to perform, just go there and perform. Keep reminding yourself that your hard work will not go a waste. Remember, sitting in the hall you are in ‘the final stage’ of giving your best for that subject. The time to act is NOW. Think positive and keep cool. Good luck!

I - Importance of a Good Start!

  • Take time to calm yourself, putting any calming techniques into practice before you make your way to the exam hall.
  • Make it a point to visit the restroom before you enter the exam hall.
  • Approach the exam hall with energy, determined to do your best.
  • Take your designated seat. If you have to say your prayers, say it now.
  • Stay focussed. Do some deep breathing exercises. Keep telling yourself, “I am relaxed and I know I will do fine.”
  • An exam that lasts for three hours will surely take a toll on the muscles of your back and neck. While you may not be able to exercise to ease your stiff muscles, maintaining a ‘proper posture’ can help.

  • The answer papers are distributed first. Fill up your credential details.
  • Turn the answer paper upside down and by using a pencil and a ruler, on the left-hand-side draw a straight margin on all the pages. This is neat work, rather than folding the papers on its sides.
  • The moment you have the question paper in hand, your entire attention should be on the paper.
  • Divide your time. The first 10-15 minutes is for planning and the last 10-15 minutes is for finishing up. The time ‘in between’ is more than enough for your writing.
  • Use the first 10-15 minutes to calmy go through the whole paper, get to know what questions are being asked and make a plan for answering. Using a pencil, number the questions in the order you would like to answer, circle the question of your choice if it is a question of choice, jot down the abbreviations/acronyms that you had put together while studying. Make a note of the timings you need to follow for each question/section to refer.
  • By choosing to answer the questions you are comfortable with first, you are building a good impression on the examiner. The first few answers almost build the mindset of the evaluator on how they see the rest of your answer paper. Later, if your answers are not upto the mark, does not really matter as the impression holds.
  • Putting the right question number that is being answered is crucial. Suppose you are attempting Question No. 5 first, be careful to put it as Question No. 5 (not Question No. 1). This silly mistake if committed will cost you.
  • You may have determined as to how many pages you ought to write for each question as per the marks allotted and the time planned. Avoid over-answering and waffling. Concise, accurate, thoughtful answers, with bullet points where needed holds the key.
  • Let your handwriting be clear and legible. Write at a normal speed. Use capital letters for emphasis.
  • In your pencil, tick off/cross off the question on the exam paper once you finish answering them. This will avoid any confusion.
  • Keep a tab on the time comparing it with your ‘time plan’ when you complete each question/section.
  • Attempt all the questions as there are no negative marks. If you are struggling with the answers, the examiner will still award you a few marks for your efforts. For Mathematics, each correct step would carry some marks even though you haven’t cracked it completely.
  • If you like to revisit certain answers at the end, in case there is still time left, device a way of marking them for easy reference.

By being calm, focussed, systematic and organised - you will be the winner reaping rich dividends!

P - Passing halfway through…

So far so good. You are halfway through answering your question paper and you feel great about yourself. Your confidence level is high that will spill over to the second half. You have been running a good race. This enthusiasm needs to continue until you finish the exam. You still have the latter half to conquer. There is nothing to lose from here!

  • Continue to focus on your exam, not on what other examinees are doing.
  • Now, midway through, keep track of the time as to where you are. If you are under control, great. If you are lagging behind, time for some adjustments. I used to place my wrist watch on the desk in a curled position for easy visibility and time management.
  • If you feel tense or tight, put down your pen for a moment and try to relax. Take some slow, deep breaths, concentrate on your breathing and unwind.
  • Closing your eyes with your fingers/palms for a couple of minutes or so will act like a quick exam-power-nap. On the other side, you may feel a bit rejuvenated to complete the exam paper with full zeal.
  • If in case you go blank, move on to another question and come back to this later. Don’t skip. Answer everything.
  • Don’t worry about what you don’t know or what you should have reviewed. Instead, focus on ‘what you do know.’

S - Seeing off the finishing line…

Time to appreciate yourself. You are almost at the end of it all…

  • Ten-fifteen minutes remaining for the final bell and as per your planning, you have to finish off with the writing part, to switch on to the ‘beautification part.’
  • Put yourselves in the examiners’ shoes. They have a set target for each day. Any teacher/lecturer would admit that when it comes to ‘correction,’ it’s a boring, monotonous job. So, when they come across a beautified paper like yours, they are motivated to give you decent marks.
  • From the last page, you will now flip over the answer sheet to come back to the first page.
  • Refer to your question paper and re-check the ‘question number’ that you have put at the beginning of your answer inside the left side of the margin. I used to write over the question number a few times darkening it as a confirmation.
  • Quickly going through your answer, then making the paper sideways, placing the ruler underneath the ‘key words’ draw an underline in your blue pen. For eg. In a Social Studies paper, you can underline the historical years etc.

  • The side headings can be double underlined or have a curved underline. If you have used capitals, you can write over it and darken.
  • For papers like Maths/Statistics, you can draw a rectangle box over the final answer or put a few lines beneath the answer like a reverse pyramid.
  • Be careful however, the matter that you have underlined should be correct. If in doubt or not sure, don’t go for it and make a fool of yourself.
  • Underneath the end of each answer, in the centre - I used to use the scale to draw two short lines with a small gap in between filling it with a cross multiplication sign, something like this --------- X --------- to indicate that it is the end of the answer to that question.
  • The artist in you at work here is worth the effort. It would be an evaluator’s delight as your paper stands out from the rest! With each answer nicely presented, the examiner’s job becomes that much easy, he/she being content to award you good marks, without going through it in detail.
  • After all this, if you still have time left - this is when you look at the ones that you intended to revisit at the end. If you are still not sure, better leave it as is, as the point you have made there is most probably correct.

In our lives, we have hurdles to pass, time after time
One major test is when those SSLC-PUC exam bells chime
Heart skips a beat and butterflies play their part
Coz here is where, many think, futures may end or start

These were my TIPS in the exam hall, to mitigate your stress
Young boys and girls – ‘Wish you all the very best!’

Whether we like it or not, exams are here to stay. They are an inevitable part of student life. The only sensible option is to face them head on. Let us not forget that exams are a test of our confidence, as much as it is that of our knowledge and the three hours inside the hall is the ultimate test that you have to go through.


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By Stephen P D’Souza, Melbourne
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Comment on this article

  • Stephen P. D'Souza, Kadri / Melbourne

    Sun, Feb 18 2024

    I did not add this in my piece of writing (to control its length, as of such my Articles are a bit long) but is equally important, though it is not inside the exam hall: ONCE YOU EXIT THE HALL - Once you have handed over the answer paper to the Invigilator, you are done with that exam. You have answered it as best as you can and now that is behind you. It is advisable not to discuss your answers with anyone – be it your classmates, tuition teacher nor you should revisit your books to verify. You cannot do anything about the exam that you have already written. Discovering something you did not do right will demoralise you. Focussing your entire time, effort and energy on the examination that is ahead of you, will do a world of good.

  • Stephen P. D'Souza, Kadri / Melbourne

    Sun, Feb 18 2024

    Thanks for your comments, Alwyn. Throughout life, the importance of successfully ‘finishing up’ cannot be stressed enough. Students should concentrate hard for those three hours inside the exam hall, giving their best shot. They need to work out strategies in the runup to the exam which assists them while answering the exam as well as strategies in the exam hall, rather than seeing the exam halls as dungeons where they are imprisoned for a few hours, analysed by Invigilators.

  • ALWYN, Mangalore

    Sat, Feb 17 2024

    Dear Stephen, Yes, you have touched upon a very important topic. Surely it will of great help for the younger generation. You made us to think as to how we answered our exams in those days, but the tips were not in front of us. Now we are in an era where communication links are so advanced, we are able to reach out to the masses. The essence of this article to me, we need to do our part of job, be it a student or an elderly person, at various phases of our life cycle look out for tips so that our journey becomes very fruitful, so that we derive satisfaction and be a better citizen. not only that, but we also have to pass the positive learning to our near and dear ones. Hoping for many such articles from you Steve, by doing this, surely you are sharing knowledge which may touch upon the deserving lot and be a change agent.

  • Stephen P. D'Souza, Kadri / Melbourne

    Sat, Feb 17 2024

    Thanks Wilfred. The intent of the Article is as such – parents forwarding it to their children if it could be beneficial. Finishing up anything (in this case exams), is very important, is the ultimate just like the last lap in a hurdle.

  • Stephen P. D'Souza, Kadri / Melbourne

    Sat, Feb 17 2024

    Many thanks for your comment and appreciation Alzira. Yes! Being positive, working out some strategies and the winner takes it all! As you said, life is nothing but an exam and the real exams for the students’ start when one takes a plunge into this vast wide world.

  • Wilfred Serrao, Mangalore

    Sat, Feb 17 2024

    I forwarded this to my son whose ICSE exams start on the 21st. I too had read. Nice tips.

  • Alzira Mascarenhas, Mangalore/Melbourne, Australia

    Sat, Feb 17 2024

    Dear Stephen, Simple tips to gain heaps. In life we face many exams, not necessarily on an academic level. TIPS provided by you are exemplary and detailed to the core to tackle onslaught of any stress or fear of exams. The one who follows them surely will be "WINNER TAKES IT ALL". This is reminiscent of ABBA song depicting what it takes to be a winner. Well drafted and meaningful article for the young and old, for life is nothing but an exam we blankly face each day. Your TIPS are an open book to enlighten and guide to reach one's goals/destination. Bravo !!! All the best for your next write-up.

  • Stephen P. D'Souza, Kadri / Melbourne

    Fri, Feb 16 2024

    Geoffrey, Hat Hill – You have passed the test in flying colours as it was to find out who was reading the write-up properly – ‘word by word.’ Wonder why the draft did not pick it up with its red curved underline. 'Correction' and 'Evaluation' is a matter of debate as it is a bit of a grey area. In the subject line however – your name and the place name should start with an initial capital letter as they are proper nouns; aint in your comment should be written with an apostrophe as ain’t and not aint. It is an informal word, best avoided in formal writing. Cheers!

  • geoffrey, hat hill

    Fri, Feb 16 2024

    As I've come across some write-ups from you on the grammatical/spelling errors, I'm bringing these to your notice: It's either 'many a time' or 'many times' not 'many a times' It's either 'if' or 'in case'; not 'if in case' It aint 'correction', it's 'evaluation'.

  • Stephen P. D'Souza, Kadri / Melbourne

    Thu, Feb 15 2024

    Hi Prashanth - There are many breathing exercises. You can try this one, my favourite which I put into practise whenever I am stressed. ‘Inhale through your nose and hold it for at least 10 seconds; then slowly exhale through your mouth for 10 seconds.’ Do it at least five times at a stretch and whenever needed. Hope this helps. Good luck!

  • Prashanth S. Kumar, Udupi District

    Thu, Feb 15 2024

    Practical tips Sir. If you can tell me any breathing exercises that are helpful. thanks.

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