A lot of people tend to think that exam success is simply based on how well you “know your stuff” going into an exam. But I have seen many students over the years being well prepared coming into the exam but then freezing or not being able to get what they know from their head onto the answer sheet. It is just as important to have an exam strategy as it is to know the information.

The most common and easiest to follow exam strategy is known as DETER. Each letter reminds you what to do, and in what order, in an exam.

  • D = Directions. Make sure you read all the directions on the front page of the paper and throughout the paper. If you have any queries about any direction then ask the teacher present. It is better to clarify any confusion about directions than lose marks for answering the wrong questions or incorrectly.
  • E = Examine. Go through the whole paper to see exactly what you have to do. It is only when you have an idea of everything you need to answer that you can then break it down into manageable chunks.
  • T = Time. Time can be one of your biggest challenges in an exam – not having enough of it. Therefore, once you’ve examined the whole paper and identified which questions you are going to answer, you need to decide on how much time you are going to give each one. If there are different marks going for different questions then make sure you give the questions with the highest marks the most time. Planning your time is really important so that you don’t waste too much time on one question and find yourself without enough on another. Don’t forget to factor in time at the end for reading over your answers.
  • E = Easiest. Begin with the questions that are easiest. This will boost your confidence for the rest of the exam. If you find yourself getting stuck early on in an exam it will knock your confidence and you might find yourself slowing down and then not answering questions which you were good at and could get good marks for.
  • R = Review. If you have planned your time right then you still have time to review, re-read over your answers and either correct any mistakes or add anything that you might have forgotten. Also, review the test directions to ensure that you have answered all that is required.

Best of luck in the exams!