In this chapter, you will learn some very simple concepts and techniques that can help you maximize your marks in any exam.
Do Not Eat Just Before an Exam
You should not eat food (heavy breakfast, lunch) for 3 hours before going to an exam.
To understand the reason, let us understand our digestion system. When we eat, we chew food in the mouth. The food becomes soft and saliva is added to it. Then it goes down into the stomach. The food stays there for 3 to 4 hours. The stomach adds digestive juices. And the food is digested. Then it moves to the small intestines, where the body extracts the nutrients from the food. And finally, the waste goes out of the body.
Digestion of food requires energy. The human body has an intelligent way to supply this additional energy to the stomach for digesting food. When you eat food, blood supply increases to the stomach area. The total blood in the body is constant. So the blood supply to the brain decreases. This is the reason you feel lazy or sleepy after eating food. This also means that your intelligence, IQ, or your brainpower decreases for a few hours just after you eat food. The period may be 2, 3, or 4 hours or even more depending on what type of food you eat.
If you feel hungry before your exam, you can eat fruits because fruits are not digested in the stomach. If your stomach is empty when you eat fruits, it stays in the stomach just for
10 or 20 minutes and then goes to the small intestines. And nutrients are extracted there.
You should sleep well during the exam days. Sleep is very important for you. It makes you fresh. It gives you energy.
If you do not sleep well, you will not have as much energy as you will have with good sleep.
If you are not fresh and energetic, you will not do as well in the exam as you deserve. You will not be able to do the best of your abilities. You will get fewer marks than you are capable of getting.
For further details on sleep, please see Chapter 5.
What to Do Just Before the Exam Begins
You should reach the exam room ahead of time. Go and take your seat in the exam room. Usually, you will have about 5 to 10 minutes before they give you the question paper and the answer book. Use this time to relax.
For details on how to relax, please see Chapter 5.
Six Powerful Suggestions to Maximize Your Performance in Exams
Here are some tips on how to write exams. These are very simple techniques or ideas. You do not need to memorize them, just understand them. Yet, these simple tips can help you greatly.
Answer easy questions first
You should answer those questions first which you know for sure. If you are 100% sure that you know the answer to a particular question, then answer that question first.
If you know that you know several questions, then answer those questions first which will get you more marks in less time. For example, if one essay-type question is for 10 marks and 20 yes/no (or true/false) questions are for 10 marks, then you should first answer those 20 yes/no type questions. The obvious advantage of this approach is that you will have more time to systematically answer the remaining questions.
Take rest for 1 minute a few times
I recommend that you take a rest for 1 minute a few times during an exam or competition. In this 1 minute, you can simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. With closed eyes, try to examine each part of your body and move it and relax it. This is a shorter form of the 3-Minute Refreshing Technique relaxation techniques, see Chapter 5.
You can have rest after every 15 minutes or so. Or, maybe before you start to answer a new question.
After rest, read a question carefully, plan your answer and then start writing.
If you follow this advice, I guarantee that you will feel relaxed and more capable of doing well in the exam. You will also not make major mistakes such as writing an essay on Delhi when the question is about Diwali (I made this mistake in class 10).
Relaxation also means more blood flow and more oxygen to your brain. As a result, your effective intelligence is more for the exam. In this way, you maximize your intelligence for the exam. This will minimize mistakes. Silly (simple, easy, avoidable) mistakes in particular. So, you will get the highest marks you deserve.
Do NOT leave the exam room before the time
Never. Never leave an exam room before time. Even if you are sure that you will succeed. Even if you are sure that you will fail.
When I took the IIT/JEE entrance exam, there were about 150 students in my room. I do not clearly remember now, but I think the students were not allowed to return the answer books and leave the room for the first half an hour. The exam was for 3 hours. As soon as half an hour was over, about 15 students got up, returned their answer books, and left. Within 15 minutes, another 20 or 30 left. In the last half an hour of the exam, only 10 students were remaining. In that exam, I suspect that I got about 35% or 40% marks. (There is no way for me to find out the exact marks that I got in that competition.) And I got the rank 1102-I did not get admission to electronics engineering though I could have got chemical or civil or some other engineering or science.
Those who left the exam room before time did not get selected for IIT. I think if they all had stayed for the full 3 hours and tried their best to answer the question paper, a few more may have been selected for IIT.
There are two reasons for this stupid behavior of people.
One, they think that they will get only 30 or 40 or only 60 percent marks and that is not good enough to achieve success in competition. But, their thinking is wrong. To succeed in a competition, the important thing is that you get more marks than the others in that competition. Chapter 3 gives details about the difference between exams and competitions.
Second, they are sure they will not succeed. They want to be able to say “I did not try well, I left the exam room in just half an hour, so I failed”. They want to feel and say “I am intelligent. I did not pass that exam because I left early. Or because I was not really interested.” Of course, on the day of the exam they can declare to all their friends “I left the exam-room in just half an hour.” As if it is an achievement.
So, you should stay in the exam room full time. You have already paid the fee. If you fail, it is okay. At least you tried.
I have seen some students not wearing comfortable clothes for exams. Some people do not wear warm clothes in winter when they go to the exam. Then they tell everyone “I do not feel cold”. Now, this is only stupid. If you are feeling cold, not feeling comfortable, or not feeling relaxed, then how can you perform to the best of your ability in the exam? Yes, you may pass the exam. But the goal should be to get maximum results in those 3 hours for the work you did throughout the year.
I have also seen people getting wet in the rains. They come to the exam room totally wet. Why? It makes no sense to me.
Something so simple as wearing comfortable clothes can help you do well in an exam. So, why not do it?
How to answer objective type (multiple choice and fill in the blank) questions
Even with all your practicing, you will still find questions you do not know. When this happens, do not worry. Use the following tips to increase your chances of guessing the correct answers.
Eliminate the choices in a question that you know are not correct. Then apply the following to help you guess.
When two out of four choices are opposites, pick one of those two as the best guess.
B, C, and D are best when there are 5 choices.
Avoid pairs. If you know the correct answer for question 13 is B, then do not choose B for questions 12 or 14.
In questions asking for the maximum or the minimum, pick the answer next to the maximum or the minimum. (Maximum: 2, 7, 18, 33, 78. Choose 33 as the answer.)
“Zero” and “None of the above” are usually wrong answers.
When words such as “all”, “never”, “always” and “must” are used, “FALSE” is usually the correct answer.
When general terms (such as most, some, usually, etc.) are used, “TRUE” is usually the correct answer.
Exaggerated (too big or too small) or complex answers are usually wrong.
For the fill-in-the-blank type of questions, never leave a question blank. Give it your best guess. You may guess correctly. Even if you do not, you may get less than the full marks for that question.
First guesses are the best. If you guess an answer without thinking, it is probably coming from your right brain. Accept your intuition. But if you are sure the answer is wrong, then try others.
Make sure you have your identity card, pens with ink, etc.
Many people make the mistake of not taking their pen, pencil, or identity card to the exam.
You should also verify that your pen has enough ink. Take one additional pen, just in case your first pen stops writing.
On the first day of my class 10 exam, I reached about 50 minutes before time. I went on my bicycle. After going there, I realized that I had forgotten to bring my identity card. I did not know whether or not the examiner will allow me to write the exam. I became worried. I went back home and brought my identity card. I was nervous and not relaxed. No wonder I wrote an essay on Delhi by mistake instead of writing on Diwali that day.
You should keep a list of things you want to take to the exam. Before leaving your home for an exam, make sure you have everything you need.
How Do Examiners Correct Answer Papers and How to Use this Knowledge to Get More Marks
The styles of checking answer papers vary widely for different exams and competitions.
I will discuss how the examiners correct answer papers.
These general observations are good for all exams.
But occasionally, there are differences. For example, during my B.E. at BITS Pilani, some of the exams were “open-book exams” where all books were allowed. There were exams where they gave 1 mark for a correct answer and -1 mark for a wrong answer. So, you should try to find the specific details for the exam or competition that you are preparing for.
How some answer papers are examined
Let us understand four different possibilities.
Irresponsible Examiner 1
In some exams, answer books are sent to the teachers’ homes. The teacher corrects the answer books at home. Imagine this scene. It is summer vacation. The answer books came 10 days ago. The teacher has not started checking and giving marks. He is lazy. He does not work. His wife is angry. She says “You are useless. You do not do anything. And when I suggest some nice thing, you say that you have to check these answer books. Finish them all today.” He decides “okay. I will finish this work today.” He is angry. He is checking answer papers. He is giving marks. Since he is angry, he gives fewer marks. By the evening he has finished the work.
How does this examiner give marks? He partially reads the answers. Then he justifies this misbehavior by telling himself “To find out if rice is cooked, all you have to do is test a few. Just by reading parts of an answer, I can find out how correct or how good the answer is. Whenever he sees really bad handwriting, he gets further angry and says to himself “this student is irresponsible. If he does not care to write neatly, why should I try hard to read what he writes.” And he gives some average type of marks.
Irresponsible Examiner case 2
In some exams, answer books are not sent to the teacher’s house. But many teachers are called to a place where they sit together and correct the answer papers. This is a better way because there is almost no possibility of totally irresponsible behavior by the teacher. Even this method has faults.
Imagine this situation. 30 teachers are sitting in one big room. It is hot summer. They are drinking tea or coffee and checking answer books. They get paid not per day but by the number of answer books they check. If someone checks more answer books, they get more money. Now, these teachers, all sitting together, compete. They are checking fast. They are checking quickly so that they can make more money. And they can tell other teachers “I am so efficient. I checked 200 answer books today. I made maximum money today. Some checked only 150.” The next day other teachers try to check more answer books. Do you think that in such a situation you will get the marks you deserve?
This teacher is a responsible person. He regularly spends a few hours every day and corrects some answer books every day. He is systematic. He is not in a big hurry. He carefully reads all the answers. And he reads them fully, does not read them partially. Even if someone’s handwriting is not nice. Such an examiner is the best you can get. You will get the marks you deserve.
About three cases are extreme. They are an exaggeration of possibilities. The actual common examiner is a combination of all the three cases above.
Now you can imagine you will not always get the marks you deserve.
In short, the average examiner is in a hurry to finish all the checking work. He does not necessarily care if he is doing justice to the students (though he wants to believe that he is doing justice).
If the teacher is in a hurry, he may not be completely reading your answers. He may be just reading a few paragraphs of “essay” type questions.
Four Tips on How to Get More Marks
Written work is a game of comparison between answer books. The examiner is always comparing your answer book with those that he has already checked. So, the appearance of your answer book is very important.
You can do the following to maximize your marks:
- Keep your answer book neat.
- Write long answers. Fill more pages.
- Use color ink and dark ink
- Do this if marks are given by your teacher
Keep your answer book neat
Write neat handwriting. Draw neat diagrams. Remember I am saying “neat”. I am not saying “beautiful”. You do not have to do the artwork. Just neat, pleasant, easy to read appearance.
If you have to make a lot of changes to an answer, then rewrite it completely (if you have the time).
These comments apply even to numerical questions. In most exams, you get partial marks just for writing the correct formula or steps.
Write long answers. Fill more pages
For “essay” type questions, write as much as you can in the given time. Use short paragraphs. Underline important words and keywords. I even suggest using one color pen to write headings. For example, you can use a green color pen.
Use color ink and dark ink
Do not use a light color link. It looks like somebody has added water to the ink. It looks light and not serious. It looks not worthy of high marks. Use dark ink.
I even suggest using one color pen to write headings and normal (black, blue, or black-blue ink) for writing details and explanations.
Do this if marks are given by your teachers
In some exams, your teacher gives you the marks and the grades. Engineering colleges and medical colleges are examples of such institutions. Usually, the teachers who teach you also give the grades.
In such exams, you should meet the teacher. Give him or her your email address to send you the grade. When the teacher is checking your grade to send you, if he finds out that you are on a “borderline”, he may give you one or two additional marks and push you a grade higher.
Do not wait for the card to come in the mail. After the exam, go meet him. Find out your grade. If you are missing a grade by one or two marks, discuss. Give reasons why you deserve the higher grade. Try. You may improve a grade so easily.
For These Two Types of Questions, You can Fool the Examiner to Get More Marks
Because the examiner is in a hurry, and because he does not read your answers totally, you can even fool the examiner with two specific types of questions:
(1) “list type” questions
These questions ask for lists, such as listing all the states in India or all the colors in a rainbow. For such questions,
suppose you remember “how many” but do not remember all the names.
For example, there are 25 states in India, but you can write only 23. You do not remember 2. You should not leave the list incomplete. Repeat a few from the known list. This technique will work better if part of the answer is on the right page of the answer book and the rest of the answer is on the next left page. So the teacher has to turn the page to get the total list. Suppose you repeat “Rajasthan”. The teacher may notice “Rajasthan” and think that it is repeated. But he is in a hurry. He may think that he saw it in the previous answer book and not in this answer book. There is a very high possibility that you will get full marks.
(2) “list-explanation-type” questions
These questions do not just ask the list of names, but these are “essay” type questions. They also ask that you write details for each element/name in the list. For such questions also you can repeat elements/names from the list. Moreover, such questions may take 2 or 3 or 4 or more pages to answer. So by the time the examiner goes to the next page, he will not remember correctly what you had written on the previous page.
Do NOT use this technique too much. Do NOT repeat too many names in one question. The examiner may find out.
Take Practice Tests or Mock Tests
Will you not laugh if someone says the best way to learn to ride a bicycle is to read about it and then just start riding? You will laugh. You will say this is nonsense. You cannot learn to ride a bicycle like that. You have to practice. You will learn and become good at anything with practice.
The same is true with exams. Surprisingly, the only practice students get at regular degree-related exams is during the class tests and the half-yearly exams. Even that practice is not good enough because the time duration is usually larger for the final exams. Not only the time duration, but the total course material is also larger for the final exams.
And what about competitions? The situation is the worst. Students do not take even one exam to give them the practice for a specific competition. Without practice, you cannot know how much time it takes to answer the questions? How difficult the questions are? How easy it is for you to sit for 3 hours (or whatever time) with maximum efficiency? What is the advantage of taking 1-minute breaks during the exams?
If you want to do the best you can in an exam, you should take practice tests at home or school. Your teachers and classmates can help you with this. You all can form an exam club. You can take a test at the school before the school time or after the school time. This experience will be close to the real exam. You will learn valuable lessons about your ability and your current knowledge for the real exam. You can request the teacher to correct the practice-test answer books so that you can find out your strengths and your weakness. You may offer to pay the teacher for this additional help.
I do not mean that you take practice tests for all the exams in your life. But for all the important exams that can determine your future/career, such as IAS, CAT, NEET, IITJEE, IAS, UPSC, CA, CS, ICWA, BANK, UPSC, I strongly recommend that you take practice tests. You will tremendously benefit from this extra effort.
Use old question papers for practice tests. You can get them online and also in magazines and books. Ask your friends and search online including Amazon.