What Type of Questions Should You Do First in an Exam?

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What Type of Questions Should I do in an Exam First?

Exams can be very tough experiences. Time seems to tick by faster, your mind can go blank, and the order in which you answer questions can feel overwhelming. But fear not! This article will help you with strategies to tackle those first questions with confidence and maximize your score.

Different Types of Exam Questions

The first step to getting exam questions right  is understanding the type you’re facing. Here we have listed three common categories:

Green Light Questions: These are straightforward recall questions. They test your knowledge of basic facts, definitions, and formulas. Think “memorise and regurgitate.”

  • Study Strategies: Flashcards, practice quizzes, reciting information out loud.

Yellow Light Questions: These require you to put together multiple pieces of information you’ve learned. They might involve calculations, applying a formula to a new situation, or recalling details from different course concepts.

  • Study Strategies: Practice problems with varying difficulty levels, and create concept maps to link ideas.

Red Light Questions: These are the brain teasers. They ask you to analyse information, make inferences, or apply your knowledge in a new way. “Critical thinking” is key here.

  • Study Strategies: Discuss course material with classmates, create study groups to brainstorm ideas, and practice explaining concepts in your own words.

Know Yourself, Know Your Exam

The best approach to exam question order depends on two important factors: your strengths and the specific exam format.

  • Are you a fast starter who depends on momentum? Or do you need some time to warm up and get into the zone? Understanding your study style is important.
  • Analyse the exam structure. Is it a mix of question types and difficulty levels? Does it have sections with specific time limits? Familiarise yourself with the exam format beforehand.

Here are some general strategies based on your strengths:

  • If you hit the ground running, answer the easier, high-value questions first. This builds confidence, gives you a time cushion, and helps you settle into the exam rhythm.
  • If you prefer a slower start, spend the first few minutes skimming through all the questions. This allows you to assess the overall difficulty and plan your approach. Then, prioritise answering questions you’re most confident about.

Exam Format Considerations

Let’s understand specific exam formats and how they might influence your question order strategy:

  • Multiple Choice Exams:
    • Start with the questions that seem straightforward. This boost ideas, and confidence and helps you manage time effectively.
    • Don’t get stuck on tricky questions. Mark them for review and come back later if you have time. This prevents getting bogged down and wasting precious minutes.
  • Mixed Question Types:
    • Identify the question types you excel at (e.g., short answer vs. essays). Start with those sections to build momentum and maximise your score potential.
    • If the exam groups similar question types together (e.g., all math problems in one section), tackle them consecutively. This keeps your mind focused on the specific skills required.
  • Sectionized Exams:
    • If the exam has separate sections with time limits, plan your approach. Allocate time-based on the number of questions and their weightage in the overall score.
    • Don’t overspend time on a single section. If you’re nearing the time limit, move on and come back if time permits. Leaving some questions unanswered is better than rushing through all of them superficially.

Beyond the First Questions

While answering the initial questions is important, remember, the exam is a marathon, not a sprint. Here are some additional tips for sustained success:

  • Don’t lose points due to carelessness. Read each question thoroughly, paying close attention to keywords that indicate the type of answer expected (e.g., “explain,” “compare,” “list”).
  • Keep an eye on the clock and pace yourself strategically. Don’t get stuck on one question for too long.
  • Even for multiple-choice questions, consider outlining your thought process or calculations. This can help you earn partial credit for a partially correct answer.
  • If you have time left, revisit marked questions and double-check your answers. Sometimes, a fresh perspective can reveal errors or lead to better responses.

By understanding your strengths, employing strategic question selection based on the exam format, and maintaining composure throughout the test, you can approach exam questions with confidence and maximize your chances of success.

Mastering Different Question Formats

Now that you understand the question types, let’s explore how to approach specific formats:

Multiple Choice Questions

  • Before knowing the answers, understand the question’s stem. Look for tricky wording like double negatives.
  • Try to figure out the correct answer before looking at the choices. This helps eliminate similar-sounding distractors.
  • Read each answer option critically. Look for clues in the stem that might eliminate options based on grammar or logic.
  • As you eliminate answers you know are wrong, cross them off. This narrows your focus and reduces the chance of picking a previously discarded option.
  • If time permits, revisit questions you weren’t sure about. Sometimes, the answer to one question might provide clues for another.

Problem-Solving and Quantitative Questions

  • Don’t panic if you hit a roadblock! Getting stuck is part of the learning process.
  • Avoid looking at the answer right away. Keep working on the problem – partial credit is better than none!
  • Identify what you need to find and what information is given. Consider drawing a diagram to visualize the problem.
  • Write down all the givens and relevant formulas. Break the problem down into smaller steps if necessary.
  • Show your work clearly and neatly. This helps you catch mistakes and allows the instructor to award partial credit for your thought process.
  • Does the answer make sense in the context of the problem? Does it match your initial estimation (if you made one)? Revisit your calculations if something seems off.

Essay Questions

  • The best way to prepare for essays is to write practice essays under timed conditions. This hones your time management skills and ability to organize your thoughts.
  • Use your course material to create outlines for potential essay topics. Try recreating these outlines from memory to solidify your understanding.
  • A strong essay has a clear structure. Develop a thesis statement that directly addresses the question and use topic sentences to guide each paragraph.
  • If there are multiple essay questions, prioritize them based on point value. Allocate your time accordingly.
  • Make sure you’re answering the actual question asked, not a question you wish was asked. Avoid irrelevant information.
  • Before diving in, take a moment to brainstorm your argument and supporting evidence.
  • Craft a Strong Introduction: Hook your reader with a clear thesis statement that outlines your main points.
  • Develop Your Body Paragraphs: Each paragraph should focus on a single supporting point. Use evidence from your notes, textbook, or lectures to back up your claims.
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What test questions should you answer first?

Start with questions you’re most confident about. Tackle easier ones first to build momentum, then tackle harder ones.

What should I do right before an exam?

Review key concepts briefly, stay calm, and get enough rest. Avoid last-minute cramming to minimize stress and optimize recall.

How do I come first in exams?

Consistent study, effective time management, understanding concepts deeply, practicing past papers, and maintaining a positive mindset are crucial strategies.

What to do 2 hours before an exam?

Review condensed notes, avoid new material, eat light, hydrate, and engage in relaxation techniques to ease nerves and focus.

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