How to Manage Time in an Exam: Tricks and Tips

Knowing how to manage time in the exam hall will ensure that your child is able to finish her paper within the allotted time. Read through our 5 valuable tips on time management for exams.

By Team ParentCircle  • 10 min read

How to Manage Time in an Exam: Tricks and Tips

Let's look at a typical situation at home:

The annual examinations have just begun, and all the children are diligently preparing for it. Your child has made a schedule to study the portions and has been zealous in finishing her revision. It seems she is well-prepared and confident to face the big day.

However, on D-day, catastrophe strikes. The question paper is deemed too lengthy and she is not able to finish writing all the answers. Moreover, in the rush to finish on time, some questions have been misinterpreted.

Is this a scenario, that some of you parents are all too familiar with? Does it seem that some children, however hard-working and ardent in their studies, lose out during exams because time ran out? The biggest problem here is ineffective time management strategy. But managing time during an exam and successfully finishing the paper, is not difficult to do if your child follows some simple rules, which will hold him in good stead.

How to manage time in exams 

Here are some valuable time management tips and tricks that ensure children make the best of the time allotted to write the paper:

Time management tips (before the examination)

  1. Developing a study schedule: It is important to plan well and be organised much before the examination starts. Going about preparing for the test in a methodical manner, rules out last minute glitches and uncertainty. Developing a study schedule for all tests ensures that adequate time is given for learning each lesson and subject. Check how many days are available and chalk out the plan accordingly. Make a study timetable and mark the hours needed for each lesson.
  2. Being aware of the question paper: A majority of students will be aware of the question paper format and how the marks are generally distributed among the questions. Most textbooks have model question papers, or these are easily available on the Internet. These are not just useful in practising the previous year’s questions, but also in guiding how to plan your strategy/approach to solving the paper. So before going into the actual exam, the student will have an idea which questions need more attention, and which are the ones that can be finished quickly.
  3. Practising writing quickly: If your child has not practised writing fast regularly before the exams, she might find it difficult to do the same on the big day. A lot of practice is necessary to make sure that one can write quickly and that the handwriting is legible. If it turns out to be messy, the teacher might cut a few marks. Choose the writing instruments carefully and practise writing fast in them. The pen/pencil should be smooth and comfortable. Also, let your child time herself when she practises writing.
  4. Practising doing mock tests: One way to ensure that your child performs well in the exam hall is to simulate the exam in your home multiple times. Let her try solving the previous year’s papers while sticking to the time limit of the actual examination. This will help your child plan how much time to allocate for reviewing the question paper, attending to the questions, and revising the answer script.
  5. Ensuring your child doesn’t run out of stationery: Before entering the exam hall, make your child double check if he has all the required stationery to write the exam. He should avoid a situation where the pen stops writing, and he wastes precious time trying to fetch another one. 

Time management for students (during the examination)

  1. Reading the question paper carefully: Once inside the exam hall, your child should be composed and look at all the questions properly to avoid missing anything. Usually, children tend to panic when running out of time and tend to overlook some questions. By reading the paper thoroughly, it will be easy to prioritise and write the answers accordingly when there is little time left during the test.
  2. Dividing time between questions: Let your child dedicate one or two minutes in the beginning of the test to find out which questions warrant more time and which ones can be finished quickly. Then she should time accordingly and proceed to answer the easy ones first, so that she manages to finish a lot in a short time. Then she must approach the questions that will take more time to write. Students who fare well in tests, usually have a set strategy on tackling the questions within the time given and stick by it.
  3. Writing only what your child knows: There may be questions to which your child may not know the right answer or find it difficult to answer. Trying to make up some explanation will not fetch him more marks and will only waste time. In such a situation, it is best to write only what he knows and move on to the next answer.
  4. Planning each answer before she writes: A planned answer saves much time in comparison to one which is written haphazardly. This allows your child to avoid going back and rewriting the answer or making corrections later to include important points which she forgot to cover initially.
  5. Asking for extra sheets beforehand: There are times when your child may need an extra sheet and the invigilator takes some time to reach him and hand over the paper. It is best to collect the extra sheet when the invigilator is near your child even while he is halfway through the current sheet. It does save time.
  6. Revising the answer sheet: Let your child not be in a hurry to complete the paper quickly. Once she is done writing, let her spare time for revision of the answer sheet. Let her go through the entire answer script to ensure that she has not missed answering any questions. Also, there is a good chance that she may spot some inadvertent errors she made, which she can go ahead and correct. This is also the time to improve some answers which she may feel are not up to the mark.

Stress while writing an exam can throw all time management plans out of gear. Although stress is inevitable, the trick is to recognise and manage it. Typically stress symptoms such as sweating in the palms, feeling queasy in the stomach, shivering of the hands, etc., strike when your child suddenly forgets an important point, struggles to remember an answer or understand a question, feels that time is running out or is overwhelmed with the question paper. All kinds of negative and fearful thoughts begin to run through his mind.

Teach your child a simple yet effective way to manage stress:

Step 1: To become aware of his physical symptoms and negative thoughts as they begin to appear.
Step 2: To put down the pen, sit back and take a few moments to breathe slowly and deeply to calm the body and mind until the breathing returns to normal. Simultaneously all the other symptoms will subside.
Step 3: To follow this with drinking a glass of water, and he will be ready to continue writing the exam with a clearer mind and sharper focus.
Although it may seem like following these steps is a waste of precious time, science informs us that deep breathing for a few moments is a very effective way to release stress.

TIP: Even before the exams begin, teach your child to recognise his typical stress symptoms. Encourage him to practise deep breathing the right way so that it comes naturally to him when stress builds up in the exam hall.
 Arundhati Swamy, family counsellor and Head of the Parent Engagement Program at ParentCircle

Using the simple time management skills given above, your child can easily manage time while writing an examination and come through with flying colours.  

Stressed about exams? Call our Counsellors on 8754414666 / 044-66236611 in Feb (Tues & Fri, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.)   

About the author:

Written by Team ParentCircle on 18 September 2017; updated on 7 February 2020

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