7 common mistakes to avoid during exams

We’ve pulled together seven of the most common problems students come up against, with tips on how to overcome them. Achieve@Uni has a bunch more tips on hand, too.

1. Not getting prepared

Don’t panic, there’s still time to prepare, revise and map out your plan of attack. The time to avoid feeling unprepared during your exam is now.

If you need help getting ready, there are plenty of people and resources waiting to offer assistance. Whether you want to chat with a librarian, an online expert via Studiosity, or a peer or expert on the Library Learning Services team, there are plenty of people available to help you out.

2. Misunderstanding your assessment format

Will you have two hours to complete your assessment, or two days? What can you expect when the assessment goes live? All the details for each of your assessment tasks will be available in each subject’s page on the LMS. There you will find specific instructions from your subject coordinator and an indication of how long the task should take to complete. Read the instructions carefully!

3. Scrambling on the day

The trick to feeling prepared on the day is actually preparing the day before. Triple check your assessment details in the LMS, and make sure you have everything you need.

If you’re not confident your internet connection is reliable enough to get you through assessments, facilities will be available for you to use at specific locations at La Trobe’s campuses. Plan your moves well ahead of time.

4. Going blank during your assessment

You might know the feeling. Everything seems to go a little fuzzy and even though you know the answer, you just can’t quite remember it.

Often, the best option is to move on to the next question and come back to it later. Find one you’re confident about, it’ll get your thinking back on track. If can’t skip the first question, try jotting down what you do know on a spare piece of paper. Ask yourself questions to help you focus and try looking at the big picture.

Try to relax your thoughts or take a few seconds to practise mindfulness. For example, close your eyes and picture a beautiful, peaceful place – breathe slowly and deeply – repeat a calming word until you start to relax.

Getting a good night’s sleep in the lead up to assessments is critical. It’ll reduce that foggy feeling and you’ll focus a lot better on the task at hand than if you stayed up until 2 a.m. cramming the night before.

5. Running out of time

No matter which type of question you’re answering, whether it be essay, multiple choice or short answer, the most critical factor you’ll have to take into account is time.

Ask yourself, how much time do you have? How much of it is reading time? How much is left for answering questions? How long should you spend on each question? Your answers will dictate how you approach your assessment questions.

If you’re running out of time, write your answers in dot points so the assessor can understand your reasoning – you’ll at least receive some marks for your efforts. Prioritise your responses based on their mark value when dividing up your remaining time. Head to Acheive@Uni for more exam time management strategies.

6. Misunderstanding the question

Exam questions can seem tricky. Often, it’s because they’ve been read with haste. Consider the way the question is worded. Look for things such as double negatives and if the question contains clues.

Underline important elements of the question, and reread it several times to make sure you’re interpreting it correctly. Use a process of elimination and return to the question once you’ve written your answer to confirm you haven’t gone off on a tangent. Find more useful tips online with Achieve@Uni.

7. Being unsure how to approach the question

The methodology for short answer and essay questions in exams is simple: read, plan, structure and write – check out this Achieve@Uni resource for a breakdown of each step.

For multiple choice questions, if you have difficulty determining the correct answer, try eliminating the options you know are incorrect and focusing on what remains.

Feeling a little stressed?

The lead up to final assessments can feel a little stressful, that’s for sure.

Take care of yourself in the lead up, and know that a lot of people are feeling just the same way you are right now – you’re not alone.

There are lots of ways you can seek support, from accessing learning support from the Library Learning Services team, to getting in touch with La Trobe’s Health and Wellbeing team, or attending a counselling session.

You’ve got this!