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Top 5 Ways to Manage Time in an Exam

Updated: Jun 15


You have been frustrated due to not being able to complete an exam in time. Hence, you decide to google it and came across this article. So let's get straight into it.


Here are the top 7 ways to manage time in an exam:


  1. Know the exam pattern/layout

Knowing the exam pattern is key to being able to complete an exam well within the time limit. The exam pattern should state facts about the exam such as its duration, number and type of questions.


Let's consider a Maths exam's pattern held by school x and we will guide you through how you would create your strategy. Download the pdf or simply view the image below.


Take this with pinch of salt as this strategy can vary hugely based on your exam's duration, difficulty etc.


Considering that marks awarded are directly related to difficulty of a question, we can say that:


Ratio of marks from Section A, B and C = 10 : 10 : 10

Simplify the ratio by dividing by 10 = 1 : 1 : 1

This means 1/3rd of the total time that is 1/3 x 60 mins = 20 mins need to be allocated to each question.


Section A has 10 questions.

Therefore, 20 mins / 10 questions = 2 mins/question

This shows that you spend upto 2 minutes per question from section A


Section B has 10 questions.

Therefore, 20 mins / 10 questions = 2 mins/question

This shows that you spend upto 2 minutes per question from section B


Section C has 5 questions.

Therefore, 20 mins / 5 questions = 4 mins/question

This shows that you spend upto 4 minutes per question from section C


Thats's it! You have prepared your time management plan. As long as you spend less than the max time limit per question, you will find that you complete the exam well within time.


2. Learning when to skip

This is an important skill to learn when it comes to managing time in exams. Essentially, it is being mindful about the time you spend on a question and being able to skip it so that you can get back to it at the end of the exam if time allows.


Say you are solving a question from section C in the exam we looked at earlier. After using approximately 75% of the time that is about 3 minutes, you should consider if you are certain about your solution. If you are not sure about your answer, leave it at what you have answered so far and jump to the next question.


Spend more than 4 minutes on the question and you start using your time from the other questions whose answer you may be ceratin about. You may end up not answering these questions although you knew how to solve them as you used available time to that one question. On top of that, you might get that question wrong too as you were unsure about the answer (potentially the reason it was taking more time)


So in simple terms, skip the questions if you are unable to solve them and attempt to solve them later (after completing all other questions) if time allows. This way you secure marks in other questions that you are certain about while still having time left for these difficult questions.


3. Read Instructions and Glance over Paper

This is a small but quite important point which a surprising number of students dont follow. It is crucial to read the instructions of the exam carefully the moment you receive it and then quickly glance over the entire paper.


Reading the instructions ensures you dont miss out on something. I have seen several students who couldn't complete the exam in time or answered questions incorrectly as they did not read instructions like "attempt any 4 out of 5", "answer in one word only" or "Multiple choice questions can have multiple correct answers".


Glancing over the paper gives you an idea of what to expect in the paper. You would know how many pages there are, the length of different questions, type of questions, and feel more comfortable attempting the paper.


4. Practice Sample/Past/Mock Exams

This simple trick not only verifies your time management strategy but also helps you practice for the exam. Hence, ensure that you practice as many sample and past papers as you can.


Set a timer and check if you are able to complete it on time as per your strategy. Practice more papers and try to complete each one in less time than the one before.





5. Practice problems that you find difficult