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Few ways one can avoid getting negative marks and score high are:

 1. Not reading the question properly

Human brains have a habit of seeing what they want to see, and this is especially true in the high pressure environment of the exam room. If you don’t read a question carefully enough, your brain can easily trick you into thinking that the question is asking you something that it’s not – leading you to write a completely different essay that doesn’t answer the actual question you’ve been set. Read the question very carefully, and then read it again. To help you thoroughly absorb exactly what the question is asking, you can circle or underline important words to keep you on track – instructional words such as “compare and contrast”, for example.

2. Leaving the easiest questions until last

However sensible it might seem to try to get the difficult questions over and done with first leaving the nice easy ones as a reward to finish with this is not always a good idea. If you’ve identified questions you think you can answer relatively easily, do them first. This way, you quickly pick up marks ‘upfront’. If you start with the difficult questions, you may not answer them as well as the easier ones, therefore gaining fewer marks, and you may end up spending too long on them, meaning that you run out of time for answering the ones for which you could have got more marks.

3. Running out of time

It’s a classic student mistake, spending too long on the first few questions and not leaving enough time to finish, meaning an incomplete final essay. Timing is crucial in an exam, and must be carefully rationed, as you’ll have a lot to get through in a very short space of time. This gives you more leeway for answering trickier questions; alternatively, extra time can be used to check over your answers.

4. Leaving multiple choice questions blank

Multiple choice questions are one of the easier styles of exam, as they give you a finite number of possible answers that can sometimes mean that even if you don’t know the answer, you can deduce it by working out which answers are less likely to be the right one. However, some students lose out on easy marks by not putting any answer at all for the questions they don’t know the answer to.

5. Other multiple choice question conundrums

It’s all too easy to overlook the fact that you’ve already answered a multiple choice question and answer it again with a different answer, leaving two boxes ticked and an examiner who has no idea which you meant to mark as the correct answer – and no choice but to give you no marks for this question. It’s also easy to circle one answer when you know that you meant to circle a different one.

 6. Leaving the exam room early

If you’ve worked very efficiently, or found the exam easy, you may steam through it with time to spare. At this point, some students make the mistake of leaving the exam room. Once you leave it, it’s too late – you can’t go back in for something you thought of including in hindsight. So, even if you finish early, use that extra time at the end to read through your answers and make sure that you’ve answered them to the best of your abilities. It may not be the neatest solution, but it’s better than missing out on the extra marks you could gain with your extra information. You can also use this extra time to proofread your answers, for the reason given in our next and final point.

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