Exam Technique: Should You Complete Your Exams Chronologically?

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When it comes to exams you want to be able to grab every mark that you can, and sometimes a few exam techniques that can help. You may have heard people say that they do exams in reverse order, or do the hardest questions first. 

The big question here is: should you be doing your exams chronologically?

Well, let’s find out! 

Pros of Doing an Exam Chronologically
Cons to Completing Your Exam in Order
How should you implement this exam technique?

Pros of Doing an Exam Chronologically

#1: Exams are designed to be done chronologically

When the paper is designed to be done in a certain order, you may find that questions follow on from one another, and the timing for each section has been allocated in a certain manner.

So, doing it in order allows you to complete the exam in the way it was intended!

#2: Organisation

Completing an exam paper in order means that you are organised throughout the exam, and know how many questions you’ve done alongside how many questions you have left. When you mess around with the order you might find yourself skipping pages or even sections, which is simply an added layer of stress.

Learn about dealing with exam stress here!

#3: Time management

Jumping around pages in an exam and completing different parts of separate questions adds complexity to the whole time management factor.

Often sections have an allocated time that is recommended, but when you don’t complete the paper in chronological order you need to figure out for yourself how much time you will spend on each section.

Overall, you will find it easier to keep track of time if you complete the paper chronologically. 

Cons to Completing Your Exam in Order

#1: Running out of time

When completing a paper in its intended order, you may come across a question that you personally find difficult, get stuck on, and the next thing you know you’ve spent 10 minutes staring at the question. 

#2: Missing out on questions

When you run out of time, this can lead to missing out on the questions towards the end of the paper. And for all we know, you might have actually found the later questions easier to complete!

So by completing the paper in order, you may not actually be maximising your marks.

Essentially, you want to get 100% of what you know, and are confident in, correct. Then along the way, you can try to pick up a couple marks here and there throughout the more challenging questions in the paper. 

How should you implement this exam technique?

Put simply, completing an exam chronologically helps simplify the timing and management process of an exam, but can prevent you from grabbing all the marks available. 

Simply answer a question to the best of your ability, and if it is too hard, move on!

Go through the paper in its intended order, but if you get stumped on a particular question, don’t waste precious time trying to figure it out — instead move onto the questions you do know, and can confidently answer correctly.

Once you reach the end of the paper, go back to the questions you skipped and spend the remaining time trying to answer them as best as you can. 

At the end of the day, do what works best for you, and use your internal assessments throughout the year as an opportunity to test out what strategies work for you. Figure this out early, so that by the time you get to your Trials or your HSC, you know what plan of attack to take. 

Play to your strengths and keep track of time!

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Nandini Dhir is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Marketing) and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), as a Dalyell Scholar, at Sydney University. She enjoys covering local issues in her area and writing about current events in the media. Nandini has had one of her pieces published in an article with the Sydney Morning Herald. In her free time, Nandini loves doing calligraphy, ballet, and sewing, or is otherwise found coddling her cats.



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