How To Do Well On English Exams

Here’s how to do well on English exams from someone who learned the hard way.

Be specific.

Avoid making grand sweeping generalizations about all of humanity since the beginning of time. Narrow your scope and focus on the topic. Look at how the little details paint a bigger picture.

Be careful.

Read the questions carefully. Make sure you actually answer the prompt. Reread your own work. Sometimes your hand writes the opposite of what your head wants.

Be concise.

Don’t beat around the bush. Get to the point. Make a clear argument. Support your thesis with evidence. Be clear. Don’t be confusing or convoluted. If you can’t comprehend what you’re saying, how will anyone else?

Be yourself.

It is not the time to try to write like someone else. You have your own voice. You’ve been developing it for years. Give yourself some credit. You’re better than you believe, so prove that.

Be forgiving.

Your word choice won’t be flawless. Your sentence structure won’t be impeccable. That’s not the point. This exam is in a test of your ability to write perfectly.

Best of luck!


Essays, Exams, Etc.

I’m at that point in the semester where I have ten billion things to do, but I just want to watch TV.

My motivation walked out on me. I’m also sleeping more than I did earlier in the semester. Read into that what you will.

I had more energy in January. But now I’m exhausted. To be fair, I’m sleeping later than I should.

In a way, I have more free time because baseball ended and hasn’t begun. But essays exist. Exams exist. Both are the bane of my existence.

At least everything is coming together, albeit a bit slowly.

Still, I love that feeling of all the pieces starting to come together.

I’m excited for this semester to be over. Summer feels so close, yet so far away. It’s just around the corner.

First, I need to get through all these evaluations.

What do you prefer: essays or exams?

There are pros and cons to both. All things considered, I think I prefer essays more. I hate studying, but I love writing.

This semester I have more essays than exams, and I don’t have a problem with that whatsoever. Says the girl who’s struggling to write them right now.

I don’t mind essay based exams either.

I can write. I don’t need to study in the sense of memorizing facts or dates, which is the sort of studying I despise the most.

Then again, writing a good essay takes time. I don’t care who you are. No one writes a great paper in twenty minutes.

With exams, even essay based ones, there’s less or no editing involved. I enjoy not having to edit.

All you need to know about me is I love writing, and I hate pretty much everything else. Studying. Driving.

For now, I turn my focus towards not failing. But more importantly, I’ll take care of myself during this busy time. No matter what, I will listen to my body.


How To Write Under Time Pressure

Writing is hard enough as it is without the added pressure of having a limited amount of time.

Budgeting time takes on a greater significance when you only have a few hours to write too many essays.

I’ve extracted tips from my tired brain about writing under pressure:

  • Write fast but not too fast. This goes for both handwriting and typing.
  • Production not perfection. Don’t strive to be perfect. Do strive to be done.
  • Be concise, clear. Try to know what you’re writing about to avoid beating around the bush.
  • Prepare accordingly. There’s nothing like a simulation of the real thing. Studying and reviewing is good. Replicating the test conditions as closely as possible is great.
  • Don’t forget to breathe. Like the protagonist in many YA novels, let out that breath you didn’t know you were holding.
  • Try not to overthink. Most teachers aren’t trying to trick you.
  • Just write something. Part marks are better than no marks at all. Get an idea down. It may lead to other ideas.
  • Make connections. Concepts often interconnect. Draw out similarities and differences. Compare or contrast. Brainstorm with a mind map. Outline in a way that work for you.
  • Write until you have nothing else to say. Stick with what you know when possible. Talking about what you don’t know makes your life harder.
  • Use the time given. There’s no reason to stop writing thirty minutes into a three hour exam.
  • Take care of any business beforehand. That way, you’re in a good place physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.
  • Eat and drink beforehand. A hydrated body beats a hungry one.
  • Move on. Especially when you’re stumped. Tackle the next question. You can always come back to a problem later.
  • Play to your strengths. Downplay your weaknesses.
  • Answer what’s asked. Ideally, you do this right off the bat.

If nothing else, remember writing under time pressure is a skill you can cultivate.


How Writing An Exam Is Like Writing A Novel

This past Saturday I finished my last exam for the semester, so now I can’t use school as an excuse. Will that stop me from making excuses? No, of course not.

But it got me thinking that in some ways writing an essay based exam is similar to writing a novel.

How? Read on and find out my weird thoughts.

Work within a time frame.

With an exam, you usually have two or three hours to complete it. So you have to budget your time accordingly. With a novel, you might have all the time in the world. Or possibly a deadline imposed by others you have to meet. Either way it’s a good idea to set your own deadlines. Otherwise you might run out of time for the exam or take ten years to finish that novel. I think it took me about three years to finish my first manuscript. And as proud as I am about that accomplishment, I could’ve finished that story in three months if I gave myself a time frame.

Write first, edit later.

Or in the case of exams, edit never. Writing is about expressing your ideas. They don’t have to be articulated flawlessly. What’s important is getfing something on paper, even if that something is imperfect. Remember, you can’t edit anything if you don’t write it down first.

When in doubt, go with what you know.

I don’t recommend writing an essay or story on a topic you don’t know, at least not without doing research and getting to know the subject. On an exam, I avoid writing about concepts I’m not as familiar with whenever possible. With novels, I love the challenge of writing about a new idea and learning along the way.

Despite the similarities, I’ll take writing novels over exams any day of the week.


How To Study For An Exam In One Day

Thanks to my terrible time management, I had one day to study for my first exam. But I’ve learned from my past and set aside an entire week for my second one.

So even though I don’t believe in cramming, I consider myself an expert on it now.

  • Don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world. Besides, you’d be surprised at how much you can cover in a day.
  • Make a plan. What topics do you have to cover? When and where will you study? How long are your review sessions going to be? Because you don’t have all the time in the world, focus on important ideas as well as concepts you don’t understand that well.
  • Perform to the best of your abilities. You don’t have to be perfect. But that’s okay. Do what you can. Don’t worry about what you can’t.

Good luck. Don’t fail.


Emails, Essays, Exams

Sometimes I wonder why I struggle more to write an email than I do an essay. 

My main issue is I want to acknowledge that I received the message and thank the sender, but I don’t want to bombard someone with another email, especially if it isn’t important or useful. 

Regardless I quite enjoy writing emails. It’s not nearly as stressful as writing an essay. Or an exam. I won’t have to deal with the latter for several more months. 

In high school I didn’t quite understand why university students got four months of summer. Now I do. 

School · Writing

On Writing Essay Based Exams

Since I wrote one essay based exam last night, I now think I’m an expert and can dole out advice.

Like so…

Answer what’s asked.

Even if you’re asked to write about a character you despise so much you wish he or she had died, write about him or her anyway. I may or may not have some anger issues I need to work out.

Use the space allotted as a guide to how much you should write.

If how many points are awarded per question, use that to your advantage as well. Use everything to your advantage, especially if you feel like you’re at a disadvantage.

Don’t write big.

It’s better to have some lines remaining than run out of space. Yes, I had extra paper in my booklet. No, I didn’t write big. I’m not that much of a hypocrite.

Note the questions that are worth the most points.

Tackle them first to ensure you have a chance at getting the majority of your marks. If they’re equal, divide your time as evenly as you can.

Fluff is fluff.

Fluff isn’t worth your writing time or the grader’s reading time. Don’t include it to begin with. Save yourself from the pain.

Be thorough but not redundant or repetitive.

Saying the same thing again and again isn’t going to help your case.

Depending on my final grade, I’ll let you know how well I did on the exam. My gut feeling is leaning towards not so well right now.

Maybe one day you’ll decide I’m very wise and my advice is worth following. Until then trust no one and nothing. Especially me and this blog.


Writing An Exam I Barely Studied For

What have I been doing?

Not studying.

Where have I been?

I was at school, writing an exam I barely studied for.

Here’s what I learned:

  • I can’t recommend cramming, ever.
  • I don’t advise anyone to follow in my faint footsteps.
  • I wouldn’t attempt it again in a perfect world, but since the world isn’t perfect, I probably will write many more exams with very minimal studying and preparation beforehand.

Why didn’t I study?

Because I had other things to do. You can’t expect a writer and blogger and reader to devote all her time being a student. If you do, you have unrealistic expectations.

How am I?

Not great. February flew by way too quickly. I spent the month watching my productivity levels skyrocket…to the ground. And beyond. To the core of earth. Nothing is where I want it to be. Nothing is going in the direction it should be. But that’s okay. It’s March. It’s a new month. Get ready. Get excited. You can be I will be writing Camp NaNoWriMo blog posts instead of studying for exams. Haven’t you met me?