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Key Study Skills

Exam Basics: allocating time and using the marking schedule

Exam Basics: Allocating time and using the marking system

Time is limited in exams so it's important to plan how you will use it. You also need to consider how much each question is worth when planning your time.

You need to allocate time according to the marks per question or per section.  If a question is work more marks, you need to spend more time answering it.  If it's work less marks, you need to spend less time on it.

To work out exactly how much time to spend on each question or section you need to:

  1. Change the hours available for the exam to minutes.
  2. Deduct the reading and checking time.
  3. Divide the total number of minutes by the marks,
  4. Then multiply the time per mark by the number of marks for each question.

For example:

3 hour exam

Section A: Multichoice             20 marks
Section B: Short Answer         30 marks
Section C: 2 Essays                50 marks (25 marks each)

3 hours = 3 x 60 minutes = 180 minutes

Allocate 10 minutes for reading the exam at the beginning and 10 minutes for checking your answer at the end.
180 - 20 = 160 minutes

160 minutes divided by 100 marks = 1.6 minutes per mark.

Section A = 20 x 1.6 = 32 minutes
Section B = 30 x 1.6 = 48 minutes
Section C = 50 x 1.6 = 80 minutes or 40 minutes for each essay.

Usually you are given time before the exam to read it through.  You should also leave time at the end of the exam to check your answers - are they legible? Have you remembered to answer everything?  But unless you can see an obvious mistake, it is best not to change answers as your first guess then to be correct.

The mark allocation to each question is directly related to the number of points the marker expects to find in your answer.  Decide how many points the marker is looking for.