Strategies to solve the paper – I: Be neat and tidy
SO HERE YOU ARE at the exams, with paper in hand, and wondering how to go about solving it. You studied hard all the year round, made sacrifices, and burned a lot of midnight oil for this precise moment. Now, with the question paper in hand and pen poised on the answer sheet, are ready to fly? But alas! How do you go about actually solving the question paper? A lot many of you probably give little thoughts to this important aspect. Is there a strategy to write exams? Should you have a strategy? Yes, you should have a strategy. Remember, the guy who was 0.1 seconds late may have won the silver medal, but lost all the glory.
A strategy will give you that fraction of an edge, although it may differ from individual to individual, and maybe even from subject to subject. So, here are a few basic things.
First of all, pay attention to tidiness. Marks may not have been assigned specifically for tidiness, but believe me, no examiner wants to read an answer paper that looks untidy. When I say tidy, I not only mean good, legible handwriting, but also the overall appearance. The entire paper should look neat and crisp.
Don’t let the pages crumple. Try to avoid smudging the pages as far as possible. Answer books will often come with a margin marked on the left, but if it doesn’t have one, mark it with a scale and pencil (never a pen), only on the left. Don’t mark margins on both sides of the page, and don’t write in letters that are very big, or on alternate lines. It looks very ugly and creates the impression that you are trying to make a little material look like much more.
Use both sides of the page to write your answer, and don’t leave any page blank. Clearly mark where an answer ends. Draw a rule with a pencil and scale just after the line where your answer ends, even if it is a sub-question of a question. Ideally, you should start a new answer, even if it is to a sub-question, on the next page. All this is to clearly distinguish where one answer ends and another begins. Nothing is more frustrating for an examiner than to be unable to tell where an answer has ended and a new one begun.
Draw neat and clean diagrams wherever necessary or asked for, and label them properly. As far as possible, try not to scratch off entire lines of your answer, but on the rare occasion that you need to do so, it is best to draw a frame around the lines to be scratched and cross it off – it will roughly look like a rectangle with its diagonals drawn! There will be space earmarked for rough work – use it for the purpose, and draw a line across it just before you hand in your answer sheet.
Also draw a line across any pages that you may have inadvertently left blank, and obtain the invigilator’s signature on such pages if necessary. Also obtain the invigilator’s signature if you need to change your pen for any reason. Finally, draw two rules where your answer paper ends. If you have taken supplementary answer book/s, then tie them securely with the tag provided, in a proper order. Ensure that you have entered your details like roll number and subject properly on the main answer book as well as on the supplementary answer books. All this will go a long way in giving a neat and tidy look to your answer book, and create a good first impression when the examiner takes it for evaluation.
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