Strategies to solve the paper – II: Follow the order or prioritize?
A dilemma that students often face while writing an exam paper is the sequence to be followed to answer all questions–-should they just take up questions one by one in the order they appear or read the question paper first and decide which ones to attempt first (obviously, the ones to which they know the answers well)?
It is quite natural to be confused, especially with conflicting advice coming in from various people. The answer depends on you, and on how well prepared you are and how confident you feel. If you are given time before the actual exam commences to read the question paper, then the answer is very easy. Use the time to read the questions and then decide which ones you can answer well and which ones you will not be able to do well.
Start by answering the question to which you know the answer the best, then take up the question to which you know the answer the next best, and so on. The advantage is that a good beginning creates a positive impression, which will give you some edge while the examiner evaluates your answer sheet. However, do remember that you have to maintain a certain level of consistency. If your subsequent answers are worse than the first one, then you will lose the edge. There is another pitfall in this method. While reading the questions, if you come across any to which you don’t know the answer very well, then it will affect your confidence and poise, which may affect your overall performance. Of course, we are sure that your preparation is so thorough that this will not happen.
However, in the rare case, prevent this from happening by concentrating on the ones that you know well and complete them well. However, if you are not allowed any extra time to read the questions, then you will have to decide whether to spend time reading or to get down to the task immediately.
Ideally, in such a situation, you should not spend time reading the questions, instead solve them one by one. If external choice (solving a certain number of questions out of those given) is given, then read each question as it comes, decide whether you want to attempt it, solve it or skip it as the case may be, and then go to the next question. If internal choice (solving a certain number of sub-questions within a question) is given, then read all the sub-questions, evaluate whether you can solve the requisite number, then solve it or skip it as the case may be. While doing so, make sure that you solve only the number of questions needed overall. In short, do the question as they come.
Remember, however, that this method will help only if your preparations have been reasonably thorough and you are confident that you have covered all the topics well, so prioritizing one question over another may not really matter either way.
Reading the questions when no extra time is allowed for the purpose will involve some time management. Prioritize when you feel that your preparations were not absolutely up to the mark or if you are not fully confident that you can tackle any topic in the syllabus.
Prioritizing may also help those of you who skip certain topics in the syllabus, for whatever reason, knowing that you have to solve only a certain number of questions, and that each question will be restricted to a certain topic in the syllabus. But then, you have to be absolutely confident of your preparation of the parts of the syllabus that you have chosen. Lastly, it is not necessary that you may adopt the same strategy for all subjects. You can decide the strategy depending upon how well you have prepared a subject; it is quite possible that you may be very strong in some subjects and not so in others.
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