How do I time my exam?


This represents the best advice I can give but – as I always say – it’s best to TALK TO YOUR OWN TEACHER to see what they say




is probably the area where pupils foul up most often.

It is certainly the area where good candidates can easily come a cropper.



Some Suggestions...

  • WORK OUT, before the exam, how long you have for each question you will face.
    [You MUST talk to your teacher about this– it will vary depending on which exam board and which paper you are doing]

  • SPEND up to 5 minutes reading through/thinking about the questions, to decide which ones you are going to do.   Think: ‘what is it really asking’ and ‘how much could I say about that’ as you scan the paper.

  • BEFORE YOU START WRITING, look at the clock and work out the times by which you must have finished each question.

  • KEEP LOOKING AT THE CLOCK throughout the exam, to see how you are doing for time.   Constantly be adjusting how you are working to keep yourself on track, timewise.

  • WITHIN EACH QUESTION, split up the time you give to each part of the question in the same way. Allow a short thinking time before you start writing – jot down a few words as ‘prompts’ for a plan.   Then use the number of marks as a guide – eg the sourcework extraction question worth 3 marks must be done quickly with three** correct points.   Spend a greater proportion of the time on the descriptive and analytical essay questions which carry 8, 10 or 15 marks.

    ** PS my son disagrees. He says, if you have a three-mark question, put FOUR points – in case you get one of them wrong.

  • DO NOT THINK-THEN-WRITE. Once you have mapped out a plan of what you are going to say, while you are writing the one sentence be thinking of the next sentence.

  • ANSWER the questions in order of difficulty, not the order they come in.   Answer the easiest question first. It will build up your confidence and, while you are writing, the back of your brain will be mulling over the other, harder questions.   So, if there is a question you think you cannot do, read it, think about it, then go and answer some other questions – come back to it later.




Go into the exam knowing how much time you have for each question, and



































If you have gone too slowly...

If, despite all this advice, you still look up at the clock and find you have got 4 questions to do in 10 minutes:

  • Don’t just continue writing at the same pace and run out of time with 3 questions not done.

  • See how much time you have per question,

  • Spend that time just jotting down key points.

  • Always make sure that you write SOMETHING for every question.


If you end up with time to spare...

you have not said everything you could have said – either because you did not learn it well enough when you revised, or because you have not thought of everything you know.

  • Always leave a few lines after every question so, if you do finish early, you can go back and see if you can think of anything more to say.

  • Read through your work to see if it makes sense – you’d be surprised how often you have written gobbledegook!


leave an exam early:

=  SPEND THE TIME trying to add points to your answers, and

=  READ THROUGH what you have written to make sure it makes sense.