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The Art of Excelling In Exams: Why some students over-achieve.

How To Over-Achieve in Exams


There’s a skill to sitting a full exam. And that perfecting that skill can boost your grades by about 5% – 10%.

I wasn’t the brightest in school, but I was an expert at sitting exams. I ended up going from 410 points in my ‘mocks’ to 600 in my leaving cert.

Let me teach you the art of sitting an exam.

1. Anticipate The Examiner

Some subjects are more predictable than others. Geography, History, Business, Biology…. these text heavy, fact based subjects are easily predicted to a fine art.

I remember sitting my Geography exam on the Friday. I had scanned the previous 10 years of exam questions and pattern matched. I’d predicted to a fine art the 11 questions I thought could come up. Lo and behold, 10 of them were on the paper that Friday morning.

This advice is not applicable for Maths or, for the languages. But for every other subject, you can, by and large, predict what will happen.

Start scanning those exam papers and start to pattern match.

2. Visualise The Exam

I remember a primary school teacher telling me how David Beckham took a penalty. The night before a game, he would close his eyes and imagine the game. He’d imagine his team being awarded the penalty and the crowd going bananas. He’d imagine his heart beating as he put the ball on the penalty spot. He’d visualise him kicking the ball cleanly and going into the left side of the goal. Not only that, but he’d imagine the joy on his teammates faces as he celebrated, the roar of the crowd.

The next day, when a penalty was awarded, it was as a breeze. He’d practised this so many times in his mind as he slept the night before. He was clinical — almost always scoring.

You can do the same for exams. One month out, you should start to visualise the day of the exam. Visualise yourself sitting down in the exam hall. Visualise how nervous everyone is, all the ‘pre-exam’ chat. Visualise the examiner handing you the exam paper. Visualise the pressure you will feel as you open the exam.

Every fine detail, visualise it. Getting stuck on questions. Making progress in the exam paper. Time flying…. the heat of the hall….. try to get as clear a picture of the exam as possible in your minds eye.

The more you visualise it, the more your subconscious takes over. Your brain will go on autopilot mode. Your subconscious will be so used to exam settings. You will make fewer mistakes. You will be less nervous.

Try it. This worked for me. You can begin to visualise one month out from the exam.

You can thank me in June!

TJ, CEO of Breakthrough Maths.

Need help in Maths? Contact the Breakthrough Maths team here.

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