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From a young age, most of us have prepared for exams by memorizing textbook phrases, developing summaries, and practicing with past exams. However, we often neglect to analyze what went wrong during an assessment and how we can improve. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that national and international exam bodies do not typically return test papers for review, and schools may not dedicate enough time to post-exam analysis.
It’s important to learn how to conduct a thorough analysis and review of our exam performance and understand how this can impact our preparation for future exams. Let’s explore some effective strategies for conducting this type of review.


1st layer – Linking poorly scored questions to weakness of topic/sub-topic
Corrective action: strengthen your identified area of weakness

When analyzing student exam scripts on English tuition, science tuition, or math tuition, tutors typically focus on two main aspects:

  • Comparing the total marks available for each question to the marks the student received.
  • Identifying the topic or sub-topic related to poorly scored questions.

Based on these findings, primary tuition teacher or secondary tuition teacher may talk to their students to determine whether they understand how to approach the questions or if they have a solid grasp of the related concepts. In this way, corrective exercises or additional teaching can be provided to address areas of weakness.
However, it is not uncommon for students to attribute poor performance to other factors such as carelessness, time constraints, exam stress, or misunderstanding of the question. As a result, this commonly used method has its limitations.


2nd layer – Marks versus efforts
Corrective action: showcase your strength, hide your weakness

If approaching exams is similar to preparing for a sports competition or making a pitch to investors, then students should prioritize their efforts and time on the topics they excel at, while minimizing the time spent on the areas they are less confident in. To accomplish this, it is essential that students categorize their exam questions into three groups: those they are most confident in, those they are least confident in, and those in between. This additional information can help teachers better understand the student’s performance.

Question is answered correctlyQuestion is answered poorly
Question which student is most confident on doing wellStudent has good understanding on the topic and has correctly identified his/her strength.Student may not have good understanding on the topic and his/her strength. 

Possible causes could be as follows:
– lack of practice leading to correct method/concept but incorrect answer
– misunderstand what the question is asking or making the wrong assumption
– carelessness by copying wrong number or pressing calculator incorrectly or mixing up concepts
– nervousness in the exam hall and possibly the first few questions attempted
– lack of time

Question which student is least confident on doing wellStudent may not have good understanding on his/her strength. 

Possible causes could be as follows:
– lack of practice
– first time application of certain concept
– lack of confidence
– lack of time

Student has poor understanding on the topic and has correctly identify his/her weakness.


Fundamentally, if a student has many questions in the red region, then their main weakness may be an inability to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, when preparing for assessments, students should identify their strong and weak topics.

During the exam, students should focus on the questions they can answer well, skip those they don’t know how to answer, and avoid rushing through the entire exam. It’s better to carefully complete 75% of the exam and get all correct than hastily complete the entire paper and get only half correct.

To perform their best on the exam, students should showcase their strengths by dedicating their energy and limited time to the questions they are strong in, and save the most difficult questions for last. Ultimately, students should focus their efforts on reinforcing their weaknesses and building on their strengths. For instance, students can work with their tuition teachers to develop a plan that includes practicing suitable questions for their weaker topics and more challenging questions for their stronger topics.


3rd layer – Play and React to score
Corrective action: Learn to react according to the situations and quench your nervousness

The purpose of mock exams and practice simulations is to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses, familiarize themselves with the exam format, types of questions, and learn how to react in various situations that may arise during the exam. The following are some examples of how students should and should not react in different scenarios.

When faced with a difficult paper with many unknown questions, focus on the questions you can answer and aim for 100% accuracy. Use your understanding of commonly asked exam questions and marking scheme to answer questions you do not know how to do. Avoid panicking and spending too much time on questions you cannot answer.

When the paper is easy with only a few questions you are unsure of, read each question carefully and avoid misunderstanding the examiners’ requirements. Focus on presentation and ensure that all keywords are written accurately, and be meticulous in your calculations. Do not become overconfident, rush through the questions, and leave the examination hall early.

When encountering a new or unfamiliar type of question, relate it to the relevant topic or subtopic, think about what other questions may be asked, and consider the possible marking scheme to answer the question. Read the question again to ensure that you understand what is being asked. Avoid writing irrelevant answers or trying to fit your answer to the question.

When you find the questions getting harder or are proceeding slower, take a moment to relax and take a deep breath or drink water before continuing. Do not let nervousness or fear affect your performance.

In summary, examination preparation seems like just doing and solving questions. Doing the question is the activity. The intention of the activity for each learner should vary widely.

Is it to find out where I am weak at?
Is it to help me better manage my emotions when confronted with questions that I don’t know how to do?
Is it to strengthen my stamina for a 2 hr 15 mins paper?
Is it to hone my calculation skills in exam condition?
Doing for doing sake will not yield any fruits. The more you understand yourself, the more targeted you are. The more purposeful your examination preparation is, the better you will perform.

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