Avoiding Silly Exam Mistakes

Avoiding Silly Exam Mistakes

It’s a very unfortunate thing, when a teenager comes out of an exam and realises they’ve made a mistake. They’ve worked their whole school life to reach the pinnacle of sitting these exams, only to do something ‘silly’ and potentially hinder their final grade.

However, by and large, many silly mistakes can be avoided if students prepare well- and know what to look out for! Here we detail some of the most common mistakes for you to share with your teenager so you, too, can support them through the process.

Firstly, it’s important in exam situations to try and remain as calm as possible. This is probably much easier said than done, of course, but being able to focus calmly will help your teen to think and act more clearly. One way to prepare for being in the stressful situation of examinations, is to sit timed practise papers or make the most of the opportunities schools provide (many schools have students sit mock or prelim exams a few times before the ‘real thing,’ to get them used to the context.) By doing this, students can hopefully enter exams in a better frame of mind to avoid making silly mistakes that might be brought on by nerves.

One of the things your teen wants to be careful of is making sure they read the question correctly. If they don’t, reading a question wrong can completely mislead a student. Regardless of how brilliant the final piece may read, if it doesn’t answer the original question, the examiner will be quite limited in the marks that they can give. The advice is to read the question thoroughly- encourage your teen to read questions a few times before they begin. Teachers will often show students how to highlight the key words in a question too- to pinpoint exactly what the question is asking. It’s a good idea for a teen to keep referring to this whilst they write, as the best answers will keep weaving back to the question.



Running out of time is another frustrating mistake when it comes to exams! This is also quite detrimental for marks because if your teen runs out of time to complete the paper, they are likely to miss out on answering everything- automatically inflicting a loss. To work on this, the best thing your teenager can do is practise individual questions, as well as whole papers, in timed conditions.

It is also imperative that your teen gets to grips with knowing their timings for each exam. There are plenty of opportunities where your teen can practise this.

In school, for one, or by turning to a revision provider. If you think your child needs extra support out of the classroom context, it is worth considering one of our revision courses, where we will be able to equip your teen with skills and confidence to help combat some of these ‘silly’ mistakes.

Finally, it’s always important to remind your teenager that exams are given certain ‘time lengths’ for a reason. For example, if an exam is ‘an hour long,’ it is likely the exam board would expect the work to take that long. Finishing ‘early’ in an exam is not a good thing: teens need to use the time to see if there’s anywhere else they can write some more to acquire extra marks.

Remind your teen of this: they can’t get marked for blank lines, but they can – potentially– get marked for anything that’s written down!