Smartest way to tackle that dreaded exam: SPM


Prep time is over, D-day is here. What’s the next step?

Do you just go into the exam and answer to the best of your abilities? Yes and no. While you do have to answer to the best of your abilities, you also have to tackle the exam in the best way possible- the smartest way possible. Here’s how you do that.


Essays in paragraph form

Most of us think that the paragraph format only applies for language subjects right? Wrong! You always have to remember that your paper is being marked by human beings who, unfortunately, are susceptible to frustration, boredom and mood swings.

Therefore it’s your duty to ease the marker’s tedious work as much as possible by writing your essays in paragraph form. Each main topic coupled with its elaborations or examples should have its own paragraph- no sharing, no joining (even if the paragraph is only 3 lines long). It will definitely be easier for your examiner to allot your marks and who knows, show a bit more leniency because he/she is in a good mood.


Handwriting matters

Nothing turns off a marker like a messy scrawl across a page- it just burns their eyes. While time is of the essence during your exam, you really can’t sacrifice your handwriting quality. You’ll just put your marker in a foul mood and your paper will probably be relegated to the bottom of the stack.

Also, if you make mistakes or want to squeeze in a couple of words at the top of the line, do so as neatly as possible. Don’t cross out your mistakes with a gazillion lines- one is enough, the examiner gets it!


Timing is everything 

An exam is pretty much a race against time- every second counts. Always have a plan in mind and give a time frame for each section of the paper- yes it can get that intense. Keep checking the clock to make sure you’re on schedule and if you’re not, you know it’s time to get cracking or risk sending in an incomplete paper.

Tip #1: Skip questions you don’t know how to answer and come back to them after answering the rest. This is especially helpful for Math and Additional Math

Tip #2: If you really don’t have enough time and you’re definitely going to send in an incomplete paper, focus on all the questions you do know and forget about the ones you don’t. This will hopefully maximize the marks you get.


Strategy 101: Essays (BM and English)

Despite having close to 3 hours to complete Paper 1 which contains 2 essays, we students never seem to have enough time. Towards the end we are writing a mile a minute and half the time we aren’t even sure if we’re making sense. There are two strategies when facing this time crunch:

1: Divide up your time accordingly. Some students even calculate the time frame of one paragraph! Don’t forget to include 5-10 minutes of brainstorming at the start and checking at the end.

2: Start with the longer essay that has a higher mark allocation. This way you maximize the marks of the more important essay (which is usually out of 100) because the quality will be better and if your shorter essay (usually out of 30 marks) isn’t as stellar, it’s okay because you won’t lose out on as many marks as you would’ve if you botched up the longer essay.

Tip #1: If you’ve memorized fancy idioms and poems to “Wow!” your examiners, write them down immediately on the front page of the question paper before starting- this provides easy reference while writing.

Tip #2: Never ever start writing an essay without having some sort of skeleton of a plan! You may think you know the topic well but you lack elaboration and details to support your answers. Or if you’re doing a story- you may end up rambling and annoying your examiner. 


Essays for science subjects

Do you ever feel rushed and unable to think when doing your science essays because you spent so much time on your subjective questions? If yes, try starting your paper by doing both the essays first. Essays require a lot of careful planning and critical thinking so why not attempt it when your mind is still super sharp? You’ll also feel less rushed and will be able to make a better decision on which essay to attempt.

Tip #1: I would advise you to spend around 15-20 minutes maximum on each essay before proceeding to the subjective section.

Tip #2: Always add 1 or 2 more points than is necessary in your essays as backup and include whatever details you can remember- don’t be stingy when it comes to answering your essays.

Tip #3: After finishing your two essays and the subjective section, do a quick check on your answers, then start a third backup essay. This backup essay might just save you as it has for me- numerous times!


Never ever use the erasable ink pen

Tons of students nowadays use these erasable ink pens- they’re the greatest invention after correction tape! Wrong! They are your doom in disguise and if you use it to answer your exam, don’t be surprised if you come back with a big fat G for “Gagal”. Unbeknownst to most, the special ink used in this pen “disappears” from the paper when exposed to hot conditions (i.e. being left in the car) and when you live in a country like Malaysia, you can pretty much bet that your paper will be exposed to it. All your writing will fade away like it was never there and the marker will be left puzzling over why a student has handed in an empty paper- but that makes his/her job so much easier because all she has to give you is a nice “telur itik”.

Stay away from these pens like the plague.

Nadhirah Rafidz


Nadhirah Rafidz

In a perfect world, Nadhirah would spend her days travelling with her full-frame DSLR in search of adventure and excitement to blog about. Aside from being diagnosed with chronic wanderlust, Nadhirah enjoys playing sports, reading fantasy-fiction, drinking freshly squeezed juice and playing with cats.

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