Strategy Template: All Questions

All Questions is a common format for highly standardised, large-scale exams. As the name would suggest, you have to answer all questions in the exam in order to gain full marks. Nothing is optional. There will usually be many questions worth a few marks each rather than a few questions worth many marks each.

Don’t feel as though you must answer exam questions in the order in which they appear. Many students who do this will spend so long stuck on a question that they will run out of time before getting the chance to look at the remaining questions.

The best way to do an exam like this involves doing the easy questions first and the difficult questions later. First, do an initial run-through of the entire exam, going from start to finish. Read every question carefully, and answer only those which you are immediately able to begin answering. If you have to think for more than a few seconds, write the question number on a piece of rough paper and move to the next question. Keep doing this until you have visited every question.

After the initial run-through, you will be aware of the whole exam. You will be immune to any nasty surprises.

Now that you have seen every question, your mind will begin preparing answers in the background. Doing the easy questions first is also an excellent way of warming up and boosting your confidence. Confidence is critical because it leads to much better decisions, and therefore better answers.

When you have completed the easy questions, you should start attacking the rest of the exam. Make sure to cross off each question number on your rough paper when you complete the corresponding question.

You can either:

  1. Jump around between questions. This is a good technique if you have now thought of answers to specific questions you saw during the “easy question” phase.
  2. Run the same start-to-finish procedure again, but this time allow yourself slightly longer to think about each question. You can keep repeating this, allowing more thinking time per question during each run-through until you have answered every question in the exam. If you get stuck after partially completing a question, the same principle applies. Move on and you can return to it later.

You can easily adapt this template to work for other exam types. However, the rapid alternation described here is usually not effective for substantial questions such as essays.