Arrive early with all the right stuff - Arriving late can sure throw off your concentration! Have pencils or pens (and back-ups!), calculator, and all else that you’re allowed, ready to go.
Listen to the directions - Even though you may be anxious, there can be very important information in the verbal directions. Listen carefully.
Scan the whole exam - first, to make sure it’s all there. Second, to roughly budget your time according to the marks each question is worth.
Read each question carefully - Not reading questions carefully is the biggest source of avoidable error. Don’t ever say, “Aww, I read the question wrong!” again - read it carefully once, twice, or even more until you’re sure of the meaning.
“Data Dump” - ASK the instructor if it’s okay to write information down on a scrap piece of paper (or on the exam itself) just as the exam begins (so they know you haven’t smuggled in a cheat sheet). If he/she is okay with it, take a couple of minutes and write down all those things that you’re afraid you’ll forget such as formulas, conversion factors, difficult terms or a key diagram while they’re still fresh in your mind.
Answer the easiest first - Whatever you find easiest, do it first, to boost your confidence and to stimulate associations to help with other questions.
Use “test mining” - When you can’t come up with an answer, keep an eye out for clues from other questions to help you.
Do all calculations twice - During the stress of an exam, it’s easy to make simple mistakes. Do all calculations twice to catch them, three times if you get a different answer.
Mark “trouble” questions - Put a star beside questions that you’re not sure of so that you can check those first at the end. If time is running out, it means your efforts will be best focused.
Re-read your answers - The stress of exams sometimes leads you to write something different than your brain was thinking. Careful re-reading will catch this.
**Bonus tip: Always figure out what went wrong on returned exams - An exam is not really over until you’ve learned from your mistakes. Figure out why you lost marks, and if you’re not sure, ask the instructor!
When should you change an answer? Your first instinct is usually right. Only change it if a) you read the question wrong; b) you remember information that definitely changes the answer; or c) you find an error in your calculations.
Cover the answers - Try to come up with an answer on your own before looking at the choices. This helps avoid distraction by the incorrect answers.
Don’t leave any blanks - If there is no penalty for guessing, take a guess!
Reword hard-to-understand questions - put them into your own words. Check with the instructor if you’re still not sure of the meaning.
Watch for double negatives - e.g. “Which of the following is not illegal?” means “Which of the following is legal?”.