6 ways to throw away marks in A Level exams

Examiners try to give you credit where you deserve it, but some students make it very hard for us. Here are some sadly over-used ways to lose A Level exam marks. Your blogger teaches Economics and Business but all this applies to most subjects

How to throw away marks in GCSE and A Level exams #1
Write illegibly. Examiners try extremely hard to read your writing however awful it is.
But when an answer covers several pages we have to look backwards and forwards to understand the sense and quality of your answer. We’re marking and it’s a pain to flick between pages. Now add bad writing – you see?

How to throw away marks in GCSE and A Level exams #2
The paper may not give you enough blank lined pages for your answer, so you ask for an extra answer booklet. You are asked to make it clear on the extra booklet which question you are continuing. To throw away marks, don’t do this clearly and the examiner won’t find it.

How to throw away marks in GCSE and A Level exams #3
Don’t take a watch into the exam with you. This means you have to keep looking up at the clock at the front of the room, which is easy to forget.
Even watch-watching can go wrong. Your blogger once carefully worked out and wrote down exact timing for each question. Half way through the two hour exam he checked the time yet again. Yippee! Five minutes ahead of schedule. Confident now, he relaxes so much that he doesn’t look at his watch again till  the invigilator calls “ten minutes left” – and he has just started a 30-minute answer. Ouch!
BTW Apple watches are banned, like other electronic gizmos that might help cheats. There’s one country where, a student told me, even ordinary watches aren’t allowed. It seems a student once prised the face off his watch and stuck a paper crib in there.

How to throw away marks in GCSE and A Level exams #4
Watch your neighbour and worry you are not writing enough.
Invigilator calls “you may begin”.  You look through the whole paper to get an idea of the questions, you work out your timings, you calmly start to read and analyse Q1. But now you glance at your neighbour – she’s already written nearly a page of answer.
OMG! Dump everything you learned about planning your time, structuring your answers! If she’s already done a page you’ll never have time to write good answers, got to get going!
Farewell high marks.

How to throw away marks in GCSE and A Level exams #5
Draw your diagrams really small. In many subjects we have to draw and explain diagrams. To throw away marks, draw the diagram no bigger than a couple of centimetres square and fill it with the lines and notes you need to make your point.
Your diagram is barely legible to begin with. Once it’s been scanned and is on an examiner’s laptop screen it’s next to impossible to understand.

How to throw away marks in GCSE and A Level exams #6
Don’t spend time planning your answers. Then when you come to the end of the exam and hastily skim back over what you’ve written you can think to yourself – OMG, I left THAT out! The heart of the the answer and I didn’t put it in. Aarrgh!
Not scribbling down a point in a plan beforehand throws away lots of marks. We all do it. Labour Party leader, Ed Milliband, memorised his 2014 pre-Election conference speech because wanted to look cool (like Cameron) But speaking without notes he forgot to make the crucial point, defending the party’s economic record. That played a part in losing Labour the election. The exam marks we throw away could lose us the Uni we’re aiming for.


These hints apply to many other GCSE and A Level exams besides Economics and Business. They’re all nerve-wracking, so keep calm and don’t throw your marks away!

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