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The September holidays have slipped by. Suddenly, it is Term 4: the dreaded month of your end-of-year exams, and a culmination of many months of learning, homework, tests and stress.

This is the time to buckle down and focus on the finish line as you tick the days off before your first paper (and your last paper before the holidays!). For all the students out there stacking up the assessment books on their desks in preparation for exams, here are Elucidation’s top 4 practical tips on how to make the most of the last few weeks:

  1. Have a plan

Planning is the key to success. Setting goals gives you a direction, serves as motivation to get your day started, and makes you more efficient. If you don’t already have a brief plan, spend some time creating one – it will save you time and effort later on.

Your plan should be specific. Plans that are too vague or general will not be effective (eg. “10 Sep: science revision”). However, this does not mean that you should schedule your time to the minute (eg. “10.00-10.08: write introduction to composition”). The main point is to identify achievable smaller goals that you can meet every day/week to make steps towards your overall objective of preparing for your exam.

A good plan should also be flexible. Planning what you want to do each day from now till the end of your exams might not be practical; it might be discouraging to fall behind on your plan and have to re-do everything. We recommend having a schedule for what you want to accomplish every week, then at the beginning of the week sub-dividing this into a daily schedule. You should then be able to review your progress every week or so, and amend the rest of your plan accordingly.

A tip for planning: Always give yourself a bit more time than you think you’ll need. We tend to under-estimate the amount of time we need for a task.

  1. Focus on your weaknesses

Planning is also about prioritising: choosing how to allocate your time. Give yourself more time to learn and master weaker areas. It will be hard work, but this is where your efforts will really pay off.

Very likely you already know what your weaker subjects, papers, or topics are. If not, take a look at where you lost marks in your last few tests/exams and ask yourself why. Were you unable to explain or apply a science concept? You might have misunderstood it; you could revisit your notes or the textbook, or look at the concept from different angles with practice questions. Remember that the best way to master a topic is not to just memorise the words on the page, but to understand the concept behind it.

Most importantly, learn from your mistakes. Doing 1,000,000 practice papers will not help if you don’t learn from them. You will get the best results from using each practice effectively to get a sound grasp of a topic. Make sure to get your practices marked or and do corrections. Do clarify with your school teachers or tutors when in doubt. Circle the question if you are unsure when reading it. Even if you got the answer correct in the end, it helps to clarify the areas that you are not certain or confident in. Also, flag out particularly difficult questions as you revise; this will make them easier to find when doing final revision  one or two days before the exam.

  1. Do timed practice papers

Another important component of success is exam skills. Sometimes, mastering the content and answering techniques is insufficient.

Doing timed ‘mock exams’ is a good way to practice time management skills for your paper: spending the right amount of time on each section of the paper. For an extra challenge, set yourself a shorter time than the actual length of the paper.

Practice papers can also help you form good exam habits, such as checking through your answers for careless mistakes, and checking that you’ve reached the last page of the booklet (don’t lose marks just because you forgot to turn over the page!).

Working your way through the past PSLE papers will familiarise you with the question styles and common topics. However, it is also important to supplement this with more recent schools’ papers. Your best source is other schools’ prelim papers, since this tends to be their prediction on the topics that will be covered during PSLE.

This does not mean that every practice paper you do must be timed. If you don’t have enough time, it can be helpful to just look at past exam questions and plan out what you would write.

  1. Get enough rest and sleep

This is a stressful time. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the more hours of studying you clock in a day, the better your results will be. You definitely do need to work hard and work smart – but the importance of rest and sleep should not be overlooked.

With adequate sleep, your brain can consolidate and stabilise memories, allowing you to retain more of what you have learnt during the day. It also improves focus and concentration the day after. Conversely, a lack of sleep makes you irritable and more susceptible to illness. The ideal amount of sleep is at least 9 hours per day. But if this is absolutely impossible, aim for at least 7-8 hours.

In the bigger picture, getting enough rest and sleep will set you up for success.


Can’t tell what your weaknesses in each subject are? Don’t know which other schools’ prelim papers will be useful? Your tutor at Elucidation will be happy to help.