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What if I Forget my Calculator? Your Exam Day Questions Answered

When it comes to exams, there are some burning questions that a textbook and a hand-made colour coded revision timetable just can’t answer.

From exam-day nerves to post-exam analysis and what to do if your pen runs out mid essay, we’ve tackled some of the most common questions students ask in the run up to and after exams.

Whether you're revising for GCSE or A-Level exams, Highers, Baccalaureate or anything else, you may well have found yourself pondering one or two of these issues late at night:

How Can I Predict What Questions Will Come up in my Exam?

That is the million-dollar question but unfortunately, the only people that have the definitive answer to that are the exam boards.

Your teachers will try to give you guidance on the topics that are most likely to come up, but you should focus most on the ‘type’ of question that will come up.

Look at past papers from your exam board as well as the mark schemes. How many short questions are there worth a few marks each and how many longer questions are there? The more marks per question, the more depth you'll need to go in to. The mark schemes won’t always state a specific answer either. For example, in an English GCSE or A-level exam, students will need to show knowledge of different kinds of literary and linguistic terms and an understanding of key structural ideas like narrative and subtext.

How Much Should I Revise on the Day of my Exam?

Some students swear by last minute revision and claim that the time pressure helps them focus, but the day of your exam is not the best time to cram in lots of new info and can lead to panic.

On the morning of your exam, you might find you’re too nervous to sit and casually read a magazine so you can definitely use the time to revise key quotes, formulas and facts on flashcards, but make sure to eat a healthy breakfast, drink plenty of water and try to relax as well.

Try to avoid getting into in depth chats with friends too. They may bring up some facts you didn’t know, which could sending you diving for your revision guide. Trust in yourself and take the ‘last-minute revision braggers’ with a pinch of salt, they may have been working much harder than they claim all year.

What if I Forget my Calculator / Pen / Trousers?

If you show up without the equipment you need, try to speak to a teacher or an invigilator before your exam. They may have a spare calculator and pens in case yours runs out or you may be able to borrow one off a student in school who doesn't have an exam. If you forget your trousers, you will probably be sent home to put some on…

Seems like nothing has changed, except for the stylish headgear...

What if I'm Late for my Exam?

If you know you're going to be late, call the school immediately to tell them. If you have a genuine reason (e.g. illness, accident, major traffic jam) your school may be able to arrange for you to sit the exam with the full time allowance.

If you are a few minutes late, you will probably be allowed to join the exam with the full time allowance too.

The Joint Council for Qualifications says that it is up to the individual ‘centre’ (i.e. your school) to decide whether a late student can sit their exam. If you arrive within one hour of the start time, the school doesn’t have to report it. If you show up very late (more than an hour) the school will have to report you to the exam board and may decide that you can’t sit the exam or that your paper will not be marked.

Tip: Buddy up with two or three friends to act as back up alarm clocks and agree to text each other an hour or two before your exam starts.

What are the Grade Boundaries for my Exams?

The grade boundaries for your exam will be finalised after all papers have been marked, so you won’t know for sure until you get your results. Grade boundaries don’t tend to change much from year to year, so you can check what the most recent boundary is for your subject via your exam board website and these links:


What did you put for that Question?

This is one of the most common questions that students ask each other after exams. We do it because we’re looking for reassurance that we got the right answer or to comfort ourselves with the fact that everyone is in the same boat and may have found it tough too.

But be warned, just because you haven’t put the same answer as the majority of your friends, doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Even if you didn’t provide a textbook answer, your working out, your analysis or your quotes and examples could still win you lots of marks.

Got more questions? Let us know in the comments below, or check out our student exam forum.

More advice for you

Before your exams: Revision tips and techniques

After your exams: Everything you need to know about exam results day

Cover photo: Flickr.com CC Attribution