So, you have prepared your portion thoroughly (ok, wait! This is a CA exam, almost no one can prepare the portion thoroughly, so I’ll replace it with “mostly”), you have followed all the guide lines – what to eat during exams, how much to sleep, what all to revise, how to stay motivated during study leave (which is another article that I wrote, and is awesome, by the way). The supervisor has distributed the question paper and you are all set to attack it with whatever weapons you possess. You flip to the first page and you lose some confidence, then you go to the next page and lose some more. Well, that doesn’t seem fun, you say to yourself. A part of you wants to run away from the exam hall and start preparing for the next attempt.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Sit back, read on. Following are some things that you can do in the 15 minutes reading time that might actually help you:
1. Calm Down: First and foremost. Regardless of your level of preparation, freaking out on seeing the question paper or having a 2-minute dance party in your head because you seem to know most of the answers is not going to help. You will never know how good you can attempt a question, unless you actually start writing the answer.
2. Read the questions with a poker face: Be objective. Don’t invest too many emotions while reading a question. Don’t think about “Ah! I really thought that this would be asked in the paper. If only I would have revised the topic thoroughly (*coughs* mostly)”. How you wish time machine existed. But it doesn’t. So make peace with that. Make peace with whatever you know, even if it is a little, that’s all you have. And you have to ensure that you make the best use of it.
3. DO NOT spend the entire 15 minutes on one question: So you know the first question so well that you want to fill the entire answer sheet with the answer to that question. Sadly, getting one question correct is not going to help you pass. So don’t pick up the calculator and start multiplying random digits from the question with another random set of digits in your head. Read it, know that you are capable of attempting it and then move on to the next question.
4. Go through the entire question paper and make mental notes: Perhaps the only useful tip of this post. This is the main reason why the 15 minutes time is allotted to you. Read every question. That will give you a fair idea of which ones you can attempt. (Bonus tip #1: Look for the concept of each and every question. Check which ones are you aware of. Once you know the concept properly, writing answer to any question based on that concept becomes so much easier). After having gone through all the questions, starting making mental notes (yes, only mental, picking up a pen and starting to mark on your question paper will attract supervisors attention and he/ she will either replace the question paper or give you a big lecture on why what you’re doing is wrong and this will only result in wasting your time) of which questions you’re going to attempt. Not only which questions but also in which order you’re going to attempt them. Selection of questions will mostly depend on – what concepts you’re aware of, the time that will be required to solve the question (this is very important, please do not ignore), the marks that it will fetch you. (Bonus Tip #2: 5 average answers will fetch you more marks than 1 good answer, so plan accordingly).
5. Reassure yourself: I may have made it sound like a battle but it’s not. It can be fun. Consider yourself as a writer and the paper examiner will have to read what you write (no matter how good or bad it is) and ask any writer how big a privilege it is to find one loyal reader. So enjoy the process. Tell yourself that win or lose, this is your only shot. So relax and do your best.
P.S. I was really lucky that the 15 minutes reading time rule started from my IPCC attempt and continued through my final. It has played a really important role in helping me pass!