Answering Exam Questions When Running Out Of Time
This is a solution when lack of time hinders finishing an exam.
Back in my college days I had an interesting experience while taking a final exam. I was under pressure to complete the exam and I was running out of time.
The way I Aced the test taught me a lesson that I never forgot. I discovered that showing an understanding of the problem is more important than just being right.
The incident occurred when I reviewed my answers after completing the test and realized I had come up with the wrong results on a problem that needed to be solved in the quiz.
I still received an A on the exam and passed the course. I'll explain what happened. The same solution that I discovered applies to any type of exam.
My test had only one question. It was a physics problem that I needed to solve and show how I did it. But the method I used applies to anything. So don't shy away just because I mentioned it was a physics final.
The way I saw it, with only one problem to solve, we would either get 100% or fail completely. Now that was pressure!
We were provided with an exam workbook that had several blank pages in which we could solve the problem and show how we arrived at the solution. We had one hour to work on the problem.
After my first attempt and taking up two pages of explanation I tested my answer by a method we learned during the semester. This was done by doing the process in reverse to see if I come back to the initial set of figures.
Managing Time Limitations
Consider Your Options When Running Out of Time
When I discovered that I had the wrong answer, I looked at the clock on the wall and realized that I still had a little time left to try again.
Using the next couple of pages in the workbook, I redid the entire problem. This time I came up with a different answer. Once again I reversed the logic to check if it was correct.
To my horror I discovered once again that I got it wrong. Now I was really feeling the pressure.
I thought that I might be able to get around this serious snag by managing my knowledge of problem-solving methods and showing the instructor that I knew how to do it. But I kept getting the wrong results.
I knew that I didn't have enough time to run through the entire problem again. And besides that, there weren't enough pages remaining in the exam workbook to fill out another lengthy solution to the physics problem. I only had one page left!
I gave some more thought to my predicament. I didn’t want to fail physics. This course had four credits towards my degree and it would have had a huge negative impact on my overall grade.
I considered my options and realized that I should do the next best thing. I used the little time I had left, and the one blank page that remained in the workbook, to write an explanation to the teacher.
The Effect of Showing You Understand the Problem
On the last page of my exam workbook I wrote a full description of what I had done in the first couple of attempts, to show the teacher that I had an understanding of the assignment. I just wanted to let him know that.
I admitted I was wrong. But more importantly, I explained how I knewthat I was wrong. I had no idea at the time how important that was to the teacher.
I explained how I did the problem twice and referred to the two previous attempts. I explained that I knew I got the wrong answer and described how I came to that conclusion. I also explained that I didn't have time left to do it a third time and therefore I'm giving this explanation instead.
I thought for sure that I would fail the exam, but I had to do what I had to do.
To my surprise when the test scores came in, I got an A+ ! Wow! I was ecstatic! I never would have expected that!
I soon realized why the teacher gave me an A+. It was either a trick question that had no right answer, or I fouled up terribly.
If it was a trick question, he probably just wanted to see if I was able to discover that something was wrong. And if it was something I was doing wrong, at least I knew it and I showed that I knew it.
I'm sure that the teacher just wanted to see two things:
- That I knew how to address the issue.
- And that I was able to explain how I came to that conclusion.
Showing an understanding of the problem is more important than being right.
Being wrong doesn't matter. What really matters is that I could show that I understood the problem sufficiently to analyze the outcome and determine that I was wrong.
So what does this mean in general terms? It's a lesson that I remembered the rest of my life since my college days. I was able to apply this, as an analogy, to many other potential failures in life.
There are so many times in life when we just don't know how to do things. Or we think we know and then we feel stressed when things don't work out as expected.
The important thing is to manage our limitations and analyze the options we have available. Even under pressure, we can get a passing grade on a test. The beauty of what I learned from this is that it applies to everything we struggle with. We can find successful solutions to many problems we have throughout life. It's just a matter of thinking about what options are available.
© 2012 Glenn Stok
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