A Level Chemistry Lead Examiner, Qualified Teacher and online Chemistry Tutor

Bad time management in tests

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I run out of time in tests! – Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock

It is not rare for students to struggle with their time management in tests. In this post I’m going to talk about the reasons for poor time management and I’ll give you some pieces of advice on what to do and what not to do if you are facing this problem.

Reason 1

Student thinks they have bad time management but actually they don’t. I’m talking about students with some unknown special educational need that, not just in tests, but in general, struggle to finish tasks at the same pace as their peers.


If you feel this is your case, get assessed by the SEN department at your school or college, you may well qualify for extra time in tests and final exams.

Reason 2

I’ll explain this reason by giving you an example. Imagine you just got your driving licence, congratulations!

You can now drive. However, you will probably be slower than more experienced drivers.

That’s just normal, and you shouldn’t force yourself to drive faster, please don’t!

The solution is to practice more so that your driving skills get better. Speed will come naturally.

For GCSE or A Level Chemistry students it is the same. Many think that they struggle with time management, but actually they don’t, they simply struggle to answer questions and try one way, then another, then another…and of course, the clock is ticking and they run out of time.

This has the potential to derive into a bigger issue! The student or teacher thinks their time management is poor, then they tell their parents, tutors…and very unhelpful strategies are put into place.

The most common and extended of these strategies being: “time yourself, spend one minute per mark on each question”.

So now, we have the same student that before couldn’t do some questions, but we have added a continuous and so distracting tick-tock in their heads that is only going to make things worse!

Not to mention the negative effects of feeling rushed when trying to concentrate to crack a challenging question. It only makes things worse!

So, most of the times, running out of time in exams is just a symptom of not being well prepared. The cure is to learn topics better! But please, never adopt a draconian approach about time, it is so counter productive

Reason 3

Finally, this reason is actually about poor time management! It’s about students who feel that to do well in an exam they need to get ALL marks available. When this type of student comes across a very challenging question at the beginning of the paper, they may be facing their biggest enemy. Because the may get completely BOGGED DOWN in this very difficult question, not even been sure that they will do it correctly. By the time they have finished it, they don’t have time to get very achievable marks that are waiting for them in the remaining part of the paper. This can have a huge detrimental effect in their final grade.

Advice: when you come across a difficult question that you don’t know if you’ll be able to answer correctly, just move on to the next one. Complete all the questions that you know you can answer first, and only them attempt those that you found more difficult. This is good time management.

In summary, if you are running out of time in exams, make sure to analyse correctly why. The solution is not rushing yourself in the test/ exam, all the opposite, this will be counter productive. Neither the solution is to get obsessed, blocked and distracted with timers for every single question you do in your revision. The solution is rather to learn topics better and not getting bogged down in challenging questions.

I hope you have found this useful. If you have any questions or comments do feel very welcome to let me know

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