Start things off well by arriving with enough time to find a seat, settle in, and calm your nerves before the exam begins. Bring an extra pen or pencil and a watch. Consider using earplugs and bringing a drink to keep focused and comfortable.
Write down important details immediately.
On scratch paper, immediately write down the important details, names, and facts you have memorized. This will free you to pay close attention to the questions and organize your answers conceptually.
Read through the entire test carefully before you start.
Reading over the test first will help you become familiar with its layout and locate the easy and difficult questions. Looking over the whole test also serves to remind you of the scope of the material, situating each question in the context of the test as a whole.
Make sure to understand each question before you start to answer. A major reason students do poorly on exams is that they do not answer the question that is being asked.
Use time to your advantage.
Plan how much time you will spend on each section of the test, and force yourself to follow this schedule. You should spend more time on questions that are the most in-depth and are worth the most points (usually essay questions). Answer questions that you feel confident about first in order to save more time for those that require additional thought. Be sure not to waste time giving elaborate answers to simple, short-answer questions.
Answer every question.
If you run out of time, jot down an outline for any thoughts you are not able to develop fully. Even if you do not know how to answer a question, you probably know enough to speculate about an answer. Professors usually give some credit for attempted answers but cannot give credit for questions left blank.
Other "Blue Book Exam" topics:
Writing for Blue Book Exams Home
Preparing for the Exam
Tackling the Essay Exam Question
Becoming a Better Writer Home