The Biggest Test Taking Mistakes #2

by Julie Baird on May 19, 2010

Number #2 Not Reading The Instructions

Every student is told – “make sure you read the instructions before you start”, but the pressure and stresses of a test or exam seem to get the better of us all and we tend to dive straight in, the thought being that we just don’t have time to waste reading instructions that are, let’s face it, usually obvious anyway.

Plus there is a whole macho thing about not needing instructions (goes along with never needing to ask for directions in adult males!)

There is a classic exercise that is used in many study skills workshops. Students are given a set of 10 questions and told to read through all of them then complete as directed. And there is a prize for the one who finishes first!  Almost all the students bend their heads in a fever of work and the only sound that can be heard is the scraping of pencil on paper. Eventually someone reaches the last question which reads “now you have read all the questions, do not answer any of them, put down your pencil and quietly sit up straight”

More often than not this last question is met with a groan, or a head hitting the table!

What a lot of wasted energy! If only they had followed the instructions!

There are some major advantages to reading the instructions.

1. It does actually tell you what to do!

Yes, they are there for that reason. Sometimes when we get caught up in it all we make assumptions about what is required. These can sometimes be wrong! It would not be the first time that a student answered all 5 questions when the instructions asked for only 3.

2. It helps to settle you down!

You know you can read! By doing this simple task before anything else you are getting started in a way that lets you succeed immediately. Nerves start to disappear and you can hit the questions with all guns blasting.

3. It helps you to plan your time!

Once you know exactly what you are up against you can allot your time accordingly, decide which questions to answer in which order etc. See Mistake #1 for more info on this.

So next time you sit down in a test or exam situation, give yourself a break and read the instructions!

If you are struggling to control your time and get the results you know you are capable of then it is time to take action. The Focused Time Management System TM for Students avoids all the clutter and gives you the most important things to focus on to get you back in control of your time and your life. It’s all step by step, not a big mish mash of things. So you do step one of the system, and when you’re done with that, you move on to step two, and so on. So easy! All the tips, tools, and worksheets are handed to you on a silver platter. E mail me at to arrange a time to chat over your issues and see if I can help

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