I grew up watching martial art movies. You know, the type where the pugilist learnt some awesome “killer move” (绝招) that would whip the bad guys into muted submission (In those days, they seldom die. Violent deaths were not as cool then as they are now).
I incorporate this pugilistic mentality into my teaching programmes and lessons. My strategy is best characterized in 2 words: street fighting. Street-fighting is chaotic pragmatism in action. It is best described as an unorthodox mix of elegant, masterful strokes (knowledge and application) plus an array of nasty tricks equivalent to throwing sand in the eyes, heel on the toes, knee to the gr**n etc. So, if you are looking for some seriously awesome exam tips that will get you from F to A, I would suggest you stop reading now. If you are still with me, let me share my list of 5 wacky exam tips that might just save a few precious marks and move you up a couple of grades.
5. Execute your favourite move first.
No one ever says that you need to do an exam paper from front to back. All of us have our pet topics and our hated ones. Do your favourites first. This will prevent a rushed job on them right at the end and messing up due to carelessness.
4. Approach stranger with care.
Picking a fight with a stranger is always fraught with danger as you will never know if you just challenged a nine-dan karate expert. In an MCQ exam, never choose an answer that you don’t anything about. Always work through the options that you know and narrow down your options. Between one that you are NOT SURE about and one that you KNOW NOTHING about, NEVER choose the unknown.
3. Spar to find out the best approach.
Many students expect to see a question and immediately arrive at an answer in their head, the equivalent of what I termed as a KO. At A-level, it’s almost never happens. Most questions require students to work at it to find a way to solve it. Remember, Floyd Mayweather Jr becomes arguably the greatest boxer of all times not by KOs, but by sparring and working out the best way to win.
2. Pick your battles.
Skipping difficult questions is one of the most underrated skills in the exam halls, and one of the most important. Rather than spend a disproportionate amount of time on getting the hard marks, always pick up the easy ones first. As what we always hear in those old-school kung-fu movies, 三十六计，跑为上计. In short, run and fight another day.
1. End it fast.
In kung-fu movies, there is always a scene with the heroes facing impossible odds, like 1 vs 100. In the movies, the heroes inevitably win (think Avengers fighting the hordes of Ultrons) But in real life, you’d most likely end up in a pulp. In the exam hall, when faced with an impossibly difficult question, end the fight as soon as possible (like throwing sand in the eyes).
Write the shortest possible answer based on the marks allocated and get out of there. You’ll be amazed how well this works.
The next time you step into the ring (exam hall) for another bout of action, keep these pointers in mind. May the force be with you!
Feeling inspired? Lessons at Aspen are always interesting and enriching. This coming holidays, we have a wide range of Maths and Science workshops and programmes for PSLE, Secondary and JC students. This is where we develop the real “kung fu” of our students and help them achieve outstanding outcomes: both academic and holistic ones.
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