Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Student's Guide to Surviving Tests

It's once again test season over here, and this time round I've put together some hard and fast rules for surviving your tests! (Not to be taken seriously. Your teacher will not appreciate it.)

1. Suspend common sense.

This is a universal rule for all subjects. Take note that logic is not equivalent to common sense. Logic means a slow and thorough thinking process which any human with common sense does not require to arrive at the conclusion. Resist. Suspend common sense, accept whatever the textbook says, and find a way to the model answer foregone conclusion.

2. Use psychology and reverse psychology as necessary.

Learn to predict the irrationality of the model answers. Consider not, "What is correct?" but "What seems to be correct from the examiner's perspective?" This technique is especially effective in MCQs. A good rule of thumb is to choose C when utterly clueless, and take into consideration the proportion of each choice in other answers.

That said, some examiners are particularly twisted and set all the answers to be D, just to trip you up. Before the test, take the time to understand your examiner's personality and evaluate the possibility of such an occasion.

3. Decide the length of your answer not according to the question, but according to mark allocation.

Examine past papers for the depth and length of answers required per mark. If a question is only work one mark, never mind that the question is ridiculously broad — a sentence or two would do. If it's worth twelve marks, rattle off anything and everything that comes to mind. The examiner normally doesn't notice.

It's also worth paying attention to the number of lines given. While the mark allocation is more important, how much you've filled up the lines can also change the examiner's impression. Which leads to ...

4. Master the art of rephrasing.

When #1 is combined with #3, you may find yourself saying the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again until the word over no longer looks like a word. To befuddle and impress the examiner, say the same thing in different ways. It is often advantageous to your score to reiterate a point you have already made. The artistic repetition of a certain concept can make your answer appear more scholarly and hence correct. See what I did there?

An exception to this rule is biology (at least in my school). Do not ever deviate even one word from the textbook. Not even the preposition. Not even the structure. Just print it all out.

5. A bunch of Chinese idioms.

Because ancient Chinese people were a bit weird, here are two idioms and a derivation by yours truly from the exact same words:

  • 不勞而獲 (bu lao er huo, do no work and receive a profit)
  • 勞而不獲 (lao er bu huo, work but receive no profit)
  • 不勞不獲 (bu lao bu huo, do no work and receive no profit)

If you ever think that studying is useless, remember it is better to not do a thing and not get a thing back, than spend hours sweating over geometry and still fail your test. And I end my not-too-encouraging lecture with another Chinese saying:

(literally: stupid egg)

Don't be one. Follow my instructions. (Believe it or not, I actually use these. And they work.)

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