How to make exams your secret weapon

Simon Hennessy

English expert at Atomi


min read

So the dust has settled on your mid-year or Trial exams, and it’s time to march on towards whatever big, bad set of exams await on the horizon when summer comes around. Only this time, you’ll have the chance to take a new set of skills with you – skills picked up from the rollercoaster that was your mid-years.

Here are a few ideas for how to use those skills to your advantage:

1. Work on your weak points

It’s pretty obvious that you should be putting time and effort into improving your weaker topics. But the secret sauce to the mid-year exams is that they let you identify exactly what these topics are.

This means two things. Firstly, finding out what content in a particular subject is giving you trouble. Secondly, finding out what type of question is doing the same. Armed with this knowledge, you can get to work on nailing that content and practising those question types you are struggling with until they become more manageable.

2. Simulate the same environment

Chances are your mid-year exam environment is pretty much exactly what you can expect from your end of year setup. Already, this is an advantage, since you’ll know what to expect when the summer rolls around.

However, the best way to reinforce that advantage is to replicate it. Since you’ve operated under the restrictions of an exam before, put that knowledge to use by setting up the same state of affairs at home – same time restrictions, no access to the internet, exam paper and pen (plus whatever else you might need, depending on the subject).

The more you practice repeating what you experienced during your mid-years, the more used to the demands of that environment you’ll become. By the time the summer exams roll around you will be an exam ninja.

3. Sort out your exam strategy

So much about how an exam goes depends on how you approach it. Do you tackle the long questions first, or get the short ones out of the way? Do you spend five minutes planning your essay, or is that too much time wasted? How much of your working out are you writing versus speeding through in your head?

However well or poorly a mid-year exam goes, it does tell you what works for you and what doesn’t. This insight is super helpful, so don’t let it go to waste! Go back through the exam papers and focus in on what elements of your strategy need changing, then use that knowledge to try a few different systems out. Figuring out the best strategy for you will go a long way towards helping you send it in your end of year exams.

4. Use your results as motivation

Let’s be honest. No one, or at least nearly no one, is totally happy with their mid-year results. If you are one of the rare few who is, congrats to you! But for the rest of us, there’s going to be some degree of disappointment coming out of those results.

But let me tell you, from someone who had a 45% swing between trial and final exams in Maths, the most satisfying end of year results are the ones that improved the most. If you can channel that disappointment into effort to avoid that feeling, you’ve got a great chance of turning one of your worst subjects into one of your best.

Of course, working hard on getting the topics and the strategy right for that subject is key. But putting in all that effort will be a lot easier if you can use your desire to raise that score as motivation.


The whole point of the mid-year exams is to prepare for the final exams of the year. However, their value doesn’t stop once the pens go down. Taking the lessons from the experience and putting them into practice in the months that follow will help make your mid-year exams not just a step on the road, but a secret weapon for success.


Published on

August 29, 2019

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