Exam Writing Tips

For some learners, exam writing can be a stressful experience. Time management, study skills and using AU resources play an important role in preparing for exams and managing exam anxiety. If you have systematically studied the course material reviewing the key concepts as you complete each unit, you will be more prepared on exam day enabling you to perform better and manage your stress and exam anxiety. There are several resources available to help you prepare for an exam.


  • Tutor - For each AU course, you are assigned a tutor who is available to assist you; your tutor also marks all your assignments, quizzes, and exams. Feedback is important for learning, so be sure to read the feedback provided on marked assignments. If there is an area where you are unclear or you earned a low grade, call your tutor during their regularly scheduled tutor hours to discuss. Not sure how to contact your tutor or academic expert? Refer to the tutor letter on the course site or your faculty support centre.
  • The Write Site – This site offers resources to help with writing skills.
  • The Math Site – This site offers resources to help with math skills.
  • Quizzes - Refine your exam writing skills by using the self-quizzes provided in the course. Also review all formal course quizzes, your responses, and your marks.
  • Time Management - As you work through the course, you may find it useful to create a study schedule.
  • Counselling Services – You may wish to book an appointment with a counsellor to discuss study skills, time management, and exam anxiety. Also learn how to master exam anxiety.

Schedule an Exam

Exam Writing Strategy

  • Quickly look over the entire exam to learn about the type of questions and which questions carry the greatest weighting of marks.
  • Carefully read exam instructions.
    • Sometimes multiple choice can be marked as ‘Right minus Wrong’, in which case it is better not to guess if you do not know the answer.
  • Go through the exam answering easiest questions first in order to earn all the quickest marks.
    • Allow for more time on questions with the highest weighting of marks.
    • Place a mark beside questions left unanswered on the first time through the exam.
    • Save unanswerable questions for the end, then make your best guess at these.
    • Take time to create an outline (on the back of the exam if necessary) for essay questions.

Failing an Exam

The probability of success on your exam is high:

  • If you have a good understanding of the material,
  • If your exam preparation has been thorough and diligent,
  • If your exam-taking strategies and behaviours are appropriate.

If you fail an exam it may not be the end. You may be able to write a supplemental exam. However, before you do, make sure you understand where you had trouble on the initial exam. Make use of the resources listed above to prepare for the supplementary exam.