A lot of students are often plagued by this question,
“I always leave a few questions in the exam.
How can I increase my speed to complete the paper in time?”
One reader recently asked us for tips on how to write faster in exams. Here’s what we have to say:
- Writing faster, as with many other things, comes with practice.
- Figure out whether the pen you are using is comfortable. Whenever you start writing with a new pen, you may take a while to adjust. Even then, if you believe you are not comfortable using a certain pen, consider switching to another one. Factors to consider include: (a) whether or not the pen has a grip, (b) whether or not you are comfortable writing with a pen that comes with a grip, (c) how heavy or light the pen is, (d) how thick or thin the pen is, (e) whether the ink lets you write smoothly or whether you have to exert pressure to write, (f) whether you write with the pen cap on top and how that affects the weight on your hand, etc. These are small things but which do make a difference. (Note that the CISCE recommends using ballpoint pens or fountain pens while writing answers during its Class 10 Board Exams.)
- Once you have settled on a pen that you are at ease writing with, keep practicing with that pen. That would mean doing your homework, classwork, etc. with that pen.
- Keep a timer when you are writing your homework. For example, if your homework consists of writing answers to five, supposedly 3-mark, questions, then allot a maximum of 3-4 minutes for completing one question. You can start by allocating 15 minutes for three questions and then working your way to using a time limit per question.
- Make sure you aren’t using a faulty method of holding your pen. Sometimes, the way you hold your pen can affect your writing speed. You can experiment by adjusting your hold of the pen or angling it at different angles during your homework writing sessions and see if that makes any difference.
- Try not to press too hard on the pen or give too much pressure. This might tire your hand, causing your speed to slow down.
- Avoid wearing any bracelets, etc. that come in your way when writing.
- A mistake that students may make is that they start off writing the paper with immense speed. However, halfway through the paper, they start getting tired. Their hand begins hurting, and their speed, thus, decreases dramatically. To keep that from happening, start off with a moderate pace – not too slow and not extremely fast, either.
- When writing on a desk, make sure that your elbow has space to rest on the desk/table top. For example, if you write with your right hand, make sure you rest your right elbow on the flat table top – don’t leave it hanging in the air. To make sure your elbow has sufficient space for rest, keep your answer sheet slightly higher on/farther to the top of the desk and your chair tucked in.
- Maintaining good, straight posture is also beneficial so that your shoulders and arm don’t start hurting, causing a decrease in your writing speed. If you feel yourself slouching in your chair, immediately straighten up and adjust your hand/elbow as mentioned above. Also make sure that your shoulders are relaxed and not bunched up near your ears as a result of stress/tension.
- Though this may not always be in our control, it helps to get a good desk and chair that are at a level suitable to your height. It’s also best to avoid unbalanced desks/chairs. If, however, you find that your desk is unbalanced, take a piece of paper and tuck it under one of the table legs to make sure that it doesn’t affect your writing.
- At times, if you begin to pay a lot of attention to your handwriting, then your writing speed may be negatively affected. If you are someone who is guilty of this, then try worrying less about your handwriting and shifting your consciousness to thinking more about the speed. Practice daily so as to strike a balance between good handwriting and fast enough writing speed. Remember, your handwriting doesn’t have to be perfect – no one is going to gift you the “Best Handwriting Award” even if is. What matters is the right content and that the examiner is able to read it.
- Students also ask whether one should write in print or in cursive. It doesn’t matter as long as the handwriting is neat and legible. However, your speed may tend to increase if you write in cursive vis-à-vis in print. You can experiment by practicing both types during your homework writing sessions.
- In spite of taking care of all of the above, if you feel that your hand has started hurting during an exam, immediately lower your speed for the next one or two answers. Shake your hand/wrist, flex your fingers, and take a two second break, if required. Resume writing the exam, and once the pain starts decreasing, you may increase your writing speed.
- Good handwriting matters in making a positive first impression. So, always make sure that the first few pages of your answer sheet have neat, legible handwriting. Later, if your handwriting gets a tad bit sloppy because of increased speed, we would say that it’s acceptable. That said, it’s always best to write at a moderate pace throughout the paper to ensure a good balance between handwriting, speed, and completing the paper in time.
- Whatever happens, do not panic. You may find yourself running short of time during the actual exam. At the same time, your hand may be hurting. Like I said above, take a two second break, if required, and get back to writing, initially at a tad slower pace than before. If you feel that time is really running out and you have questions left unanswered, swallow that pain and keep writing. Focus on jotting down the main points that answer the question, and you’ll be able to shift your focus away from the pain. Sad, but true. In such cases, we would say that it’s ok to miss out on articles such as the/a/an, etc.
- A reason why we emphasize on writing in points as much as possible is also because it keeps you from overwriting, thereby keeping you from overexerting your fingers/hand and tiring yourself. Except in English papers, try to write in points as much as possible. Complete sentences are not required everywhere. Instead of “for example,” write “e.g.”.
- Besides writing in points, using graphs/charts/tables to convey the answer, is also possible. For example, where there are two categories that you have to explain, use a tree chart with two branches. Use bullet points under those branches to explain the concept, and conclude with examples (“e.g.”).
- Keeping a timer and allocating time as per the marks is also a cue that you should only write as much as required for a particular question. For example, the amount of content/explanation expected of you for a three-mark question is different from that for a one-mark question. Write accordingly so that you don’t waste time writing a lot for short answer type questions, leaving less time for writing long answer type questions.
- To avoid spending a lot of time writing unnecessarily for questions that don’t require it, you can start with fill in the blanks, one word questions, etc. and complete the short questions as soon as possible. This will ensure that you don’t write too much in the long answer type questions.
- At the end of the day, you will be able to increase your speed if you are able to recall the answer from the top of your head. If you tend to take a lot of time stopping to think of the answer, that can serve as a speed deterrent. Therefore, quick recall would mean being thorough with the topic, knowing the subject well, and making sure that you have done your revision. This, again, comes with consistent study, practice, and revision.
- Good articulation skills also help in allowing you to write faster. This means being able to form/articulate sentences/answers in your head and simultaneously writing them down on paper as you think of them. Such a skill can come with practice, so keep practicing!
All in all, make sure you are using the writing tools that are correct for you. Avoid stress/tension, and start your paper with a moderate pace. Keep a check on the time and write accordingly. Shoulders, back, arm, elbow, etc. should be kept relaxed. If your hand or fingers start hurting, flex and take a quick break.
Hope these tips help you improve your writing speed so that you never have to leave any exam paper unfinished! We’ll add more tips as and when we think of them.
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