Updated 29 May 2012

How to fail an exam

Take a look at the way many people prepare for an exam, and you'll know why the failure rate is so high. Here's how to join their ranks.


Take a look at how many people prepare for an exam, and you'll know why so many of them don't pass. There are definite things you can do to make sure that you fail, or get very poor marks. So if that's your intention, follow the instructions below:

1. Do an all-nighter. Study through the night the night before the exam with the help of some stimulant you bought at the chemist. Your brain will be so tired the next day it will hardly be able to remember the things that you do know. The temptation will also be great to lie down on your arms and get some much-needed rest.

2. Study with the radio on. Your brain cannot concentrate on two things at once. Soothing background music is one thing, but music with lyrics that distract your attention, is quite another. The same goes for the TV.

3. Beg, borrow or steal notes from others. Other peoples' notes are usually cryptic and difficult to understand. Studying from someone else's notes is therefore virtually useless, especially if you cannot read the writing properly.

4. Last-minute cramming. Leave lots of new work for the day before the exam. Try and cram as much of it into your tired head as possible. You are guaranteed to forget at least two-thirds of it. This will also give you lots of reason to panic before the exam.

5. Live on junk food. Who says your brain needs proper nutrition in order to function at its best? If you shovel hamburgers, chocolates and chips by dozen, chances are you could also get junk results. And while you're about it, also stop exercising completely while you are studying for your exams. After all, you only have so much energy and your time is limited. Whose brain needs heaps of oxygen, anyway?

6. Leave necessary equipment at home. If you are writing a maths exam, leave your calculator, a ruler, a pencil and your compass at home. Trying to find the necessary before or during the exam, will be so stressful, you will be guaranteed to fail.

7. Don't check the timetable. Live on the edge, and arrive for your History exam fully prepared for the Maths paper. Or even better, half an hour late. And don't forget to get together outside the exam room with a couple of your hysterically nervous friends. That will really help.

8. Don't read the questions properly. A mere glance should be sufficient, before you embark on a 40-mark essay question. Surely the examiner will be able to adapt the memorandum to what you have written? Right? Wrong.

9. Who says timing is important?. Spend half the time on the one question you are unable to answer, leaving out endless questions you could have answered, but didn't have time for. Or spend half the time on one section that counts only 10% of the total mark, and then try and rush through the rest in total panic mode.

10. Try and cheat. Chances of being caught are high. Trying to smuggle in notes or crane your neck to read the paper of the person next to you will stress you out sufficiently to ensure a failing grade. Or even better, write a few notes on your hands or arms.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated October 2012)

Read more:
CyberShrink's tips for coping with exam stress.


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