32 A/L Examination Tips for the Last Week

Prepared by;

Dinuka Edirisinghe
District 2nd (Matara) - 2009 A/L Biology
Graduate, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo.
Pre-Intern Medical Officer, Karapitiya Medical Center.

Peshan Sampath
District 7th (Matara) - 2010 A/L Mathematics
Graduate, Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa
Graduate Student, University of Moratuwa

Subodha Charles
District 1st (Matara) - 2009 A/L Mathematics
Graduate, Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa
Ph.D Student, University of Florida, USA
Graduate Intern, Intel Corporation

The advanced level exam for 2017 is just around the corner and we know the students facing that are tirelessly getting ready for it. Following are a set of guidelines you can follow to know what to do, what not to do and what to expect during this time till the end of the exam. We hope we can transfer some of our knowledge and experience to you all through this.

If you have any questions other than this, be it related to a subject matter or general guidelines, feel free to post it on the Gurupaara Forum.


        Before the exam

  1. Write down your A/L time table and display it at home to be seen by family members, so that they too have a better understanding about the exam dates and times.
  2. Do not use brand new pens for the exam. You have to prepare ¼ or ½ written, 4-5 blue pens and 1-2 black pens. Start preparing them as soon as possible.
  3. Have a good connection with a friend who has the exact time table as yours and re confirm the dates with him 1-2 days before the exam starts.
  4. Make a list of the items you need to take to the exam. Prepare and re check those items the day before the exam by ticking the prepared list.
  5. Make sure to take these to your exam.
  • Admission paper
  • National Identity Card
  • Stationary – all the pens and pencils you prepared, an eraser, a ruler, a pencil sharpener
  • A properly working wrist watch.
  • A water bottle.
  1. If you have gastritis make sure to take a small snack with you like biscuits, show it to the examiners before the exam starts and get their approval.
  2. Prepare several cardboard pieces to be used to balance your desk or chair, if by any chance you get an unbalanced desk or chair.
  3. Do not wear a new uniform neither a very old one for the exam, just use a normal, clean, used uniform. Because brand new clothes sometimes get itchy and might be uncomfortable. You need to keep away all the distractions and focus only on the paper.

       The day of the exam just before the paper is distributed

  1. Make sure to take your breakfast/lunch and take it at least 1 hour before the exam starts. Do not eat Milk rice for breakfast nor take a heavy meal. You might feel sleepy if you do so.
  2. On the very first day of the exam, make sure to reach your exam center at least ½ hour before the exam starts. Find your exam hall (index numbers will be shown in the halls), find your desk (index numbers will be written on the desks) as soon as possible.
  3. After the 1st day, there’s no need to go to the exam hall too early. 15 minutes before the exam is enough.
  4. Thoroughly check the placement of your desk. If it’s near a window, please check the possibility of disturbance from wind and direct sunlight. If there’s such a risk immediately ask for an alternate place from the examiners. By any chance if the place cannot be changed, go prepared to cover the window next day.
  5. Thoroughly check your desk and chair. If they are unbalanced and shaky or uncomfortable in any way, ask for a replacement from the examiners.
  6. When you enter the hall please refrain from discussing exam points or guessed questions or even unnecessary gossip with friends, prepare your own set of study materials (short notes, answers to guessed questions, etc.) to be studied just before the exam. Just enter the exam hall, give a quick wave or hi to your friends, prepare your desk, sit there and study your prepared material.
  7. Place your stationary, NIC and admission paper in an orderly manner on the desk without covering or erasing your index number written in chalk on a corner of the desk. Place your watch preferably on the desk, in a place you can get a quick glimpse of the time while you are writing the paper. Place your bottle and snack (if you have one) in the drawer section of the desk (if your desk has one) or on the floor in a manner it will not be hit by the walking examiners.
  8. Examiners will check your NIC and admission while you are answering the paper, so make sure to keep your NIC and admission paper in a place where the examiners can take it easily without disturbing your work or you can give it to them with minimal disturbance.
  9. Before examiners announce the start of the exam, please remove all your study materials from your desk and put them in your bag which is kept outside the exam hall, as soon as possible. Make sure to check for study materials put in the drawer section of the desk.
  10. At first, examiners will distribute answer sheets and then the exam paper. Write your index number clearly on all sides of answer sheets (in the given area in the mcq answer sheet) Until you receive your paper, close your eyes for a brief moment, take few deep breaths, remind yourself that you can do the exam very well with what you have learnt and calm yourself as much as possible.

During the Exam

  1. When you receive your paper, first check all the pages and see whether they are properly printed. If everything is ok, start answering calmly in the same manner you have practiced when you answered past papers at home, because your exam paper is also the same thing!
  2. MCQ Paper

  • For the MCQ, it is always wiser to answer it in 3 steps. First answer the questions that are easy, you have nothing to think about and you understand the path to reach the answer at once, leave all the hard questions behind. After finishing the easy ones go for the hard ones. But do not get stuck in a question for more than 2-3 minutes. Leave it and go for another unanswered one to get the answer. By the end of the 2nd step you should have finished most of the paper with only the very hard questions left behind. Finally, try to deal with the very hard ones if you have enough time.
  • It’s better to mark the answer on the answer script as you solve the problems. Don’t just mark it on paper and leave the answer script to be marked at the end. If you do so, missing one question might cause all your answers to be wrong!
  • First mark your answers with a pencil on the mcq answer sheet and color it with black ink at the end, so that you can change your answers if you need to. Make sure to start coloring with ink at least 15 minutes before the time ends.
  • If you are used to marking the answers on the question paper itself at first and then transferring to the answer sheet, please make sure that you start transferring your answers at least 15 minutes before the time ends.
  • Make sure to check your answers at least once.
  1. Essay Paper

  • For the Essay paper, it is always wiser to start with structured questions (if you have one), finish it within the given time (usually 1 hour) and go for the second part. Try not to take extra time for the structured questions as it will affect the second part adversely.
  • Start answering the second part of the essay paper according to the method you have practiced earlier (which questions to be answered first). You don’t need to answer the question of the second part in the given order. You can answer any question first according to your preference.
  • Try your best not to take more time than allocated for each question, if the question cannot be fully completed with maximum extra 5 minutes, leave it there and go for the next question, you can always complete it later if you have time. Always remember that the marks are not given for the amount of fully completed questions but rather for the correctly answered parts of the questions. So be tricky enough to steal marks!
  • Always leave at least one sheet more if you are moving to a new question without completing the question you tried. If time permits, you can come back to the question and use the space left behind.
  • You can ask for as many extra sheets as you need. Always get at least 5-6 (or even 10) answer sheets once, because you can’t always waste your time asking for answer sheets. Get new answer sheets before all the answer sheets are finished (preferably with 1-2 sheets still remaining) and write your index number & add page numbers to each one of them before using. If by any chance you don’t place the sheets in order, page numbers will save you a lot of time.
  • You will be given a band to bind the answer sheets. Make sure to bind your answer sheets with few extra sheets added, at least 15 minutes before the time ends.
  • Double check whether you have attached all the answers (including the structured essay part). Better to attach even the rough work at the end of the answer sheets after crossing rough work papers with a single line.
  • Double check to see whether you have written your index number correctly and attached all the answer sheets.
  • At the very end, if you still have empty sheets attached, you can cross them with a single line.
  • If you finish answering early, please re check your answers and index number until the time finishes, without looking here and there.

After the exam

  1. Do not get up from the chair until the examiners say so.
  2. Once examiners say you are ok to leave the hall, immediately gather all your belongings and leave the hall as soon as possible. Do not wait to discuss questions and answers with friends. Even if a friend asks you an answer for a question, always try to avoid it. (try saying you didn’t answer it)
  3. If you feel you performed poorly in the exam, please try and forget it. Because thinking about it won’t change your results, what you can do now is to perform better in the next paper, so get ready for it. On the other hand if the paper is difficult for you, it is the same for everyone else. Since A/L is based on the z-score and it depends on everyone’s marks, things will be better than you think.
  4. Once you reach home, do not check the answers you wrote at the exam. Handover your question paper and the rough work (if you brought home) to parents and instruct them not to check the answers as well.
  5. You might receive the answers to previous mcq papers distributed by tuition classes as leaflets. It’s better not to take them, but if you do, do not check your answers with them. Give them to your parents to be kept with your papers.
  6. If you have no more exams on that subject, remove all the books/notes/tutorials/papers from your bookshelf.
  7. Try to avoid phone calls from friends that might be asking answers for already written papers. On the other hand if a friend says that he/she performed poorly at the exam and he/she is clearly upset about it, try to set their mood by saying, you also performed poorly and so did the others to your knowledge, irrespective of how well you did.

Few Personal Advices

  1. We have personally witnessed all these scenarios;
    1. Students who answered only two full questions from the applied mathematics paper and did small part in the others (in short, did very bad during the paper), but still got selected engineering faculty from the merit list.
    2. Students who cried at the end of the chemistry paper saying they can’t attend the next paper because they did so bad in that, but ended up getting selected to medical faculty.
    3. Students who got selected to Karapitiya medical faculty with a result of A (Biology), A (Chemistry), C (Physics).

There are so many similar stories. The takeaway from all this is that it is never too late to try harder for the exam. Even if you do bad in one subject, you can always perform better in the next one. During the exam time, it’s all about how mentally strong you are. Your ability to shift your mind from one subject to the other without hanging on to the previous ones.

  1. Believe in yourself. Trust your ability. At the end of the day, you are being tested in three hours for what you learnt in three years. So, anything can happen.
  1. Try to help your friends if they are mentally down, not by discussing answers with them, but by telling them it’s the same for everyone. Encourage them not to give up. Give them hope.

Remind yourself of all the good you have done in helping friends during the A/L exam. If you really gave it your best shot and was honest for the subjects you studied, nature will definitely reward you back.

Wish you all the very best!

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