Tips on problem solving in examinations

1) Try to identify the topic/concept that the question is testing. List down all quantities that are provided and think of a suitable equation from the topic you can apply.

2) Sketching a diagram is useful in helping you visualize the problem better.

3) Do not be confused with the symbols. For example, p may be taken to mean pressure, momentum and n may be taken to mean number of moles, number density etc.

You will face these problems if you do not revise the topic summary consistently and practice enough questions.

4) Pay attention to significant figures. Normally 2 or 3 sf is quite safe. Look at the raw data to decide. Use standard notation if necessary.

5) For MCQ, give yourself 1 minute per question. Go for qualitative questions first. For qualitative questions, do not linger on for too long for one question — move on if you are not able to get the numerical answer for that MCQ.

In the final 10 minutes, go through all the shading – all questions should be shaded in the optical marksheet — leaving a question undone is foolish. Shading two options in a single question is foolish too — no marks will be awarded.

6) For short-structured questions and long-structured questions: read through the entire question first. Highlight key info, data as you read through the question. Some questions require concepts from more than one topic. Eg. if a question seems impossible to solve using kinematics, maybe you can try conservation of energy. If a question seems difficult to solve using resolving of forces, maybe you can try using moments.

7) Solve those parts that you are confident first. Circle the parts that you are skipping for the time being. Revisit these parts when you have the time.

8) Do not give up totally on an entire question. Even if you have no clue on how to solve the quantitative aspect, try to do the descriptive part (qualitative discussion).

9) Time management: Try to have a half-time checkpoint. You need to plan these time-check checkpoints yourself before the exam by looking at the exam timetable. Eg, if the paper starts at 8 am, have in mind that at 8.30 am, you should be at question ___ for section ___.

Do not mull over one question for too long. Move on to the other questions if you are stuck. Remember, it is better to have attempted various parts of all the questions than to complete only half the questions in the paper.

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