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Can Careless Mistakes Be Prevented While Taking Chemistry Exams?

By June 5, 2021October 13th, 2021Chemistry Exam, Uncategorized

In Singapore, any students who have been through the compulsory education from primary school to tertiary institution will definitely not be able to escape the need for examinations every year.

Whether is it English or Chemistry exams, students will inevitably face the situation of understanding and even being able to answer the questions, but end up losing marks as a result of careless mistakes. Students will definitely find this situation very familiar as they struggle with this throughout their student life. It can be frustrating and annoying for sure.

Imagine knowing the steps to derive the correct solution for a calculation question in Chemistry but because you punch in a wrong button of the calculator or forget to put a decimal point, you end up getting a value that is astronomically big and you know for sure that it is definitely not the correct answer. Then you need to play a treasure hunting game as you backtrack and relook at your steps again to find out the error and it costs you precious time and brain cells till you eventually find out that it is a careless mistake. You start to get anxious due to lack of time and that affects your performance in the Chemistry exam. It is definitely not worth it due to a simple error not due to your lack of understanding of the Chemistry concept that you are being tested on.

Having said that, careless mistakes can definitely be reduced significantly if the students adopt certain strategies to tackle the issue at hand. Having a Chemistry tutor does help students as well as the tutor is able to point out or guide students along the way with some examination techniques being practised in these tuition lessons.

(a) Regular exercise work while learning Chemistry

This first idea is simple and straightforward. It involves students doing a lot of questions, be it Chemistry conceptual or calculation problems.  As students put in the time and effort to hone their answers to questions, they will get better over time to handle similar questions of that nature and they can progressively start to handle more difficult and complicated questions as they move along. In doing so, students will also start to develop their own flow of doing questions so that it does not seem jarring and do not face constant interruptions due to lack of understanding or the ability to answer the questions. At the start, students will still find themselves making careless mistakes but as time goes by, careless mistakes will start to occur less frequently as they get the hang of similar question styles and patterns. They may even be able to identify careless mistakes committed more quickly.

(b) Establish some level of discernment on the correctness of derived answers while attempting Chemistry questions

As you work through either Chemistry practice papers or assignments, certain answers that you derive from calculations will definitely seem illogical, such as getting 100 litres of hydrochloric acid or 1 tonne of copper in your derived answers. Although most questions are hypothetical in nature, but teachers will not create problems where the answers are irrational from a practical sense as it is not possible in real life and will cause students to be scratching their heads with skepticism. After having done many practice questions, you will be able to judge the validity of the answers as some of them do not make sense at all. For example, if you obtain a negative value for the mass of oxygen gas, you know that you are not on the right track.

(c) Inculcate the practice of reviewing your work after you have finished your Chemistry revision

When faced with time constraint while taking Chemistry examinations, you may find yourself with the urge to rush through the questions and complete the paper on time. This means that the practice of looking through your answers once you have completed the papers is even more crucial to avoid careless mistake. However, it is always wise to start building this habit outside of exams by doing the same after you have finished your assignments. In this way, your brain will be wired to automatically do so under exam conditions and that can really save you a lot of marks due to careless mistakes!

(d) Proper allocation of time for Chemistry questions

When taking Chemistry exams, you may also feel like you need to finish all the questions in record time just like what was mentioned in the previous point. However, this is a critical misconception which often results in students losing unnecessary marks and a lower score than if students take the time to attempt the questions at a reasonable pace. Remember to always allocate enough time to each section and not dwell on questions that you are stuck for too long. That may result in you missing out on scoring full marks on questions that you know how to do at later sections, either through carelessness or not attempting the questions at all.

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