20 exam tips for students
The Muslim student puts his trust in Allah when facing the tests of this world, and he seeks His help whilst following the prescribed means, in accordance with the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “The strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although both are good. Strive to attain that which will benefit you and seek the help of Allah, and do not feel helpless.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 2664).
1. Turning to Allah by making du’a in any way that is prescribed in Islam, such as saying, “Rabbiy ishrah li sadri wa yassir li amri (O my Lord, expand my chest and make things easy for me).”
2. Getting used to sleeping early and going to exams on time.
3. Preparing all required or permitted equipment such as pens, rulers and set-squares, calculators and watches, because being well-prepared helps one to answer questions.
4. Reciting the du’a for leaving the house: “Bismillah, tawakkaltu ‘ala Allah, wa laa hawla wa laa quwwata illa Billah. Allahumma inni a’oodhu bika an adilla aw udalla, aw azilla aw uzalla, aw azlima aw uzlama, aw ajhala aw yujhala ‘alayya.” (In the name of Allah, I put my trust in Allah, and there is no strength and no power except with Allah. O Allah, I seek refuge with You lest I should stray or be led astray, lest I slip – commit a sin unintentionally – or be tripped, lest I oppress or be oppressed, lest I behave foolishly or be treated foolishly.) Do not forget to seek your parents’ permission, for their du’a for you will be answered.
5. Mention the name of Allah before you start, for mentioning the name of Allah is prescribed when beginning any permissible action; this brings blessing, and seeking the help of Allah is one of the means of strength.
6. Fear Allah with regard to your classmates, and do not be affected by their anxiety or fear just before the exam, for anxiety is a contagious disease. Instead, make them feel optimistic by saying good words as prescribed in Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was optimistic when he heard the name of Suhayl (which means “easy”) and he said: “Things have been made easy for you.” He used to like to hear the words ‘Ya Rashid’, when he went out for any purpose. So be optimistic that you and your brothers will pass the exam with flying colors.
7. Remembering Allah (dhikr) dispels anxiety and tension. If something is too difficult for you, then pray to Allah to make it easy for you. Whenever Sheikh-ull-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) found something too difficult to understand, he would say, “O You Who taught Ibrahim, teach me; O You Who caused Sulaiman to understand, cause me to understand.”
8. Choose a good place to sit during the exam, if you can. Keep your back straight, and sit on the chair in a healthy manner.
9. Look over the exam first. Studies advise spending 10% of the exam time in reading the questions carefully, noting the important words and dividing one’s time between the questions.
10. Plan to answer the easy questions first, then the difficult ones. While reading the questions, write notes and ideas which you can use in your answers later.
11. Answer questions according to importance.
12. Start by answering the easy questions which you know. Then move on to the questions which carry high marks, and leave till the end the questions to which you do not know the answers, or which you think will take a long time to produce an answer or which do not carry such high marks.
13. Take your time to answer, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Deliberation is from Allah and haste is from the Shaitan.” (Hasan hadith, Sahih Al-Jami’, no. 3011)
14. Think carefully about the answer and choose the right answer when answering multiple-choice questions. Deal with them in the following manner: If you are sure that you have chosen the right answer, then beware of Waswasah (insinuating whispers from the Shaitan). If you are not sure, then start by eliminating the wrong or unlikely answers, then choose the correct answer based on what you think is most likely to be correct. If you guessed the correct answer then do not change it unless you are sure that it is wrong – especially if you will lose marks for a wrong answer. Research indicates that the correct answer is usually that which the student thinks of first.
15. In written exams, collect your thoughts before you start to answer. Write an outline for your answer with some words which will indicate the ideas which you want to discuss. Then number the ideas in the sequence in which you want to present them.
16. Write the main points of your answer at the beginning of the line, because this is what the examiner is looking for, and he may not see what he is looking for if it is in the middle of the page and he is in a hurry.
17. Devote 10% of the time for reviewing your answers. Take your time in reviewing, especially in mathematical problems and writing numbers. Resist the desire to hand in the exam papers quickly, and do not let the fact that some people are leaving early bother you. They may be among the people who have handed in their papers too early.
18. If you discover after the exam that you answered some questions incorrectly, then take that as a lesson in the importance of being well-prepared in the future, and not rushing to answer questions. Accept the will and decree of Allah and do not fall prey to frustration and despair. Remember the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him), “If anything befalls you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such and such.’ Rather say, ‘Qadar Allah wa maa sha’a kaan (the decree of Allah and what He wills happened),’ for saying ‘if only..’ opens the door for the Shaitan.” (Sahih Muslim)
19. Note that cheating is Haraam whether it is in foreign language tests or any other tests. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever cheats is not one of us.” It is wrongdoing and it is a Haraam means of attaining a degree or certificate. So do without that, and Allah will suffice you from His bounty. Reject all offers of Haraam things that come to you from others. Whoever gives up a thing for the sake of Allah, Allah will compensate him with something better. You have to denounce and resist evil, and tell the authorities about any such thing that you see during the exam. Advise those who fall into cheating to fear Allah, and tell them the ruling on what they are doing.
20. Remember what you have prepared for the hereafter, and the questions of the examination in the grave, and how to be saved on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is saved from the Fire and admitted to Paradise will indeed have succeeded.
We ask Allah to make us succeed in this world and cause us to be among those who are victorious and saved in the hereafter, for He is the All-Hearing Who answers prayer.