.Not reading the question properly, and thereby failing to spot the easy marks. This is the biggest sin of exam taking and one of the most common errors. You should make sure you pick out the questions you can most easily answer in your first read through of the paper.

.Answering the question you would like to have been asked, not the one that was asked. This is another danger linked to not reading the paper through carefully before you start. Make sure you understand the wording of the whole question – don’t be blinded by a few key terms that suggest you are on a pet subject.

.Letting yourself be distracted by watching what other people in the hall are doing. If the candidate next to you starts scribbling straight away, ignore them. They can’t have assessed the whole paper properly and they will almost inevitably run out of time by the end of the exam. This is no time to be following the herd so hold your nerve.

.Poor time management – spending too much time on questions that have too few marks. Spend a few minutes at the outset planning how much time you should devote to each response; set time limits for yourself and stick to them. It’s as simple as that.

.Not understanding the verbs used – Explain, define and illustrate. Many marks are lost needlessly by candidates who fail to grasp the true meaning of the question. If you are asked to define a term, do just that. And if you are asked to illustrate, remember to provide examples from the question or real life.
Not using the mark allocation as a guide to the number of points to be made. Providing a list of bullet points, when a more full answer is required. Again, this is a point about how full and how organised your answer should be. The allocation of points will give you an indication of how to prioritise and what style of writing you should use.

.Poor layout – not using gaps, headings and so on. The examiner doesn’t want to be faced with reams of unorganised script anymore than you do when you pick up a text book. Guide the examiner as much as possible and impress him with your organisational skills.

.Focussing too much of your answer on theory, when application of the issues of the question is more important. You need to read into the question to show that you can apply the rules in practical set ups.
Not having a pen (and spares), ruler, and calculator (with spare batteries). This one is self explanatory – and inexcusable.
Not allowing enough time to get to the exam hall in time – plan the journey, make allowances for traffic jams and so. Turning up early may not be ideal in terms of giving you plenty of time to develop butterflies, but consider how much more stressed you will feel stuck in a traffic jam five kilometeres away, with only ten minutes to go.

(Preparation in terms of exam knowledge is important, but understanding exam technique and how to cope with the exam stress, is vitally important.)