I was sitting my assessment in class, writing my essay like a crazy person when my teacher, Ms Michaels, said “5 minutes left”.


Oh S*@$T!

I looked at the paper. I still had at least 20% of the paper left. Crap.

There was no way I was going to be able to finish in time. 

I madly started trying to write down as much as I could (I felt like I was having a epileptic fit).

Suddenly, Ms Michael’s called “PEN’S DOWN!”.

That was when the realisation hit me. I was going to bomb ANOTHER assessment.

Uughh. Time to go and forget about this and play Fallout 4. 

I couldn’t forget about it for long. I got my results back a week later. 


Not only did I lose marks for that last 20% of the paper where I ran out of time and wrote rubbish.

I also dropped really easy, basic, really frustrating marks on brain dead questions throughout the rest of the assessment. Ugh. How annoying. I’d studied and it hadn’t made a difference.

Sound familiar?

Do you run out of time in your exams, and make silly mistakes on basic stuff you are SURE you know?

Over the last 8 years we’ve interviewed thousands of students who ranked in the Top 2%, scoring ATAR’s over 98, including State Rankers, and Perfect Scorers.

And along the way we’ve found an uncommon, yet insanely simple strategy you can use to help you not make silly mistakes or run out of time in your assessments and exams.

In fact this, uncommon strategy will actually help you in your assessments and exams:

  • Have more time
  • Stress less
  • Plan your answers
  • Proof read and check your responses
  • Never run out of time again
  • Never make silly mistakes on questions you know again

So, what’s this uncommon, simple strategy that can make such a difference?

Step 1: Always Study in Timed Conditions

When you study, always study in timed conditions.


If you don’t know how long it takes you write 1,000 words or how long it takes you to complete a 5 marker short answer question, how do you know you can complete the assessment or exam on time?

You are going into your assessment or exam, HOPING that the adrenalin will hit and you can finish in time. 

It’s like Usain Bolt going into the 100m sprint without knowing if he can run under 10 seconds.

Additionally, doing studying under timed conditions has two additional benefits:

  1. A key variable between your study and the exam or assessment itself is time. So if you study in timed conditions, you get comfortable with time, and remove this as a variable between your study, and the real thing, making it more comfortable in assessments and exams.
  2. Studying with timed conditions also improve memory recall as it creates a simulation that you are ‘doing the real thing’ which

But there’s an additional trick.

Step 2: Give yourself 10% less time in practice.

10% Less Time

In practice give yourself 10% less time when writing your practice essays, working on short answer questions, or doing multiple choice .

So for example for an essay in your assessment or exams you will normally have 40 minutes available.

So when you are studying, give yourself 40 minutes – 10% = 36 minutes.


If you get comfortable completing your responses in 10% less time (e.g. 36 minutes for 40 minute essay) in practice, when you get into the exam you’re going to feel like you’ve got all the time in the world.

You’re going to be less stressed and you can use this additional time to plan your response to the question you’ve been given, proof read what you have written and double check if you’ve made mistakes.

In other words, instead of HOPING you can finish the assessment or exam in time, you will KNOW you can finish it in LESS TIME.

This means you’ll never find yourself running out of time in exams again and have time to fix any silly mistakes you might have otherwise made.

Pretty awesome right?

Action Point:
  • Complete all your study in timed conditions
  • Give yourself 10% less time – e.g. 36 minutes for a 40 minute essay 


Rowan is the founder of Art of Smart Education, an award winning provider of 1 on 1 tutoring and mentoring. Rowan has spent the last 8 years conducting research with thousands of Australia’s top students who scored ATAR’s of over 98 and is the author of Secrets of HSC Success Revealed. Rowan has 10 years experience in tutoring and delivers workshops across Australia on excelling academically at school. Rowan’s videos on YouTube have been watched more than 1,000,000+ times.



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