Have you ever missed a zero, or added instead of subtracting, or put the decimal in the wrong place in math paper?

Have you ever failed to answer a question fully because you missed one of its sub-questions?

Have you ever misread a question and, as a result, answered it in a tangential direction?

These are all silly mistakes, and they’re big sins because you lose those marks which were 99 percent yours.

How do you avoid these careless mistakes in exams?

One way is to slow down. Read questions more carefully and write all the steps… be watchful, in other words. This is fine. But, you can’t slow down too much, otherwise you’ll struggle to complete the test, an even bigger problem.

The other way is to address silly mistakes at a more fundamental level: improving concentration and managing time well. (Most silly mistakes happen because of poor concentration and rush.)

Here are few tips to minimize silly mistakes:

1. Improve your concentration

A. Exercise

To quote from this research brief by University of Texas, Austin, that reviewed several published scientific articles examining correlation between physical activity and academic performance:

Physical activity can have both immediate and long-term benefits on academic performance. Almost immediately after engaging in physical activity, children are better able to concentrate on classroom tasks, which can enhance learning.

Vigorous cardiovascular exercise which ups your heart rate improves your concentration. So take up exercises such as running, cycling, stair-climbing, and skipping for 20-30 minutes, 4-5 times a week.

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A Surprising Study Hack – Physical Exercise [With Case Studies]

B. Take longer mock tests

Taking mock tests longer than the duration of real test will strengthen your concentration muscles. So, if the real test is 3-hour long, take an occasional 4-hour mock test. Many top test-takers do this.

C. Eat food low in Glycemic Index (GI) on the exam day

Eating appropriate food can improve your focus and energy for an intense work session.

Low-GI food releases energy gradually over a longer period, thereby avoiding crash in energy resulting in fatigue, one of the reasons for loss in concentration. Few examples of low-GI food: wholegrain sandwiches, oats, porridge, low-sugar museli, low-sugar energy bars, yogurt with seeds/ nuts, egg with wholegrain bread, low-fat dairy, soups, salads, and most fruits.

2. Shore up your waning concentration

In the middle of a test, your focus will inevitably start waning after an hour or so. One of the antidotes to your falling concentration is a brief break. During this brief break, divert attention from the test. Gaze the distant corner of the room or just close your eyes, thinking about anything but the test.

3. Others

A. Be vigilant when answering silly-mistake-prone questions

There could be certain type of questions where you commit more silly mistakes than elsewhere, a pattern you can easily catch in mock tests.

When answering such questions, whether in mock tests or the real, focus harder than you do on other questions.

B. Manage time

If you don’t manage time well in the exam, you’ll have to rush through few questions, increasing the chance of silly mistakes. On the other extreme, if you manage time well, you’re likely to finish the test earlier than the stipulated time, and get time to review and catch silly mistakes.