The following advice applies not only to English exams but also to history, RE, Geography or any exam with several written questions to tackle.
So which question to answer first? Don’t forget there’s absolutely no rule that says you have to start with question 1.
If there are 4 questions to answer, first of all decide which ones you are going to choose. Then rate those questions in terms of how confident you feel about answering them. Let’s imagine you’ve decided on questions 1, 3, 5, and 7. You are very confident about answering 7, fairly confident about 3, less so about 1, and not at all confident about 5.
Start with 3. The reasoning behind this is that your first answer will get you into the swing of writing, warm you up, as it were. You still want a question that you feel pretty good about, however, to build your confidence.
Next do 7 – your favourite. You should be fully warmed up and writing well by now.
Then do 1 and last of all 5. The chances are that you will have less time for your last answer and that doesn’t matter if it’s one that you know less about and for which you potentially will earn less marks.
Following on from this you can see that timings for each question are important. Most teachers advise taking off, say, 10 minutes for checking and then dividing the remaining time by the number of questions – assuming they are all worth equal marks. (Naturally if some questions are worth more marks you will need to adjust your timings accordingly.) However I would urge you to be slightly flexible on your timings. It is worth allowing an extra 5 or even 10 minutes on a question that you feel you can answer well and therefore gain good marks and deducting that 5 or 10 minutes from a question that you are struggling with. The aim is, of course, to maximise your marks.