General Info and Tips on Your BC Provincial Exam
This page contains some general exam info and also some tips that can help you have a better experience at the exams, regardless of the exam subject.
General Exam Info and Procedure
If you are taking or will be taking a grade 12 provincially examinable course in the regular school year, chances are that you will be taking the exam in June after classes end. People who take summer school usually have their exams in August. The June provincials will probably take place in your school, usually in the gym or the cafeteria. During exam days, you’ll of course have no classes to worry about. If you are enrolled in the provincial course during the school year, you are automatically registered for the provincial exam and don’t have to register by yourself. Just show up and write the exam.
Each year, the Ministry of Education will set up a schedule for exams that most schools have to follow. The schedule is available at your school and on the web, and I suggest you check it beforehand so that you won’t miss your exam or show up on the wrong day. There are at most two exams on the same day. The morning session usually starts at 9am while the afternoon session starts at 1pm. You should arrive at least 30 minutes before the exam starts. Exams are supervised by teachers at your school, who will walk around and make sure you don’t cheat.
When the exam room opens, you will either find that all the exam booklets have been placed on the desks or you will have to go to the teachers to get your booklet. In the first case, go find the booklet with your name on it and sit down at that desk. Teachers will begin to come around and get you to sign in and put two stickers with your Personal Education Number (PEN) on your exam booklet. After all that’s done, everybody will have to read the exam instructions and check their booklets for missing pages, then the examination will start. Despite the difference in course subject and exam specifications, every single provincial exam is designed to be completed in 2 hours, but students may take an additional 30 minutes to finish. You must stay in the exam room for the first hour. When you finish the exam, you either will leave your exam booklet at your desk or hand it in to a teacher, and then you must leave the exam room and never come back (well, not until times up anyways). Your school may have a slightly different procedure than the one described here but all schools follow a similar procedure as regulated by the Ministry of Education. For more information about exam procedures, please visit the Ministry of Education’s website.
Checking Your Results
If you take your exams in June, you won’t know the results of your exam until late July. This is probably due to the volume of exams that have to be marked for the June session. You can check the release date for your results at your school or on the Ministry’s website. After your marks have been released, you can check them on the web via this website. You need to create an account with your PEN and log in to see your results. Your results will be listed as a percentage. The school mark for the course will be listed as well as a final mark, which is the combined total of your school and exam marks. Note that you will never ever get your actual exam back. The time you take the exam is the only time you will ever see that booklet. This means you can only speculate on what you got wrong or right on an exam. If you want to know why you don’t get your paper back, please contact the Ministry of Education.
Another thing you will see on your results page is the SMS score for each subject, which will be a three digit number no more than 800. The SMS score is calculated by comparing your results to the results of all other students. Anyways, if you have the best score in the province for an exam, you will have a SMS of 800. The SMS decreases as the mark decreases. If you have a total of 1700 or more for your SMS for your three best exams, you will win a $1000 scholarship if you are a domestic student. You can win an additional $1000 if you place in the top 20 students in the province in terms of SMS score. Visit the Ministry’s website to get additional information on SMS.
Retaking Your Exams
In the event that despite all the help you’ve received and all the studying that you have done, you still screw up or you are not satisfied by the results of your first attempt at a particular exam, you can always retake the exam for free once within a year after the initial exam. Other than June, there are exams sessions in August, January, and April and you can retake your exam(s) at those times. Just register at your school office and show up. Don’t be ashamed to retake your exams. I have retaken an exam before and even though it didn’t improve my mark in any way, I didn’t regret giving the exam another try. You might have better luck than me. Visit the Ministry’s website for more info about retakes.
Tips for Writing the Exams
Here are a few tips I’ve come up that can help you get a better mark and have a better experience at your provincial exams. Some tips are based on my own experience, while others are just common sense.
1. Take some time to visit the Ministry of Education’s provincial exam website. You don’t necessarily have to read every document there, but you should familiarize yourself with the exam specs, procedures, rules, dates and times, and set up your account so you can access your results.
2. Go ask your subject teachers questions about the provincials. Your teachers probably have seen many provincial exams over their teaching careers and they may be able to offer you some tips and/or practice material.
3. Study and practice hard. This is a no-brainer. You will probably have a few days of time between the end of classes and the start of your provincials to use for studying. For many provincials, the best way to practice is to download some old provincials from the Ministry’s website. The Ministry seemed to have restricted the downloading recently and old exams might become unavailable in the future, but check anyways. Another good resource on the net is quizmeBC, which has a large collection of multiple choice questions for a variety of subjects. Read up on your class material too, particularly notes given by teachers. I find that notes are a lot more useful than textbooks for certain subjects. Try to plan out a schedule for studying and practicing, especially if you have many exams coming up. If you truly can’t manage to organize your time, then you are pretty much hopeless. No, what I meant to say is that if you don’t seem to have the time, cramming on the day before the exam still beats not studying at all, but you probably won’t do as well as if you organized your time efficiently between your exams.
4. Get a good night’s sleep before the exam date. This is common sense. You probably won’t do too well if you are still hung over from yesterday’s party.
5. Don’t be too nervous about the exams. I mean, doing badly on an exam isn’t the end of your life, so lighten up. Have confidence in yourself and you’ll have a better chance of achieving your goals. If you feel that you are too nervous, take a few deep breaths or repeat to yourself “I can do this. I can do this. I can…” Just don’t chant too loudly or everyone else will stare at you.
6. Before you leave the house, check that you have everything you need to write the exam. The items may include pens, pencils, eraser, calculator, rulers, protractor etc.
7. Wear comfortable clothing to your exam. The exams are hard enough without having to scratch your back or readjust your shirt every few minutes.
8. Don’t do anything that will make a teacher think that you are cheating during an exam. I don’t have to tell you why that’s important.
9. If you have time, make sure you check all your answers at least once.