Exam and assessment tips, Exam tips, More

Ann, our Academic Study Skills Manager, shares organisation, revision and exam strategies for success…

It is quite normal to get a little nervous at the thought of doing an exam, but the good news is, that with these tips you can enter the exam season feeling prepared and in control. From procrastination to planning to exam performance here are some practical strategies to get you going.

Get Organised – 5 Top Tips

  1. When assessing students we want to know to what extent your work demonstrates that you have met the learning outcomes of the module so familiarise yourself with these.
  2. Know the exam essential information – when, where and what is expected from you.
  3. Get organised. Organise electronic and hard copy resources and make sure you have a space you can work in that minimises distraction.
  4. You need to remember the content of your notes and other resources so start condensing notes so that they are brief and easily remembered.
  5. Attend revision lectures as these will give you valuable information and if you have access to previous exam papers use them.

Create a Revision Timetable – 5 Top Tips

  1. Know which topics you are going to revise, which you know best, and where there are gaps in your knowledge. This should influence how much time you dedicate to studying each topic. Create a list of all the topics you need to revise.
  2. A common barrier to successful revision is procrastination. So ask; is the work too difficult, boring, over-whelming? Break each topic down into manageable chunks or tasks as this will make it feel less daunting.
  3. One of the main reasons why schedules fail is that people under-estimate how long a task will take to complete. Return to your list of topics again and estimate how long it will take you to revise for each of the topics listed.
  4. Prioritise the work; know exactly what you have to do, how long it will take and make sure you don’t waste time on unnecessary tasks. (NB: Sleeping, eating and resting are necessary and need to be included!)
  5. Now create a realistic timetable which is prioritised, planned and task and time orientated. Set yourself goals for each day and schedule breaks, sleep and meal times.

Revision – 10 Top Tips

  1. Have a revision timetable displayed, an organised space and notes and resources to hand. Stick to your timetable and protect your study time.
  2. Revision notes need to be remembered, so:
    Use your own words – aids understanding and recall
    Be concise – key words, bullet points, lists, headings, mnemonics
    Display information – posters, colour, tables, charts, diagrams, mindmaps, flashcards
  3. Study in small blocks of time. Use alarms to remind you to take breaks and to return to revision once a break has finished.
  4. You need to commit information to memory. Repetition and engaging with content will aid this, so; read, re-read, display, recite, rehearse, and question yourself as you learn.
  5. For essays or long answers you need to know themes and theories and how these may be applied in different scenarios, from different perspectives and what the evidence is for and against each theory.
  6. For factual answers you need to know the facts and how to apply these, so repeating and displaying information and completing practice questions is essential.
  7. Test yourself and ask questions whilst revising, keep looking at what you are learning from different perspectives. See the bigger picture. Apply the knowledge.
  8. Use past papers and / or think of questions. This challenges your understanding of the topics, focuses your mind, exposes you to how exam papers look and how they are worded.
  9. Devise model answers to typical questions by; writing an answer under exam conditions, creating a mind map, plan or talking your way through an answer. NEVER learn off an entire essay by rote. The chances of exactly the same question being asked are very slim and you need to engage in critical thinking whilst revising. Remember, the examiner wants to see how you apply the knowledge you have, not just your recall of it.
  10. Before the exam, plan out your time. You need to know:
    How long the exam is
    How long you will spend reading the question paper and selecting which questions to answer
    How long you will spend jotting down ideas and planning
    At the end, how long you will spend checking answers and proof reading
    Now, calculate how much time you have to answer each question.

Exam Performance – 10 Top Tips

  1. Arrive early
  2. Timing: know how long you genuinely have to answer each question and how many marks will be attributed to each question or section of a question.
  3. Read the instructions and the questions carefully. Select which questions you will answer. Read the question then re- read the question, underlining key words and any instructions.
  4. Think. Ask yourself what is really being asked from you. Remember exams do not simply test knowledge but your application of that knowledge. (NB: Rephrase the essay title by turning it into an actual question.)
  5. Brainstorm – Get ideas down on paper – key points, references, etc. Remember think critically, what are the main themes, the line of reasoning, and the evidence?
  6. Plan your exam answers –brief and make sure you are answering the question asked.
  7. Write your essay. Clear structure – introduction – main body – conclusion. Answer the question set and use academic writing conventions.
  8. For factual or multiple choice answers, work quickly and annotate in the margin any questions you are struggling with. Work your way through the paper and then return to unanswered or tricky questions at the end.
  9. Once your time is up for each answer, stop writing and move onto the next question! You will not get as many marks for 2 great answers if you were asked to answer 3 questions!
  10. Check over your paper, proof-reading to make sure answers flow well and make sense, answers the questions set and are free from basic errors.

Related links:
Academic study skills classes
Tips on coping with anxiety before and during exams
Wellbeing drop-in sessions
Self-help resources

Best wishes,
Ann, Academic Study Skills Manager.

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