Exams and Revision Some hints and tips Fear and loathing of exams How many of these do you agree with? I think I should have read everything on the course before sitting the exam I don't understand a lot about this course so it isn't worth taking the exam I'm going to be shown up as really stupid or a fraud If I fail these exams it's going to ruin my life The exams will show up all the holes in my education Exams are for people with good memories I don't understand what the exam questions are about People who can write quickly always do better in exams You've got to revise to the point of collapse before exams Fear and loathing of exams The mythology of exams Mythology of exams I think I should have read everything on the course Most people devote a lot of their time to what interests them. How practical is it to read everything about everything? There's a limit to what you can write in, say, a three hour exam. Work out how best you can use what you have done Mythology of exams I don't understand a lot about this course so it isn't worth taking the exam. Being clear about what you don't understand is the first step to understanding. Use the revision period to systematically review your learning and to seek the guidance and help of your friends and/or your tutors. Try to be positive, nobody understands everything, Everybody feels unprepared and confused at some time - You are not necessarily unprepared and confused about the same thing as your friends. Help each other. Mythology of exams I'm going to be shown up as really stupid or a fraud Tutors, by and large, don't want people to fail. They'll be looking for positive responses in the exams. Remember exams and other Sorts of assessments are partly there to help you and your tutor to identify areas where both you and others need extra help and guidance. Mythology of exams The exams will show up all the holes in my education. Exams create an atmosphere of anxiety which it's difficult to pin down. University exams are usually testing something specific not looking to categorise your intellect in general sense. Concentrate on what you've learned during the course not before the course. Always ask yourself 'What is this exam seeking to assess’? Mythology of exams Exams are for people with good memories. University tutors are likely to be more interested in what you understand rather than in the the amount of facts that you know. A good memory for facts helps, but it does not replace understanding of principles Memory can in any case be helped by appropriate revision techniques. Mythology of exams I don't understand what the exam questions are about. Try not to panic when you look at past exam papers. In many cases the examiners will want to indicate important topics without answering the question for you. They'll also want to give you space to make your own arguments and judgements. Work on making the links between the exam questions and what's been signposted as significant during the course. Mythology of exams People who can write quickly always do better in exams. It's not quantity but quality that counts. Have your ideas and your exam Strategy planned. If you're particularly worried about your handwriting speed try practicing writing. If you've got a physical disability which may effect your handwriting speed, Seek help. Mythology of exams You've got to revise to the point of collapse before exams. Most people spend some time revising before exams. It's important to manage revision time effectively by planning time, revision content etc and leaving some space for yourself. Don't turn your social and personal life off just because of exams. Giving yourself some personal, recreational reward can positively help your revision. Revision Strategies When Should I start? There's no easy answer to this : It's all tied into your personal preferences for Study, your other commitments and why you're studying. You'd be well advised, however, not to leave everything to the last minute or not to give any thought to a revision plan. Should I use past exam papers? Yes, this is an excellent idea but don't panic at first Sight of them : look for The instructions telling you what to do The relationship between the questions and what you've studied on the course What sort of questions are asked The implications the structure of exam paper has for the way you approach the actual exam Should I revise the entire course? Only if the course objectives suggest that you should do so. Many exams are designed so as to allow you to be selective. If management of the course content is an issue be brutal in selecting those areas that you wish to revise for. Should I have an exam timetable? Yes, to fail to plan is to plan to fail. An exam timetable should identify time for Studying the last part of your course The parts of the course you have decided to revise Practice time for exam questions Rewards e.g. recreation time/'time off'. You'll probably be unable to stick to the timetable but it will give some idea of the scale/nature of the tasks in front of you. Should I have an exam timetable? Part of this planning exercise Should also involve you in sorting out your course materials. This will; help you to make your material more accessible Give some form and structure to the course, help you to identify themes, issues etc. Should I try to identify key questions, issues etc? This would be very, very helpful : Ask yourself what are the critical elements of the course? What's the point of Studying X or Y or Z? Refer to your notes and those topics identified in the study guides. Is it worth writing new notes during revision? Yes. In particular it's a good idea to reduce notes to simple summary sheets. The process could work like this Condensed notes (from articles, textbooks, lectures etc) for a particular topic Summary sheet for a particular topic Mind maps can be useful here for identifying links This process will also help you to memorise factual and other material. Should I try answering past exam questions? Very useful approach : You don't have to answer them in full, seek only to provide outline answers. Ask yourself What is the question actually asking? What evidence do I need from the course to answer it? Which course topics does it relate to? How Should I present my answer/argument? Should I try answering past exam questions? This will also give you practice in using the intellectual processes valued by university examiners. You could also consider trying to formulate your questions as a way of gaining insights into how examiners minds work, but remember many students have come to grief trying to spot questions! Exam Technique Exam Technique Start to write fairly quickly Take your best question first - or second Plan your answer to each question Draw up a time plan - and stick to it! Attempt all questions asked for Write legibly Do not cross out rough work Review Examiners’ pet hates Failing to answer the question set Failing to follow instructions Poor Presentation Failing to check for obvious errors Six helpful hints Read the rubric on the front of the exam paper and make sure you understand what you have to do Read all the questions through carefully before starting Answer the number of questions you were asked to; no more, no less If you are stuck on a question, move on to the next one. It is much easier to get 40% on a question than it is to improve your mark from 50% to 90% Write your plan in the answer book. If you run out of time, it is probably worth a few marks. It is much easier to get full marks for a calculation than for an essay And Finally: Remember Exams are a “game” Play by the rules and you will win!
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