• Understanding human memory
• Making better use of human memory
• To Use this information to develop
effective study / Revision skills
• To introduce examination strategies
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Study and Examination tips
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1. You are studying because you want the
opportunity to earn more money.
2. You have a limited amount of time to
3. You want to pass your exams with the
minimum amount of effort
4. In the present economic climate – you
want to keep your job!
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• Write down the non-human animals you
have just seen on the slides
• How many were there?
• Write down the names of the organisations
I have worked for and the job that I had
with each of them.
• Studying often involves learning lists and
other sets of data – for example:-
• International Accounting Standards
• International Standards of Auditing
• Formulae – Standard costing / Variance
• Algorithms and diagrams – Porters 5
• Learning requires us to remember facts
• Memory allows us to make sense of all the
data which is coming our way through our
senses. This is helped considerably if we
understand what we are trying to learn.
• Some memory is very short and some is
very long – the trick is to use the one to
enhance the other!
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• I use as my sources Alan D. Baddeley who was,
when he wrote the book I am using, at Bristol
University and Gillian Cohen who was at the
time of my study a Senior Lecturer with the OU
who wrote Chapter 12 of the OU‟s introduction to
• The latter sparked in me a long term interest in
how people learn which has informed my
teaching and I believe kept me in teaching,
rather than returning to practice or retiring and
latterly studying for a Masters Degree in
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Memory and learning to pass exams
• If we understand how our memory works
we can maximise the effect of the limited
time we have available.
• If you are studying for fun or to broaden
your mind – then relax and enjoy!
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• Memory is not the mere reproduction of events – it is a
perception which informs our actions.
• Memory is an overloaded system and remembering is
• Memory processes involve –acquisition, retention and
retrieval/ recall. Made easier if we understand the
• New memories are integrated with old ones to form
knowledge which is used to inform new experiences
• Memory is affected by our emotional state – stress or
lethargy induce memory loss.
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Short Term Memory
• To understand this sentence you have to be
able to remember the beginning until you get to
• Now multiply 23 by 7
• To do both these tasks you need some kind of
accessible memory storage.
• But having completed the task there is no need
to remember it – so if it is remembered it just
clogs up the system
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Digit Span Exercise
• You‟ll be shown a number of digits for 10
• You should try to remember them
• Do not speak aloud
• Do not write them down until told to do so.
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• Similar exercise but digits in chunks of
• Do the same as before
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Impact of interference
• Similar exercise but with an intervening
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• Why was that more difficult?
• Short term memory is both short - about 7
seconds- and limited in space.
• The time can be increased by rehearsal –
repetition of the word or digits being
• But this takes up space – fill that space with
something else and the memory is lost.
• There are exceptions to this – e.g. flashbulb
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• Short term memory receives input from
visual / spatial sketchpad, phonological
loops (auditory), touch, smell and long
• Short term memory includes the working
memory you use to work out sums and
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Environmental processes store
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• Working Memory
Executive Phonological loop
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• Central Executive and Phonological loop
can distinguish between noise and speech
• It can ignore noise but it is more difficult to
• It will pick up sudden unexpected noises
• Music without words is less intrusive than
music with words.
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• Central Executive and visuo – spatial
sketch pad will pick up visual stimuli.
• Will ignore that which is not necessary but
will not ignore something important
• i.e. when driving or when an attractive
person goes by!!
• But – left to its own devices it will decide
what is important and what is not.
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Long Term Memory
• Unlimited in capacity
• Organised into schema
• Memory organisation is critical to recall
• Schema represent books or files in a filing
cabinet – get something into the wrong
one and it is difficult to find.
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• So could have a schema entitled picnics.
• Each picnic is recorded in the file. After a few
entries are made in the file it becomes difficult to
distinguish between one picnic and another –
but we recognise a picnic when we see one! So
individual picnics are not stored – unless
something serious happens – but generic
picnics are. The more picnics the bigger the
generic picnic information stored.
• We call it experience!
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• Memory can be dependant on context,
mood, the external environment and any
number of other attention grabbing things.
Things which affect our ability to learn
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– Sleep – Normality – Panic
– Caffeine – Alcohol
– Music – somnolent or stirring
– Extraneous thoughts and memories
– Other people / noises off
– Stress and worry
– Music with words
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– If you understand it – you are more likely to
– Why on earth am I going through all this?
– I‟d rather be on the Golf Course / at Tai Chi
lesson / Camping – anywhere but here!!!
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• The next slide contains a list.
• I should like you to spend 60 seconds
learning this list.
• You should not speak to anyone else – but
you may repeat silently to yourself.
• Do not speak to anyone else during this
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• dollar; ladle; golf; hour; beer
• jade; air; berry; leaflet; scissors
• nurse; camel; nut; mirror; cello
• cabbage; ant; trout; board; sand
• word; iron; boat; queen; canvas
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• Now do the following sums:
• 7 x 271 =
• 8 x 196 =
• 3 x 482 =
• Now write down all the words you can
remember from the list.
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• Turn over the page so that you cannot see
• In a few seconds I‟d like you to look at the
list I am going to give you.
• Please tick all the words on this list that
are in the first list.
• This should only take a couple of minutes
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• With any luck at all you will have ticked
more words than you could remember –
but you will also have ticked some words
not on the first list
• This has reproduced an experiment to
demonstrate two aspects of memory
retrieval – recall and recognition.
• There are others which demonstrate the
effect of distractions.
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• Read the Extract A
• Take a few minutes to read the extract –
once only - do not backtrack – do not
discuss – do not make notes or highlight
the words in any way.
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• When I say GO!
• On a blank piece of paper write out the
story you read.
• Take no more than 5 minutes.
• Do not refer to anything or anyone – i.e.
do not look it up, do not discuss.
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• Now in small groups share your story
• Notice the differences
• Refer back to the original -
• What have you missed?
• What have you added that was not there
in the original?
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Improving your memory
• Let‟s be clear from the start – whether or
not you can improve your memory is still
open for discussion.
• Does brain training work – well who
• BUT – you can use your memory more
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Attention and Interest.
• How can some people remember horse race
winners or the intimate details of football teams.
• How come you can remember some things with
ease but not always what you study?
• How come you forget someone‟s name the
instant you‟re told it – but you remember the
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• One answer is attention and interest
• The more attention you give to a topic the
more you are likely to remember it.
• The more interest you have in a topic the
more you are likely to remember it.
• Problem is that most of what you have to
study is boring – or of little immediate
value and lacks context.
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• So how to make it more interesting?
• Well one thing you can do is to use your
imagination – if you are reading
Leadership and Management, imagine
that you are in charge of the office and you
have a problem with staff – then look for
the solution to that problem. Visualise the
office and the people in it as you read – as
if you were telling them about it.
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• Whether we like it or not most human‟s
fantasise for much of the time. I like to call
it mind jogging!
• Such mind jogging performs a useful
function if used correctly – it enables us to
sort information into a logical memorable
order, to make sense of disparate facts, to
strengthen neurological pathways,
anticipate and prevent problems occurring.
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• Pay attention to what you are reading.
• Argue with the author – try to relate it to the world you
live in. e.g. there‟s a coalition government and public
spending cuts – for Public Finance and GPP it‟s a boon.
• Teaching a subject helps you learn it – so teach your
• Agree between you who will teach what – all have to
study the material – one teaches it and a discussion
• What was boring remains of itself boring but you
generate more interest and a different perspective.
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• Just like the books or DVD‟s on a shelf or
books in a library - if the storage systems
is chaos then finding them will be difficult.
• Human memory is the just the same –
unless information is properly stored its
retrieval will be difficult. The more chaotic
the more difficult it becomes.
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• We‟ve already talked about long term memory
and schema storage systems.
• If properly organised these can help you to
• Organisation helps in two ways –
– It structures what is being learned so that recall is
facilitated – remembering a fragment of information
enables retrieval of the rest
– It enables new learning to be linked to existing
knowledge so that the new learning is more easily
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How to get organised?
• This depends on the material you are
learning but in general it helps if you can
relate the material directly to you.
• By making it important in your daily life the
material takes on a life of its own and is
more easily remembered.
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• Repetition is good for you.
• “Practice makes perfect” is not just a
saying – it actually works.
• What‟s the difference between an amateur
and a professional?
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• An amateur practices until he/she gets it
right – a professional practices until he/she
can‟t get it wrong.
• Sounds trite but think of the truth behind it.
• If you want to remember something - then
it needs repetition – we‟ve seen this from
the short term - long term memory earlier.
• Or have you forgotten?????
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• We lead busy busy lives – today I got up at 5.45
– showered etc, wrote a Strategic Management
Accounting lecture for a Master‟s programme,
drove to Fiskerton, caught the train here to
deliver this, will catch the train home, will go to a
meeting this evening until after 9.00 – and retire
about 11.00. All in all I‟ll be on the go for about
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• But wait ….. I sat in a train for two hours
here – and back! That‟s four hours of
• Most of the time we mind jog during these
intervals – fantasy plays an important part
in our psychological health – but we can
use the interval time effectively for study if
we incorporate it into our mind jogging.
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• This is called transfer- appropriate processing
• Very few examiners at your level are going to
ask you to regurgitate the material you have
learnt but they are going to ask you to
manipulate the symbols you have learnt to solve
a new and exciting problem.
• So it‟s a good idea to try to learn as many
different applications as you can - so that you
open up a variety of pathways and are thus able
to apply you knowledge in many different ways.
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• If you concentrate on learning material
without thinking more deeply about it a
applying it to many different situations you
are in danger of finding that you cannot
apply it to a strange situation at
• The simplest example possible – we all
know 3 x 18 = 54.
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• Best way to learn a subject is to teach it.
• Teaching requires a different set of memory processes
and requires different forms of re- processing.
• This re- processing creates
– stronger links to the stored material
– a context in which the material is placed – thus aiding recall
– deepens understanding through rehearsal and discussion
– widens linkages and diversifies applications making its use in
new situations easier
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• Mnemonics – eg: CCCFLIP : ROYGBIV : PACE
• Places – using a very familiar place - like your
house – mentally putting things to remember in
• Association – associating the thing to be
remembered with something already in memory
i.e. Grumpy Graham, Baldy Ball
• Memory cards – random testing – self reward
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Poetry / Songs
• We learn songs and poems quite easily
because they are associated with a rhythm
of some kind – be it meter or music.
• Associating what we are trying to learn
with a song or a poem – using the music
and changing the words – helps us to
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• Associating what we are trying to learn
with some kind of visualisation helps.
• If the visualisation is striking then the
memory will be striking.
• “pictures on the wall help you to recall”
(Alison Kraus – 100 miles or more)
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Try this one – nine words – focus on a few
images that incorporate as many words
as possible –
shirt eagle paperclip
rose camera mushroom
crocodile sausage mayor
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• I got an eagle fighting a crocodile over a
• A photograph of a huge fat Mayor with a
frilly shirt and a rose on his lapel held on
with a paperclip eating a magic mushroom
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• Human memory is
• Much studying involves learning and
manipulating symbols which do not of
themselves have any context.
• Using techniques which help you utilise your
memory better tends to overcome these
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• Socio- cultural
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• What we need to do is to make the most
effective use of the time we have
• Our knowledge of how human memory
works enables us to develop strategies
that help it remember, thus reducing stress
and anxiety, and reducing wasted time
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• Reading and analysis
• Note taking
• Question practice
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• Quality time
– Set objectives for each session
– Control the environment
– Control interruptions
– Choose your best time- not your worst
– Work consistently until you have achieved
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• There is good research evidence to suggest:
– that we learn slower but more effectively in the
afternoon than the morning
– that we learn better if we break our learning into one
• We learn more effectively if :
– our arousal level is appropriate.
– we understand the meaning
– we are motivated
– we are not distracted
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• Read effectively - not superficially
– Scan Read the section first to get the broad picture.
– Slowly - taking care to understand each point in turn
before moving on to the next.
– Critically - challenge what you have read - test its
validity – be clear on its meaning before moving on.
– Analytically - understand its implications and plumb its
depths before moving on.
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– Test your understanding at the end of each section
– Repeat your reading if your understanding is in any
way in doubt.
– Discuss what you have read with others - with
colleagues – or even explaining to an innocent
spouse is extremely helpful in making things clear.
– Do not be afraid to test your understanding - you don‟t
get kicked for getting it wrong.
– Read regularly and frequently try not to „Blitz‟ it.
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• Our attention is governed by that part of the
memory system called the central executive. It
allows the short term memory to function and
controls the amount of attention given to an
• We can read without taking any notice of what
we read – but if we have to process it somehow
– then we have to pay attention.
• This helps our longer term memory to react.
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• Acquire a bound note book. Loose leaves
• Acquire a card index box and cards.
• Make notes on each section as you read
in your bound note book
• Or these days write a word document on a
specified computer file.
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• What notes to make.
• Note the key points, with cross reference
to the text.
• Note key examples on practical subjects.
• Note your understanding – the notes do
not reproduce the text.
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• At the end of the session note on cards
the key points, terms and techniques.
• Use these cards for revision. Only file
them when you know what‟s on them.
• Refer back to your bound note book or
word file for more information.
• Refer back to the text only in desperation!.
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• How to make notes.
• Notes should convey enough information
to remind you of the key points.
– They are not mere repetition of the text.
– They explain the text
– They reflect your understanding
– Point – Evidence - Implications
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• By making notes in this way you have
processed the information in the following
• Visually as you see it
• Phonologically has you have read it
• Symbolically as you convert it into words
and muscle movements to write it down
• Schematically as you consider and
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• Advantages of making notes.
– forces concentration
– forces active thinking reading
– aids understanding
– aids memory
– aids revision
– builds confidence
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• Advantages of transferring key information
– enables short time revision
– enables practice in unusual places
– trains the brain to „think‟ the subjects
– builds confidence
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• Advantages of discussions.
– Forces information reprocessing
– Forces formulation of arguments
– Forces assembling of evidence
– Forces consideration of implications
– Discussions do not follow the text and
therefore brings together disparate pieces of
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• Many Learning materials have activities /
• These have the function of assisting you to
memorise and understand the material
and to put it into practice.
• Do NOT skip the activities / exercises.
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• Doing the activities / exercises reinforces
the neurological links to the stored
• You recognise faces better than names –
you know the names of familiar people
because you use the retrieval system
frequently so it becomes stronger.
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• Repetition is good for you.
• How do we learn to drive? – by driving.
• Lists are learnt by rehearsal and by association
with something else which is easily learnt.
• Why do we learn poetry and song lyrics more
easily? Because the words flow or are linked to
• Association makes life easier.
• Hence the benefit of mnemonics.
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• Read extract A – just once – do not make
notes – do not discuss with anyone. In
small groups – discuss the story – make a
few notes and try to draw a conclusion
regarding what it is about – i.e. its context.
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• Understanding the context helps us
understand and remember – a socio –
cultural view of learning. Though much of
what we study is for the moment out of
context – we do not learn facts easily
when they are out of context.
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• Try this exercise –
• Fill in the blanks in extract B
• Read it through first to get the meaning –
then fill in the missing words.
• Again – do not consult with anyone.
• Again in small groups compare and
discuss and try to reach agreement on
what the words ought to be.
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The words were:
wanted; red; he; plans; tried; catch; a; one;
plans; thin; little; the; to; will; hen; best;
picked; slung; I; red; he.
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• Although not stated the context in extract
B was clear – it was a familiar story and so
putting the words in was not difficult – but
• It was from the “War of the Ghosts”
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Practice Questions and Question Practice
• Practicing Questions (especially past
examination questions) is designed to
– aid you memory
– aid your understanding
– give you practice at answering questions
– develop you examination technique
• Crucially it helps you understand the
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Practice question problem
• The answers are in the book or on the web!!
– This is designed to enable you to check your answers
AFTER you have tried them.
– If you got it wrong – do it again!
– It tells you what the examiner is looking for.
– A lot of candidates skip this essential practice and
look straight at the answers. Thus they never process
the information and do not remember it.
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• Practice numerical and written answers
until you can produce them in the required
• Repetition is good for you.
• You do not want a new and exciting
experience in the exam room
• This cannot be over emphasised!!.
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• Before the examination is the time to make
and correct mistakes -not during the
• Practice questions take time - you will
need to allocate at least three one hour
slots per subject each week for question
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• Good practice involves
– attempting the whole question,
– checking any points of non understanding
– checking the answer
– repeating the question if initial answer wrong
• Repetition is good for you!!
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How to handle difficulties
• Two strategies.
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– Denial - ignore difficulty - it does not exist
– Complaint - poor teaching - lack of employer
support – CIPFA/ CIMA/ ACCA/ ICAEW is
C**P any way and I don‟t really need to do it
– Scapegoating - all Graham Ball‟s fault
– Panic - realise two weeks before examination
that no one was listening to your whinging
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• Strategy TWO.
– Admission of problem
– Seek help - tutors - office managers – the
BOSS, colleagues, help lines
– Face the Dragon - attack difficult subject
areas - set aside additional time specifically
– Work the problem - keep working at it until the
penny drops - understanding - no problem!
– Pass!! Graham Ball Birmingham April 91
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• Panic does three things – all bad!
• Last minute revision over-writes what you
• Last minute revision does not stick
• Raises blood pressure and restricts flow of
oxygen to the brain – not what you want
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• If you have studied properly there is no
need for last minute revision
• Use your cards to refresh memory
• Revise solidly those things you do not
• Re- practice past examination questions
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• You already know what to expect in the
• So – practice doing past examination
papers to get used to 3 hour stretches
• Strip the questions – do the easy bits first
• Select best value for money questions
• Allocate time to each question and stick to
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Remember – PEI
• Keep your answers to written questions
short and sharp.
• One point per paragraph – 3 sentences –
20 words per sentence – Point Evidence
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Know your enemy!!
• Understand the Examiner
–Practice past papers
–Study the answers
–Learn what the B****** wants of
you and give it to him / her!
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• Quality Time - Make notes - Do the
activities - Use tutors, the Boss,
colleagues, help lines, anything!
• Practice questions
• Practice questions
• Practice questions
• Practice questions
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