Most peoples experience of exam tips probably extends to having been told to work hard so that they will remember a whole bunch of stuff on exam day. In itself that advice is not terribly useful. It doesn’t tell you how you’re going to rememer that stuff, or what steps you need to take to ensure you are well prepared when it comes to exam time. It’s as though we are just expected to somehow know by magic, without the need to be specifically taught how! How can you ever reach your true potential exam success if you don’t know how to revise effectively, how to prepare yourself, or what approach to take to your exam paper on exam day?
I’ve seen education both as a student, a university teacher and an examiner. A few years ago, and ten years after completing my formal education, I did a part-time course in mathematics, and then later another in animal behaviour. At the time I was working full-time, so studying was confined to evenings and weekends. It was only then that I really discovered and appreciated the importance of study and exam technique. By following some simple guidelines I completed the courses and gained distinctions. If only I’d knew about these techniques the first time round. If only all students could follow the guidelines.
If you are serious about achieveing exam success you need to find out about exam and revision technique well in advance of any exams. Here are a few exam tips about some revision techniques, to get you started, and thinking about how to achieve exam success:
- Try to compile revision summaries throughout the course, not just at the end of it.
- Don’t confuse making a neat copy of your notes with revision. Such an exercise is likely to takes lots of time and you may well still have little idea of what’s in your notes when you’ve completed it! You should, however, make sure you have all the necessary information for revision, and that you understand it. You’ll remember things better if you understand them. If you get stuck with anything note down the problem so you can either look it up or ask about it later (your teacher, or a friend who “got that bit”).
- To make revision summaries divide each subject into topics and list the headings under each topic. In this way you’ll be creating an index of what needs revising as well as dividing your revision into easy to manage sections. Make revision notes of the key points for each heading. Use lesson summaries to guide you, if these were provided.
- Condense your notes by creating a list of headings with keywords for each point, selecting the most important points. You might want to make your revision notes as a series of summary cards.
- Some people remember better if they visualize what they are memorizing. If that’s you then make visually memorable notes: use colour, diagrams and mind maps, for example. You might even consider putting up posters of key information around your home.
- Note down each topic on your revision plan, to ensure that everything’s allotted revision time.
- Try to answer practice questions using only your revision notes. If you can’t then modify your notes. When you’re happy that you can answer questions from your notes revise from these.Eventually you should try and answer questions without the aid of your notes.
- At least once you should simulate an exam situation with ‘a set and timed examination paper’. The paper should be as near to the true exam format as possible. The easiest way to ensure this is so is to use a past exam or sample paper. This “mock” exam will not only test how much you know but also get you more used to the “exam atmosphere”, helping to reduce your anxiety about the “real thing”.
- Evaluate answers by checking them against your notes. Examine them to see how they could be improved. Highlight anything you missed, along with anything that’s incorrect. Re-revise this information.
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