Do not fall into the trap of thinking that a good memory is the only thing you need for passing exams. Exams tend to be about what you understand, more than about what you can remember. If you revise effectively, throughout the year and before the exam, and have a good understanding of the subject, then you have the potential to do well.
It is crucial to adopt a positive mental attitude. Nerves are fine in moderation, but not if they become disabling. Think of an exam as a challenge, a way to demonstrate your knowledge. If you have been working steadily and have succeeded in your assignments, there is no reason why you should not do well in the exam.
Ideally, you should have been reviewing your work throughout the year as discussed above. If not, you still need to allow plenty of time to revise – at least 6 to 8 weeks. You will need to get organised and start your revision well in advance of the exam start date. At all costs avoid last minute panic and cramming.
Going through past question papers is very helpful. You can familiarise yourself with the format of the paper and the wording of the questions. Past papers may also act as a guide to the types of topic which crop up in the exam, but do not rely on this too much! Practise making brief plans to answer the questions. You do not need to answer the question in full, but by going through what you know, selecting the most relevant material and ordering it coherently, you are practising a technique which will be used in the exams.
Techniques for the exam itself
Plan your exam time in advance. Set a time limit for each question. Take your watch off and place it on the desk so that you can keep to your time frame. Allow time for planning and checking.
When you have a paper with multiple choice or essay type questions read through quickly to start with:
the ones you can do.
? the ones you are unsure about.
x the ones you definitely cannot do.
Look very carefully at each question before starting your answer to make sure you understand exactly what is required.
1 Box the instruction words.
2 Underline the key points.
3 Make a quick plan.
4 Get to the point quickly. Make it clear through punctuation or sub-headings where one aspect of the question has been answered and another begins.
5 Try not to give vague, generalised remarks but do give plenty of explanations and examples. Examiners can only give you credit for what you actually write; they do not assume any knowledge.
Coping with pre-examination stress
Do not drink too much caffeine – it encourages over-production of adrenalin. Try herb teas or fruit juices instead.
Try relaxation exercises or music.
As the starting time looms, think of all the things you can do, not all the things you cannot.
Allow yourself time for rest and recreation.
Some reasons why you might not get the grades you hope for
Exams are not meant to trick you, but to give you the chance to demonstrate your knowledge. Exams also aim to see how well you can select from your relevant knowledge and apply it to the particular question. Sometimes students do badly, not because they have not revised or do not have sufficient knowledge, but because they try to write down everything they know about the topic and so do not answer the question properly.
Some of the main reasons why students fail to gain the marks they hope for:
Failing to answer the question set.
Misinterpreting the question, perhaps because they misread the instruction words or specialist terms.
Not reading the instructions carefully.
Not writing answers in the way they are required.
Not referring sufficiently or selectively to the course material.
Running out of time, so that the final question is not answered in sufficient depth.
Not checking through the paper carefully to avoid obvious mistakes, such as dates or simple mathematical calculations.
Writing long, complex sentences where the meaning gets lost.