Exam Techniques

 

Sometimes the problem is not with knowledge but your ability to relay information in the exam. Every exam and exam board want you to answer specific questions in a particular way so the best thing you can do is read and reread exam mark schemes and examples. There are so many circumstances that can contribute to throwing you off during the exam, and in this post, I will talk through a few.

Staying Calm 

Once you sit down and your heart beats faster than you ever thought possible, it can be difficult to chill out, so here are a few tips:

  1. BE CONFIDENT in the amount of time you have spent revising. Revision is the foundation of your knowledge and it should not be neglected. If you are struggling to revise, have a glance at my Revision Techniques post.
  2. Take a deep breath before you open the paper. If you rush straight into it, your heart rate might increase and cause you to panic. All it takes is ten seconds while everyone is aggressively flipping through the exam paper – not really answering any questions.
  3. Don’t panic when you come across a question you can’t answer, just move on and come back later (I used to draw a star on that page to remind me). In some papers like Maths, there will be a few questions that are deliberately difficult. These questions are to distinguish between A and A* students so don’t beat yourself up if you are struggling.

Answering questions

Obviously, a Physics paper is going to be different from an English paper when it comes to how you answer the questions. Therefore, I have categorised the types of questions you might get into mathematical, essay and statement questions.

Mathematical questions – These include some questions found in Physics papers. With many Maths questions, there are a couple of marks for your working out, even if you get the incorrect answers. So, even if you feel that you can’t get the answer, by only putting a few calculations down you could get some marks. Also, if you have gotten an answer, try putting it back through the equations to see if it actually works: this is a great way to self-check as best as you can.

Essay questions – People believe that the more fluffy they are in essays the better they will do, but this is utterly wrong. It is key in essays to be as clear as possible. Keep to a strong structure and use direct points that don’t beat around the bush. You can establish the structure and your points in the introduction, however, steer clear from rattling on. Although I have mentioned that keeping your points clear is important, they still need to be interesting and original ideas that are conveyed in a sophisticated way if you want to get the best grades. Writing that ‘The writer portrays him as timid and fearful’ is better than ‘He is shown as afraid’. 

Statement questions – These questions can vary between each other and between subjects: the best course of action is to speak to your teachers and to check the mark schemes and exam examples. With most questions, the way you answer depends on the trigger words of the question, for example: explain, analyse and describe. A rough guide is that describe = state the answer, explain = give evidence, and analyse = explain the effect(s).

Ignoring noises

One of the toughest things to do in the exam is to ignore any sound that you might hear or any distraction that might arise. It is hard to combat these issues in the exam. My advice is to take a few deep, slow breaths and read your question slowly while making sure you understand what it is asking. In reality, there shouldn’t be anything distracting you in the exam, but if something is disturbing you, put your hand up and tell the invigilator – they will try their hardest to help you.

GOOD LUCK, you will be great!

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Check out this post if you don’t know how to prepare for your exams!

Revision Techniques

It’s easy to get lost when it comes to revision, especially when you have no idea where or how to begin. You need to develop your own technique that suits you best, however, it’s understandable if you haven’t the foggiest. So until then here are some top tips and methods…

Stationery 

Some of the most exciting types of shops are stationery shops, who knew?  Pens, rubbers, highlights, and labels get students more excited than Riverdale (well, maybe not). It’s great to buy all of this equipment if you are really going to use it all. I am warning you, I have some sticky labels that never left their packets, sitting in the bottom of my drawers. If all of the stuff you are buying helps you, go for it, however, beware the trap of caring more about pens than your actual revision.

Make your revision look appealing but try not to waste your time in over-doing it. Drawing a detailed diagram of a pig to match your English ‘Animal Farm’ revision is not going to help, if you must, restrain yourself to a five-second sketch.

Related imageFlashcards

It is hard not to become self-deprecating when your classmate whips out a huge stack of perfectly written flashcards, but please don’t worry about it. Flashcards may be great but they are extremely time-consuming and not always helpful depending on your topic. If you are studying a language or memorising quotes then flashcards could be perfect for you: for languages, you can write a list of English verbs on one side and their counterparts on the other, and for quotes, you can ask a friend to test how many cards you can memorise.  I would recommend that if you are using flashcards, limit yourself to using them for keywords or phrases only.

Posters 

If you’re a visual learner this method may be for you. I had a friend who liked to be able to see all of the links in her subjects, so she made huge posters full of colours, arrows, and diagrams. She was able to understand the content a lot clear by seeing it in this way, whereas it confused me far too much! This technique can also be helpful as you can get an entire topic area on one page that you can easily refer back to later. Also, the posters are more accessible than other methods as they can always be displayed somewhere.

Note Condensing 

I learnt this method from my GCSE Biology teacher. It is a process of learning and memorising, rather than a creation of revision material, which I preferred. You begin with notes that you have made in previous lessons and slowly condense them until you have a page of words and short phrases. From this single sheet of paper, you attempt to recite everything you can about the topic while getting someone else to see if you have mentioned everything on the page.

For some, this method could be confusing, however, I found that it helped me to cover larger topic areas and it improved my knowledge of the subject in greater depth.

Past Papers 

When it comes to exam techniques, this is how you prepare yourself well. Printing off loads of past papers can definitely come in handy during your revision. Start by completing a few papers without time restrictions but with the mark scheme so you can learn how to approach the exam questions. After developing your skills, move on to doing the papers without the mark scheme and then with time restrictions. This method can be helpful in noticing how the exam board wants you to answer certain types of question, and sometimes there can be repeated questions from previous years (especially at GCSE).

Teaching 

Many say that the best way to learn something is to teach someone else, and I couldn’t agree more. When you are teaching someone, you aren’t talking at them, you have to explain something in greater depth when they don’t understand and demonstrate with examples. Teaching requires you to think about your course material differently depending on who you are explaining it to, this causes you to think deeply and store the information better.

So…

Ultimately the best revision will use a combination of these revision methods and maybe others too, so try to find what works for you. Remember revision is key so don’t underestimate its importance! There are many other methods that I haven’t mentioned and if you have a really great one feel free to leave a comment or contact me.

HAPPY REVISING! And share this post with your friends.


 

Check out this post if you are stressed or worried about exams.

How to Be Ready for Exams (Even if You’re Not)

Exam season has fallen upon us and everywhere I look there are panicked, stressed out students trying to cram two years worth of information into a disinterested brain. Why do they do this to themselves, one might ask? Teens… We never learn, but hopefully, I am here to change that. When I was doing exams last year, I was constantly regarded with a look of fear as I explained how I wasn’t stressed or anxious; despite a lack of revision or an impossible imminent exam. This is because unknowingly, I had coaxed myself into following three rules: Dedication, Preparation, and Relaxation.

Dedication 

Don’t get me wrong, by dedication I do not mean working on a single subject for five hours without rest until it is all completely memorised. What I mean is spending the time when revising to remove all possible distractions – yes, that means your phone – and giving yourself a chunk of time to focus. Easier said than done, right? Wrong. If you are struggling to focus, don’t beat yourself up, just take a break and come back afterwards, even if you can only work for ten minute periods, at least you are working. These little snip-its of time spent revising will begin to add up without you even noticing, as long as you stick at it (one ten minute session will not result in an A*).

Warning!!!!

When taking a break don’t waste your time or allow your brain to switch off. Flicking onto Netflix is not the way to go here, you will fall into the trap of the ‘next episode’ button far too easily. We all know no-one is strong enough to resist ‘just one more’. Instead, take a short walk, make a drink or have something to snack on. Your aim is to keep your brain stimulated but not working too hard.

Preparation 

Step 1 in ways to stress yourself out: making revision notes/cards in April when your exam is in May.

Step 2: realising that you have gotten some information in your notes/cards wrong the day before the exam.

We all do it – we go through the year thinking our exams are months and months away, but before we know it they are only weeks away. Even if you spend time beautifully making those biology revision cards, you’re only creating revision MATERIALS and not actually revising. Yes, some of that information will stick in your head but not all of it, so make your notes and flashcards etc. as you work through the syllabus, for example, if you learn about World War II in Year 10, make your revision notes in Year 10.

This type of preparation will seem boring and pointless when exams are a year or more off, but trust me, an extra ten minutes after your lesson making proper notes will save you a lot of grief later on.

Relaxation

For me this was THE most important part of my revision, taking time to plan a period when you purposely didn’t work. This meant planning to watch a movie one night, taking a day off in the holidays to go shopping, and always getting enough sleep. A motto I repeated countless times during my GCSEs was “If you don’t know it by 10 pm you won’t know it by 3 am.” Some of you might scoff at this, and I am sure for some of you working late into the night is when you are working at your best, however, the point I was trying to make was that trying to force information into a tired head won’t be helpful. The best way to be calm and ready for the exam the next day is to be feeling refreshed. This was my biggest secret: whether I had revised or not, I would make sure I had time to get enough sleep.

Image result for clock

Obviously, I don’t speak for everyone, some people will work in a completely different way. My advice is to make use of the TIME you have: try out different techniques and see what works for you. If revising the day before an exam stresses you out, try not doing it then and do it a few days prior instead. If you are struggling to retain information, try a different revision method (there are loads out there). And if you can, try to remember that the stress you feel before an exam is not necessarily a bad thing – it is your body preparing you for the challenge to come.

GOOD LUCK!