Preparing for Examinations

The purpose of examinations is to measure how well you have understood a subject. If you have read widely and taken notes and understood the topics, you will be able to write about the subject from different points of view. There is no substitute for breadth of reading in the exams of lecture-based modules. Use the course syllabus to give you some idea of the likely content of the exam. In class your lecturer will also provide information about the scope and content of the exam. Make sure you know where and when the exam is taking place, how long it lasts and how many questions you will have to answer. Find out if there are any compulsory components and if all questions have the same value. If in doubt make sure you take the opportunity to discuss your concerns with your tutor before-hand.

Examination Techniques

The first rule is DON’T PANIC!

The general principles you should then follow are:

  • Make sure you spend time reading the paper thoroughly, especially the instructions.
  • Choose all the questions you are going to answer before you start writing.
  • Make sure you understand the question. Though it is tempting to start writing immediately, it is better to spend time planning so that you know exactly what you want to write.
  • Make notes and draw up a brief essay plan.
  • Your answer must be specific to that question and you must not wander off the topic. It should be simple, concise and to the point. Even if you don’t necessarily know enormous amounts about the topic, you will do far better if you answer the question directly; writing everything you know about some topic which is not relevant to the question will get you nowhere.
  • Time allocation to each question is crucial. Allow yourself time to answer each question equally and keep to that time allocation. Leave a few minutes at the end for checking your script. It is FAR better to spend equal time on each question in a standard three answer paper than to spend a disproportionate amount of time on one question.

General information and University regulations relating to examinations can be found at www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/exams

When the Examinations Office publish the examination timetable, please bear in mind it is only a draft, and examinations can be moved. You should ensure that you check the final examination timetable in planning your revision. Information about when the timetable is made available can be found here.

The Use of Dictionaries in Exams

University regulations allow students who are not native speakers of English to use a dictionary – translating between their native language and English only – in exams. The dictionary must be approved in advance by the Student Services Information Desk, who will supply an official form confirming the approval. This form must be produced at each exam in which you use the dictionary.