Exam Techniques

Exams are not only designed to test your knowledge about a module’s content, they also evaluate your critical thinking skills and assess your ability to coherently present information under pressure. Although exams can be a stressful time for many students, they create a fair and level playing field and give you the opportunity to exhibit your knowledge and skills. Understanding the purpose of exams and adopting good exam technique will equip you to cope with the anxiety and achieve your potential. Exam Technique Screen

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At the beginning of an exam, it is important to read the entire paper carefully, noting how many questions you need to complete and the length of the exam. After reading the full paper, decide what questions you will answer and the order in which you will do them. It is not always sensible to choose ‘comfort zone’ topics; instead carefully read the question being asked and select the most appropriate subject. Next, consider how long you will spend on each question, ensuring that the time allocated to a particular question is in keeping with the number of marks available. Remember to leave some time for checking and proofreading.

Before you start writing, re-read each individual question and break it down into its component parts. Firstly, look for action verbs (such as analyse, argue, compare and contrast, criticise, discuss or evaluate) and think about the implications on your answer. Secondly, consider any limitations or restrictions that are presented within the question and highlight key words or phrases. Thirdly, spend some time planning your answer and ensure you stay focused on the question being asked. Examiners don’t want you to write everything you know; instead they want to see that you have critically engaged with the question set. As you write your answer, keep an eye on the time and move on if you run over or get stuck on a particular question. If you’re running out of time concentrate on the first sections of questions (which usually offer easy marks), write bullet points, and come to a conclusion.

Some subjects will have multiple choice exams. These can take different formats so make sure you know which one your exam will follow and find out if it involves negative marking. If this is the case, make sure you understand when it’s worth making an informed guess. As with any other exam, read the instructions carefully before you begin and know how long you can spend on each question. It is often a useful strategy to think of the answer before looking at the options, but be sure to read all the choices before making a decision. Sometimes there may be two answers that are worded similarly but with different meaning, so be sure to select the correct answer.

Top Tips
  • Arrive early
  • Bring spare pens, pencils, etc.
  • Avoid discussing the exam with classmates
  • Stay positive
  • Take water with you to the exam and sip throughout.
  • Read the questions carefully
  • Plan your time
  • Don’t panic
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