Exam Preparation – Best Practice for Best Results
By Steve Bracken
No matter how much or how little you study one thing is crucial for you to realize; you are being tested by an examination so you must practice answering examination questions. How you approach these practice questions will greatly affect your exam success. Here’s what you have to do. Never answer questions with the text book or study notes in front of you. It is essential that you practice your exam questions under the same conditions you will face in the exam!
Even if you promise yourself not to look, a brief glance unknown to yourself will help you answer a part of a question and lead to believe that you know it when you don’t! When you find yourself hitting a brick wall in an exam on material you thought you knew, this can be one of the causes. Even the psychological comfort of having your study notes nearby is something you won’t have in the exam and once you find yourself without them you will feel the pressure.
Time yourself. Write down the time at the start of each question and at the end. Don’t worry if you go over the allocated time, you will improve with practice. But do keep an eye on how long you are taking. If you are consistently over the time, then either you are writing too much or you do not know your content well enough and you are taking too long to think about it.
Usually if you have practiced a lot and are still taking too long, you do know your material but are writing too much. Pay more attention to the wording of your questions, and the marks awarded for each section, if this is available. This will help you gauge the depth required. Ask your teacher to correct some of your answers to see what you can safely leave out.
You may have studied your material well and still not get the marks you deserve. Or you may have less work done and still maximize your results in the exam. What do you need to do to? Practice exactly what you have to do in the exam by doing as many exam questions as you can under the right conditions.
Assuming you are already working without any notes or text, timing yourself and learning how much you have to write as discussed earlier, then you are already on track.
Find out as much as you can about what is required in the exam questions. Pay attention to the action words in the questions. State, define, explain, give an outline, compare…..learn exactly what is required by these words. They will tell you how deep to go in your answers.
Too many exam entrants look for the content words in the question to see what it is about and then dump whatever they know on the page. It’s better than nothing, but especially if you are well prepared, you will probably write too much and gain no marks at all for the extra parts you write!! It doesn’t matter how much you know if the question doesn’t ask about it!
Get to know your syllabus. Find out in each section the depth required. Don’t rely too much on your text books – they contain a lot of extra information to help explain what you need to know or to make it more relevant or interesting. Make the most of your teacher’s expertise.
Listen to your teachers and ask their advice. They will be delighted to see you thinking in such a proactive way about your own study progress and will save you a lot of time that you could waste trying to find out for yourself.