Exam Tips

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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by Ciar n McMahon

Going for Gold
Doing an exam is like entering an athletic event. There is a certain amount of training, preparation, and then the day itself. If the conditions are tough this is where the training comes in handy, as you can fall back on the things that you have done before. You may be able to make a good start but the difference is spreading your energy (or knowledge) over the whole course. Here are some tips to get you into training for the big event.

Keep your head. Don’t let anyone else bother you. This is your exam, this is your opportunity to maintain your college average! Or else make a big mark for yourself – so no one else can put pressure on you. If you are beginning to feel anxious about the exams that means you care (that’s good!). Any time that anxiety arrives get used to the idea by doing a little amount every day or every second day. This will keep your nerves down and also use your energy to make you more prepared – that way the tension doesn’t build up.

Getting Ready
This is something that you have signed up for so get used to the idea and don’t push it out of your mind. It is something that is part of the process and it will happen – unless you elope to South America with the college librarian! So, get used to the idea that you are going to do this test. That way it won’t panic you.

Three people to talk to:

Someone a year ahead. If you talk to someone who has done the test, they can give you an overview of what is involved and what is generally required. This will give you an idea of the way the exam is put together, the content, and the form that it takes.

Your Lecturer: Try to make an appointment with your lecturer or at least get a good idea of what is involved in the whole process. This will keep you relaxed – the more you know the less you panic. It will also look like you are interested in doing well. Find out how long the exam will take – how many questions and time per question is crucial information. Find out the format of the test. (E. g. four out of six questions, one compulsory question, etc. ) and everything that you need for the test – calculator, ruler, (Bible!) Also, find out what the overall mark for the test is.

College classmates This is always a delicate area as they may steer you away from your focus. Find out if they have any past exam papers or any notes or hints that you may have missed. Stick to the ones that are positive about the exam. Stay away from the “Oh my God’s”. Ask the right questions to keep your cool. You may find someone to share the study load and swap with.

Get “In the Know”
Nothing can replace knowledge of the subject you’ll be quizzed on. Don’t be afraid to read up on different areas to get a good overview of the whole course. That way you know what you need to concentrate on and your strengths and weaknesses. Some of the elements of the course will come easy to you get good at these parts and have them as your strengths. You can show your lecturer these parts in answers to demonstrate how well you know your subject.

Practice Runs

Practice having a go at sample questions as they might appear in the exam, in the time allowed.

Give yourself an out-of-the-blue 40-minute pop quiz.

See what you know about all you have learned in different surroundings. It may be perfect in the silence of your cold flat but get used to being in different places and see if the knowledge comes back to you!

Establish regular sleep patterns that will coincide with the time of the exam so you won’t feel half-asleep during the exam.

Go for it!
On the day try to be as relaxed as possible. Before you go in, take some quiet time for yourself and calm yourself if you can even try to enjoy it. Consider that you are trying to impress someone that knows nothing about the subject. Try to explain it as simply as you can.

From the Horses Mouth
Here are elements that are important to lecturers since the beginning of time:

Write clearly. They can only give marks for the writing that they can read!

Answer the question! Lecturers can only give marks for answers to the question. For example, if the question says compare Chemical A with Chemical B. If your answer just discusses Chemical A then this doesn’t answer the question.

Keep the waffle for the weekend! Some students like to write pages and pages, but they will get similar marks to students that answer in one paragraph. Believe it or not! You only have a short time to answer questions. Thinking about the answer for half the time and spending the other half writing a short answer is better than thinking as you write. Scratch your chin and then come out with the best profound statement that you can.

Tell them what question you are doing! Make sure the lecturer knows precisely which question you are answering. (Some of them aren’t very bright!) Answer question parts together. While writing clearly is important, don’t spend too much time making “pretty” diagrams.

The answer that gets the most marks can be the one in your own words. This demonstrates your understanding of the question. If you rattle off chunks from the textbook, and quotes from Stephen Hawkins it may look like you do not understand the question and may get less marks.

If you are running out of time, at least write some key words and phrases. Blank answers get no marks.

Finally, remember – a few prayers never did me or anyone else any harm!

Good Luck!

Frank Bolger

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