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Examiners want you to PASS, to give you marks. The exam is an opportunity (not a torture) for you to demonstrate that you have engaged in and with the course material, come to understand it and are able to show that in writing your exam.

  • The thought of examinations can cause students anxiety.  If this is true for you, one of the best ways to cope is to feel in control, which can be achieved through preparation. 
  • Think about how you prepare for an exam.  Look for areas where you think you can improve and reflect on the possible strategies you might try.  Use the same process for how you take an examination.
  • Make use of self-management, especially planning, and support strategies in conjunction with revision and exam-taking strategies.

The following are some strategies and suggestions to be aware of when examining your own method.


Intellectual Preparation

You will want to be prepared intellectually for an examination and the key is revision.  If you have been studying regularly and effectively, your job will be easier.

  • As your exam approaches make a revision timetable listing the topics to be revised, what aspects, and how long you think it will take.  Schedule it!  You will not be able to do the whole course so use goal setting and time-management skills to be selective.
  • Avoid re-reading texts.  You took good notes (!) so use them.  View your notes critically, try to condense them, using this as a means to restructure your knowledge, this aids recall at a later date.
  • Try to become familiar with the exam’s purpose and format.
  • If the purpose of revision is for understanding, try to process the information on a deep level by making it meaningful:

    ~ impose organisation via categories, diagrams etc. 
    ~ make associations to information already known
    ~ try to establish relationships among material 
    ~ use imagery 
    ~ try to find general rules, patterns, or principles

  • If the purpose of revision is for memory recall, use strategies that emphasise rote memorisation of facts:

    ~ overlearning - read same chapter several times, index cards, etc.
    ~ allow plenty of time to practice and repeatedly review material

  • Analyse past examination papers - this gives you a chance to practice:

    ~ choose a question and plan answers in outline form 
    ~ write out complete answers and time yourself

  • Work with other students - they might think of something you didn’t and vice versa and they may provide different perspectives on a topic.
  • There are other ways to revise, ask friends, tutors etc. what they do.

Emotional Preparation

It is also important to be emotionally prepared for your examination.

  • Develop a positive attitude - exams are useful because they let you measure your knowledge.
  • Relax - too much anxiety interferes with performance, too little can also hinder.  If you are very anxious practice stress management techniques like deep breathing and positive self talk.
  • Use concentration and motivation strategies as necessary.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.