It’s the final count down!

Exams and revision can be a worrying time. Here are some tips based on over 40 years’ teaching experience.

April 7, 2024
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1. You should start with the syllabus. Your examiner certainly will in setting the paper.  Look carefully at exactly what is wanted. You can check this online and they are normally available to download from the exam board’s website.

2. Next you should be looking at past papers. Check the time involved, the format and mark allocation. You will almost certainly have seen a few, while working with your tutor, but now is the time for concentrated study.

3. Next you should look at the examiners’ notes. They will also be online, alongside the exam paper and mark scheme. As a veteran examiner, it is important to understand the examination process. At the same time as the exam, the board will send out a copy of the paper and, when it is over, a small selection of scripts. The examiner will then mark them, using the notes. Then, there is a joint meeting and discussion of any issues; now usually done by zoom, but we used to go to London. After this, a final mark scheme is devised. Examiners’ marking is monitored in relation to these notes. What the exam board thinks is good practice is important!

4. Successful revision is organised revision.  Break down your revision into topics. Subdivide into sections – say class work, mock exams and homework. Organise your own system around files, the computer or what works best for you.

5. Revise in sections. Don’t do the whole syllabus in one go. You will build confidence by being secure in one section before moving on.

6. Practice the skills involved in your subject.  For example, essay writing, analysing texts and writing up experiments.

7. Use the internet but sensibly. There is a lot of good stuff there, but not all of it is helpful. Get your tutor’s advice.

8. Study guides can be very helpful. Exam boards often produce guides that support their courses. In arts subjects, for example, the York Notes can also be very helpful. Again, get you tutor’s advice.

9. Look after yourself. Regard yourself as an athlete, in training for a big event. Get some sleep, do some exercise and take relaxation breaks.

10. Work with your support system. Family, relatives and friends can be very helpful. But be careful of panic merchants and those that know it all!

11. Discuss and plan exam technique. How long will you spend on each section? What skills are needed on different questions? Never leave an exam early – always check and revise. People pass / fail and get different grades within a few marks. Do have a revision plan. Make it a sensible one with some time for relaxation. Check and make sure you have the exact time and date for each exam. Try and find a place where you can revise without interruption.  

12. Work with your tutor. He or she is qualified in your subject and has experience of the assessment process. If you don’t understand – ask. If you are not sure – check. Discuss your work and get advice.

Good luck – hard work and preparation brings dividends.