for GCSE students and above
Examinations are the culmination of all your studies (apart from actually using your knowledge in a work environment), and so much of the preparation is covered by the other articles in this series.
However, here are a few additional tips that can help you on the day.
- Manage the time allocated for the exam wisely. Although it's unlikely that you'll know the questions you have to answer in advance, there is some preparation you can do beforehand. For instance,
- Always read the rubric (i.e. the text that is on the front of the paper). It is there for a reason - to help you do well.
- Count the number of marks available for the paper, and the time allocated for the paper. This enables you to work out approximately how long a given question should take you. As a rule of thumb, 'A' level questions are a mark a minute, GCSE questions are a mark every two minutes. So, when you get into the exam, if you have an 'A' level question worth 4 marks, it should take you 4 minutes to read and understand the question, formulate an answer and write it down. Consequently, if you've thought about this 4 mark question for over four minutes and don't know the answer, it's time to move on to another question. Using the same idea, if you have a 2 mark question, and you think it's going to take 5 minutes to write the answer, then you don't have the answer the examiner's looking for, so you need to think about a simpler answer.
- Look at previous exam papers, and see if there are patterns to the questions. For example, see how often particular questions occur, or if two questions occur together on the same paper - in effect, you're trying to second guess the examiner. Having a set of target questions means you can concentrate more on "standard" answers as part of your revision programme. This is fine, but remember that some or even all of these questions may not come up in the exam itself. Note: some people try this as a substitute for solid revision. Like all gambles, it may not work, but like all gamblers, these people will only tell you how well this strategy works when it pays off, and not when it fails miserably!
- When answering questions, try and be as clear and detailed as you can. Some people think of the examiner as a nasty character who tries to trick you out of marks. Nothing could be further from the truth - the examiner actually tries to give you marks, but only if you can demonstrate you've actually earned them!
- If you think you don't know the answer to a question, try and tell the examiner what you're thinking - you may find that you actually know more than you think!
- Most importantly, read the question, and try to answer it. Sometimes you might not understand what the question means. In such instances, I personally write what I think the question means, and answer that. Examiners are people, not machines, and the award of marks for a question is based largely on their experience as to whether you understand a subject enough to answer the question asked. If they can understand your concerns, and the answer you've given, then more often than not they will award you at least some of the marks. However, don't abuse the idea - if you try and answer your own questions that bear no resemblance to the question asked, then you will be penalised, and justifiably so!
Remember that these tips will only help if you've done solid revision before the exam itself.