A Conversation for Written Exam Technique
technique is worth grades
SiliconDioxide Started conversation Mar 30, 2001
The original entry says the important things about what to do although I would stress the preparation more strongly. My 'O' level Maths teacher taught me how to pass exams and this knowledge helped me through university too, now I just wish I could get a job passing exams I'm so good at it.
In addition to knowning the exam rules, it is useful to know the marking scheme for the exam and for the set of papers if it is a multiple paper examination. This allows you to focus revision on areas that are worth marks. For example, in my final year at university I had one subject, a total of 6 hours of essay question papers worth 15 percent of my total degree - worth sweating over whatever the merits of the subject, the lecturer, whatever. I had another lecture course which was represented by 2 optional questions on a single paper which was mostly concerned with a different set of lectures, in this case I decided not to revise that subject at all.
Practice the exam in the format you are going to take it, dig out the past papers. Sit in near exam conditions and keep an eye on the time. This is particularly important where the teacher also sets the exams since past papers then hold big clues to what is likely to come up. Even if questions aren't repeated it gives you a chance to spot clues dropped by the teacher in the last three lessons before the exams start. Is there a topic they revised in class? Was a part of the syllabus crammed in at the last moment?
Exam technique is no alternative to knowing the subject, but if you don't know the whole subject it can help. My estimates are that if you know next to nothing, technique is worth 20 to 25 percent. if you know half the subject, it is worth 10 percent and if you know the whole subject it can still be worth 5 to 10 percent.
If you need 5 questions for full marks and you write down complete answers to 4 questions, you can only get 80 percent. If you have your exam technique sorted out you can probably get 95 percent on 4 questions and 50 percent on another one, worth 86 percent.
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