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How to do well in an exam: your ideas

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 10:58 pm    Post subject: How to do well in an exam: your ideas Reply with quote

Recently there was a competition on the UK Student Life website. Entrants were asked for their ideas about how to do well in an exam (or to avoid doing badly!)

Thank you to everyone who entered. Below I have copied the answers that were received. If you are a student perhaps if you look through these you can find something that will help you.

For other competitions, see:


[author of the UK Student Life website]


I find that asking myself a question and trying to explain the answer aloud really benefits understanding of the topic. Understanding is the key to doing well in exams - just learning the facts means nothing, its how they integrate that counts!
(Jennifer Macrae)

Use association of where you were revising or what you are listening to to help you remember. For example, learn different topics in different rooms, so you can think to yourself " I remember learning about that topic in the Sitting Room" etc. Also, this provides a change of scenery to prevent boredom.
(Lindsay Campbell-Peat)

Space out your revision, allocate certain hours/days to specific subject areas. By breaking up the things you need to do, the tasks seem less daunting. If you find yourself lacking motivation, try setting yourself incentives, for instance, if I finish this part of revision by this time, I can watch that program on tv for a break, or have some of that chocolate that you've been wanting for ages. If you don't manage all you were meant to do and you don't think you worked hard enough, be strict with yourself! Next time that incentive is sure to make a difference!!
(Dawn Edwards)

If you know you have left your revision a little too late, or you don't have lots of time, don't try to revise EVERYTHING! Just revise the basics that are bound to come up - the theories, the main arguments, the most important formulae/dates etc. This works especially in essay writing subjects as you can easily formulate an answer based upon the basic facts and information that you remember.
If you revise the main foundations well you will be suprised how successful you can be instead of trying to remember all the intricate details, and ending up knowing nothing well enough to answer any questions on your paper! Guarantees a pass.
(Lucy Dixon)

Always attend revision lectures because the lecturer may help you by hinting at the topics the questions will be based on. Then once you know this you can plan generic essays based on the topics you know the best (but don't write for specific questions incase they don't come up). However, large amounts of information is much easier to remember when it is in some essay format, as you have already analysed how different bits of information can be linked together, requiring less brain power in the exam when there is not always a lot of time to do so.
(Laura Softley)

To do well in an exam you obviously need to have done some effective
revision. For me the best way of revising is to draw pictures or cartoons
of people I know or celebrities or just pictures from magazines to bring
the revision to life. Thus when I am in the exam I can visualize in my
head the notes and the pictures I have done and it sticks far better than
just reading or writing notes up. For example for one of my modules I had
to learn a load of disorders so I attributed them to people I know and
drew a little story book of how they fit each disorder, it really helped
me memorize the disorders! Obviously you have to keep going over your
notes to reinforce the learning, but I found it to be the best way.
(Jennifer Acheson)

Advice for exams? Definitely cram! And believe it or not, getting to somewhere quiet without distractions is THE best way to early revise. It's the most difficult thing to do, but once it's done you realise how much better it is!
(Jennifer Webb)

My mother always used to go on at me about eating what she calls 'Brain
food'! At first I thought it would be another one of her new ideas to try
and force feed me with copious amounts of fruit and vegetables. But this
one actually works! 'Brain food' is basically fatty fish like mackerel,
lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon which are high in
the vital Omega 3 oils. Unlike other foods, a light dinner of fish and veg
makes your feel energised rather than giving you that bloated feeling
after a heavy meal which makes you want to take a nap or lie on the sofa
for another hour before going back to the books. The best way to perform
your best in the exams is to feed your brain well first!
(Suzanne Grace Tallon)

Students should ask lecturers about the format of the exam, ie how many
questions they have to answer and the marks allocated to each question,
and then work out how much time to spend on each question, and work out
the timings for the exam, eg at what time to start each question. This
helps a lot to structure time in an exam.
(Caroline Harrop)

My wife is from Thailand and to help her learn English. Every one like something to make them relax and concentrate more. As my wife like Cooking she watches programmes on TV about cooking and reads from many cook books. I have to sample all she cooks and most of the time its great. If she makes some thing wrong she will read it again and make it right.
(Terry Delaney)

1) Do not study at the last moment. Just be calm.
2) Do not read the entire question paper. First, answer the first question which you know. Then you read the entire question paper and select the question which you know the best.
3) Underline the heading, Neatness, Gist of your answer should come in beginning of the answer.
4) First two answer should be written fast.
5) Please check your answer sheet, before submitting the paper, Even if you are perfect with your answers.
(Vanessa D’souza)

To do better in exams... talk over the subject right before with a friend. Sometimes you feel like you don't want to in case you realise you know nothing, but chances are you'll all know different things best so when the questions come up your memory is already jogged by what your friend just told you. Back it up with your notes to get your facts right, but talking over the subject with my friends helped me in 2 of my 4 exams this semester when questions came up that I previously wouldn't have known the answer to.
(Rachel Thompson)

Read/prepare for the exam. That is the best and only advice that can be

How to do that more efficiently is the only aspect that can be learnt. How
to read in the way, that the information actually stays in your head, and
you don't lose it five minutes after you are done reading.

1. Believe that you can do it. (If you don't, don't even start.)
2. Read a whole area at the time. Do not stop in the middle.
3. After you're finished make mind map out of what you can remember.
4. Read again the whole section and try to make the mind map even tighter.
5. Believe in your self. (if you don't, don't even start)

The same thing applies for languages: Don't try to learn one word at the
time, but make sentences from the words. Funnier the better:
For example: My teacher is a mollusk!
In Finnish: Opettajani on nilviäinen!
IN Swedish: Min lärare är blötdjur!
(Lauri Rautiainen)

To avoid the dreaded resits in summer, I would recommend looking at any past papers that are available. If the questions follow a trend throughout the years, then it is likely that the questions will be repeated in your forthcoming exam. Also, it is not advisable to go out before an exam. I did it last year and it wasn't pretty!
(Robert Smith)

Whenever I have an exam, I often write a revision note of myself which summerises all the knowledge I've learnt in my own way of understanding. I never learn my revision note by heart but "remember" by the way of writing and understanding them at the same time. It creates a solid memories in my head which also involves some visional memories. The main point is to understand it in your own special way! Knowledge will become nature.
(Khuat Dieu Anh)

Read the question several times, and read it again picking out the main words, to ensure you know what is being asked.
(Sian Meardon)

The best way to do well on an exam is start preparing early! Don't leave
note review to the last minute- always try to reread your notes the same
day you have class as then all the information is fresh in your mind,
try to make time to rewrite them which helps you remember and also means
anything unclear will be deciphered before you forget what you meant.
You can take this as a chance to organise the notes into major topics
and even color code different themes or key words.
(Jessica Greenberg)

My idea to help someone do well in an exam: Make "flash" cards.
Placing the most important information from each lecture on small cards
will make the material seem less intimidating. Try to do this within
the first few days (ideally the day after) a lecture. Use brightly
colored pens to liven it up a bit, and punch a hole in the corner and
bind all the cards from one subject together with a ring. When exam
time comes around, you will have all of your material together in and
easy to review format. Makes studying more fun!
(Kristen Dube)

In my experience, the best thing to prepare from exam is to make sense and then
summarize each lecture in the clearest yet simplest way to remember at the end
of the day. Each person will have different preference. I tend to use mind
mapping technique. Remember to highlight things that your lecturer always/often
focus/stress on during lectures. This will reflect his/her preferences when
making exam problems.

During first few days of revision, you can compile (whilst making sense of) all
those summaries to build a master summary. In my case I will draw a master
mindmap of the whole module. I will then refer each branch to the relevant
details, e.g. lecture summary/mindmap. This way I can have "the whole picture"
of the module, so will be very confident to answer any question relevant to it.
Have a go explaining the master summary to any volunteer, including your pet or
even your own image in a mirror, or maybe some people prefer to jot it down.

One of troubles occur during exam is having not enough time to complete the
answer. You need to plan a strategy to write the main answer which the lecturer
would love to see first, before adding any supporting arguments/information.
To get a better idea of the exam problems, working on examples from courseworks,
literatures and past exam papers will be helpful.

I hope my strategy will benefit other people, as it did for me to get a
(Nurul H. Fithriyah)

* Make sure you understand the outline and structure of the exam
* Network with colleagues from previous year and get their advice
* Prepare early and identify resources of support if you struggle
(Ahmed Sabra)

Write down in point form all that you learn - it's easier remembering even though it might seem time-consuming. It pays rich dividends and well-worth the effort.
(Nandana Bose)

Inevitably, last minute cramming cannot be avoided when it comes to revising for exams. I also found myself with much revision left but insufficient time to do so in my third year at university. I had to compromise sleep but in a way that I would not be tired to lose efficiency in studying. Then I remembered reading or hearing about (probably from a rather unreliable source!) this drastic measures – I slept only 20 minutes every 4 hours. So in 24 hours, I’d end up sleeping less than 2 hours. The amazing thing is that it worked! I was able to sleep for 20 minutes (obviously with my mobile phone alarm switched on) and wake up all refreshed. Similar to a power-nap I guess. I was not tired at all and I stayed pretty sharp all throughout. But do this in only the last week of revision – having carried this on for about a week, I went to sleep for 20 minutes but got up the next day! Or perhaps it will last longer in your case. ;-)
(Hyo Won Kim)

If the exam has an essay question, then use one page in your exam booklet/script to make an outline of the essay. At the top of the page, write down your answer to the question, including at least three key points. Then use those key points to be headings for the sections of your essay. Under each heading, jot down one example and/or piece of evidence that supports your answer to the question. Then add anything you want to make sure you include under the various headings. Check that everything is relevant to the question and helps to answer it. Then start writing. Follow your outline and you'll end up with a logical essay that actually answers the question.

If you can't come up with an example or evidence for each point that you want to make, or if you can't come up with three good points to answer the question, you might want to pick a different question!
(Erin McGuire)

This is my experience preparing for a chemistry test in high school. I had to memorise the names of chemical elements and their symbols from the periodic table. So, to remember them while having fun, I tried to combine the symbols into my friends' names as if they were chemical compounds, for instance, ErNa (Erbium & Natrium) and EuGeNe (Europium, Germanium & Neon). And the next day I got the highest mark for the test.
(Archangela Yenny Satriawan)

Identify specific topic for your course essay at the beginning of the course from among the topics in the course guide. Start reading on this topic during semester. If allowed, do your seminar presentation on the same topic. Feedbacks from supervisors and peers will help a lot! At the end you will only need to put it on paper and submit!
(Dilafruz Khaydarova)

Study hard and make notes of the text which you review.
Try to draw the tree-pictures to highlight all the articulation of main points and then memorize all the key points.
Try to guess some questions and answer the questions by yourself.
Discuss with your classmates about the possible questions and check the answer together.
(Pei-Yi Lin)

Use the same pen for studying and then your exam. Its a
psychological trick that might take away some of the stress.
(Stephanie Kelly)
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