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Exam technique | A little help to make the grade

Exam Technique | A Little Help to Make the Grade

The exam season is upon us: Murray Morrison offers proven methods to maximise performance under pressure.

This simple game plan will give you the best chance of being at your sharpest when you’re in the exam hall.

Preparation |

Put a few essential, distilled notes onto a single postcard. A final glance through these points on the morning of the exam will help you feel reassured and keep you mindful of the important facts.

Eat sensibly and drink plenty of water – athletes do this in order to maintain stamina and mental acuity throughout the day; as an exam candidate, you face similar challenges. A banana and an occasional glass of water will make a surprising difference.

In the hour’s lead-up to the exam, have time to yourself for some quiet relaxation. Avoid excitement and stress: that means internet, television, phone, upbeat music and even friends. Instead, take a gentle walk, perhaps with some calming music on headphones; practise slow, rhythmic breathing and give your eyes a rest from technology and small print.

In the exam

First things first… Don’t take the opening questions for granted; don’t rush the first few pages. Ten marks at the beginning of a paper have equal value to 10 marks at the end. It’s amazing how many careless errors are made through candidates’ zeal to get on and tackle the harder questions. Capitalise on the opportunity in the first few pages to score well. Those questions alone can be worth a whole grade boundary.

Use the mark scheme to plan your answers. For example, in a maths question, however many marks are available, allow one mark only for the correct solution; all the remaining marks should be scored by your working. Tell the story of how you progressed from the question to your answer. Try to use words to spell out what you did with the numbers.

Avoid long sentences. They’re hard to write, hard to link together, hard to read and hard to mark. Consider the examiner reading hundreds of papers and make it easy for him or her to give away the marks! Don’t write bullet points (which will annoy them), but concise, clear and (hopefully) factual points. In the case of science questions valued at two to four marks, think of it this way: write one or two sentences that state the relevant facts, then another sentence linking those facts to the question asked.

Never start an answer with “Because…”, even if asked “why x is the case”. Almost without exception, the same sentence sounds more knowledgeable, definitive and authoritative without it. Why? You know what you are talking about. (Did you see what I did there?

After the exam th

Walk out, get a drink of water and a snack, and take a break. Don’t talk over the exam with your friends – it causes stress, and is of no particular advantage to anybody involved. You may have another exam shortly afterwards, so go back to the earlier points – seek quiet, solitary relaxation and regain focus and energy. If you have a few days until your next exam, take a proper break – go to the cinema, take a swim or read a book – and get a good night’s sleep so that you can wake up ready to start preparing for the next one.

Reference ||

The Telegraph Online News Paper.  |