Tips on Exam Preparation
The following are some useful pointers for preparing of the coming exams.
- Allow enough time to revise - start early enough that you don't run out of time to cover all the material before the exam.
- Clarify exam format and requirements - make sure you know how long the exam is, where it will be held and at what time, what resources you are allowed to take in with you, and what areas of course content will be assessed.
- Plan revision - structure your revision using your diary or a calendar so that all topics are covered.
- Repetition - repeated practise or rehearsal embeds information more deeply in your brain.
- Acronyms - to remember a group of facts, you can create an acronym using the first letters of each word. You can also create new words with the letters to make a humorous phrase that will be hard to forget to prompt you for each word.
- Sensory Cues - the state you are in when you learn information is the state in which you best recall that information, because your brain uses that information as an indicator of when that information will be needed again. This can work for you or against you. If you are extremely tired, drunk, or under the influence of strong medication when you learn information, then you will best recall it when you are again in this state. If you are not in the same state, you may find it much more difficult to recall the information. Other sensory cues, such as sounds and sights while you are studying can work in the same way. So you can maximise your recall by approximating the setting of your exam as closely as possible when you are revising. For instance, if you know you will have the exam in a quiet, brightly lit room with bare walls, avoid revising in dim light with music playing, and while looking at your favourite poster on the wall.
- Relevance - unrelated facts are much harder to remember than those which have meaning. When revising, work out how the knowledge you are learning can be applied in real life, why it is in your course, and how it fits with the overall subject.
- Flash Cards - you can create flash cards to test yourself or have others test you on specific information. Write definitions, terms, formulae or questions on one side, and the answer on the other. The act of making the cards is also a good revision exercise.
- "Cramming" of simple facts not complicated concepts - you should be aware that "cramming" before an exam works better if you limit this to simple facts or concepts. Complicated concepts or simple facts that need to be understood as a group are not so responsive to this method of remembering. Complicated concepts need to "percolate" in your brain for a couple of days before your mind will reach a sound understanding of them, and this process cannot be rushed. If you try to cram these concepts into your brain the night before, you may find that you can't remember them for the exam, but the day after the exam they make perfect sense! So study these concepts well in advance of the exam.
- Practise examples of the kinds of problems with which you will be presented in the exam.
- Summarise topics in your own words to make sure you fully understand them.
- Practise drawing diagrams that you may need to draw for the exam, so you don't miss bits out or incorrectly label parts.
- Revise the same material in different ways, as this reinforces the information and you may find that one approach better suits your learning style, or makes the concepts clearer.
- Read all instructions carefully, and follow them precisely.
- Use the reading time to familiarise yourself with the whole paper, and decide what questions to do first.
- Do easy questions first.
- Structure your time - spend more on questions worth more marks, and don't spend too long on one question so you allow enough time for all the questions.
- If you don't know, make an intelligent guess based on your knowledge of the topic and common sense. Don't ever leave an answer blank, unless marks are deducted for incorrect answers.
Open or download the study checklist
Benita Ranzon, Psychologist (2006)
213 Fullarton Road, EASTWOOD South Australia
Phone: (08) 8373 7020
Fax: (08) 8373 7018