Students Staff

20 April 2018

Exam prep – we’re in this together

Filed under: News — Heather Leathley @ 10.24 am

Six secrets to great exam prep from Dr Mick Kavanagh, Academic Skills Senior Tutor at our Talent Development Centre.TDC-Helpdesk

If you’re not sure how to get ready for your exams, here are a few pointers. Perhaps the key messages are to get started and to pace yourself. If you’re worried, just remember that many students have been (and are) in the same situation as you, thinking many of the same things. Across Essex, everybody wants you to do well. The following suggestions are based on the imperatives: Organise, Personalise, Revise, Prioritise, Decide, and Cooperate. In the end, of course, you decide, but I hope these ideas will help! 

Organise: Get your notes in order, adopting a numbering and filing system (e.g. by module, lecture, seminar, tutorial, related reading, online links). Ask yourself, ‘Could I, within a minute, find my notes from Module X, Lecture 3, and any related material?’ Coordinate these records with any digital notes you have made. 

Personalise: If lecture notes are just a record of what was said, or a collection of PPT printouts, they’re incomplete. If you haven’t already done so, add your own questions and comments, and cross-references to other lectures (even modules) and reading. Use highlights, colours, sticky notes, arrows, circles, underlining, Bold, italics, different fonts, etc. 

Revise: If you’ve been organising and personalising, you’ve already been revising, but don’t let this take all your time. Make a timetable for the weeks leading up to your exams, so that you can use your time efficiently. (Remember to include time to relax). Chunk the content in order to spread it over your available time. (Don’t try to cover it all on Day One, nor leave it all until the last moment.) Attend any revision workshops that are on offer, and pick up on cues from the department about what will be included in the exam. 

Prioritise what you need to revise by considering what is essential and what is less so. Write revision cards to reduce your notes. Prepare last-minute cards – of things you think you may forget – to consult just before entering the exam. 

Decide how to work: Throw your phone away – or at least put it in another room while you’re revising. Impose no-social media periods on yourself. Vary your revision tasks (e.g. making cards; sorting; planning a possible ‘answer’). Eventually, move away from your revision cards. Overlap familiar and ‘new’ material (eg. morning.: familiar /afternoon.: new). If they help, use diagrams like mind-maps, spider diagrams, flowcharts, and process diagrams. 

Cooperate: If you’re happy working alone, carry on. But sometimes working with others can be very beneficial. Don’t let this accidentally turn into a relaxation opportunity, but if handled well it can provide motivation, encouragement, stimulus, shared problem-solving and greater understanding (eg. explaining something to a non-discipline friend is a good way to test your own understanding).

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