Acing an Exam

So you’re in the run up to an exam. But how can you give yourself the best possible chance at acing it? In this article, we’ll take a look at some practical advice you can follow that will help make the experience less stressful and more successful.


The run-up:


The couple of weeks before the exam are easily the most important part. The preparation you do in this period will help you stay on top of your revision, and the extra practice time can really help boost your memory and thus your exam results. But what’s the best way to prepare?


1). Find a tutor.


No matter what exam you’re preparing for, help from an experienced professional can help you plan your preparation and get the most out of your time. You can use tutoring sessions to revise topics you need some extra help with, to get feedback on past papers you complete, and to fill any vital gaps in your knowledge. Help from the right tutor can improve your confidence, exam skills and time management. Tutoring can also be a great way to figure out a revision strategy if you’re just not sure where to start.


2). Use past papers.


Past papers are readily available online along with their mark schemes. They give you a taster of the sort of exam questions you might face, and can help you practice your exam technique while you revise. You can try timing yourself completing past papers, so you know you won’t run out of time when in your exam. If you do have a tutor, getting a professional to mark your exam paper will give you a good idea of what an examiner might be thinking when they see your exam answers. Many of the tutors at We Make Academics have worked as professional examiners for AQA, Edexcel and OCR and so have a unique and up-to-date insight as to exactly what markers are looking for.


3). Make revision cards.


Making your own revision resources is a great way to memorise the material you’re struggling with. Revision cards should have the key points or equations on them, and you can use them to revise anywhere once you’ve made them. If you’re struggling to remember them, why not try making post-it-note revision cards and sticking them around your house so you’ll see them regularly – bathroom mirrors, bedroom doors and fridges are all great places to revise!


Right before the exam:


The time right before your exam can have a big impact on how you feel. You want to try and keep your day as stress free as possible so you can relax and focus. With that in mind, here’s a check-list of things to consider…


1). Pack your bag the night before.


The night before the exam, make sure you’re prepared for the following day by packing everything you’ll need in the exam hall. Make sure you pack all your equipment, including a water bottle, your pencil case, pencils, pens, ruler and mathematical equipment (if you need it). If you need a calculator for the exam paper, check that it works before you pack it!


2). Check the venue and time.


Check (and then double check) the exam time and place! If you don’t, you risk spending the time before your exam running around trying to find it! When you get to the exam, check your seat number as soon as possible so you know exactly where to go. Remember, if you’re struggling to find where you’re supposed to be, ask! There’ll be examiners or teachers around, and even if they can’t tell you where you’re supposed to be they will be able to help you find out who to ask.


3). Make sure you’re not hungry, tired, or in a rush.


Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast before the exam. Even if you feel like you’re too nervous to sleep or eat, future you will thank you. If you really can’t sleep, just resting in bed is better than nothing. Similarly, eating just a little bit if you feel too nervous to eat a lot will make a difference. Getting up earlier will give you the time to have a more relaxed morning while still getting to the exam with plenty of time to spare.


4). Avoid panicky people.


Talking to people can be relaxing, but if everyone’s panicking you can leave the talking till after the exam. That way, their stress won’t rub off on you. You could listen to some music to help you keep calm, or just sit by yourself for a bit. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s making you feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible.


5). Use the toilet!


Use the toilet before you go into the exam! You don’t want to be wasting time in the exam to use the loo.


During the exam:


You’ve just sat down in your exam seat – what are the things you need to remember to do while answering your paper?


1). Plan your time.


As soon as you get your paper, spend 5 minutes reading through it and deciding how long you think certain questions or sections will take you. This will help you plan your time and will improve your chances of finishing the exam on time.


2). Remember that you don’t have to do the questions in order.


Remember that you don’t always have to answer the questions in order. If it’s not specified, you can answer the questions in any order – you don’t have to start at the beginning! Answering some of the easier questions or questions on your favourite topic can help you get into the exam. Plus, you’ll be able to move onto the harder questions knowing you’re not going to loose marks easy marks just because you ran out of time.


3). Show your workings or explain your answer. Make sure it’s legible!


If you’re doing a numerical question, show your workings so that even if you get the wrong answer you can be credited for the method you use. Similarly, explaining your answer shows the examiner that you know what you’re talking about. For example, if you’re given a true or false question, explain why you got your answer! This applies unless the paper states not to show workings or if the question is multiple choice. Also, make sure your writing is legible! An examiner won’t be able to credit your amazing answer if they can’t read it….


4). Use 100% of your time.


Use all of your time to give the best answers possible. If you answer all of the questions and have time left over you can go back over your work and check your answers. You might gain a few extra marks by fixing some mistakes!


5). Read the question!


Read the question! Make sure you understand what you’re being asked (not what you wish you were being asked!) and make sure you follow any instructions you’re given. This could include giving your answer with certain units, to a certain degree of accuracy, or making sure your answer is in a certain format. It might help to read the question again once you’ve finished answering it so you can double check that your answer is giving all of the information you’ve been asked for.


Most importantly, good luck! If you’ve revised and are trying your best, be proud of yourself for it.

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