Following on from tip two to practice past exam questions.
Tip three – remember, remember the 9th of November
Whether you remember the gun powder plot in 1605, “remember , remember the 5th of November” or the fall of the Berlin wall on the 9th of November from this rhyme, it still provides a simple example of how effective a memory technique can be. Tip three is what you should do now that you have a set of revision notes and have spent a considerable amount of time practicing past exam questions. It would of course be really great if when you went into the exam you could attempt every single question and be confident that you knew the answer. This may have been possible at some point in your exam career but is probably not so now. There will be topics that despite revising and practicing questions you still don’t understand and some that you will simply forget.
Less is still more
You need to take your revision notes and reduce them even more. Go through the notes again but this time only record what you can’t remember or don’t understand. The notes should also be written in a more short hand style, we only want key words not whole paragraphs. You might also wish to think about making notes in a mind map style rather than a linear one. These notes should be no more than 10 pages. They should be structured in the same way as your original revision notes wherever possible. These final set of notes can be prepared perhaps as late as 1 week before the exam. What you do next is memorise these notes, we are no longer looking for an understanding, but don’t be surprised if during this process something suddenly makes sense. There are lots of memory techniques you can use, ranging from the simple rhyme method above to acronyms, acrostics, peg methods and the famous roman room or loci method. The point is this, time for learning in the traditional way is over, you now need to commit as much to short term memory as possible. The night before and on the morning of the exam you just keep going over these 10 pages of notes. Use colours and images as much as possible and be creative, memory uses both left and right sides of the brain.
There are of course many more tips that will help with your revision but for me these are probably the most important. So to all those sitting exams, I wish you the very best of luck and to those that aren’t, if you are driving into work in the next few weeks, have a thought for the person in front, they might have a very important exam today!
Following on from tip one, to produce a set of shorter and more exam focused revision notes.
Tip two – practice past exam questions
Having identified the key examinable topics and produced a set of notes that are based on them, the next step is to select one or two past questions from each area and practice them. In fact although I describe the process as, complete the notes first and then look at the questions, you may of course look to answer questions on each of the areas as you are preparing each section of the notes.
If when you are trying to answer one of these questions you find you can’t, look at the answer, then attempt the question. If despite having the answer in front of you, you still can’t answer the question, then work through it until can. Amend your revision notes to include anything that you have learned that will be of use when you come to attempt a similar question. Carry this process on until you have covered all the must learn examinable areas. Then go through the same process with the should learn and the would be nice to learn.
In a perfect world you would study and make notes on every topic, in reality, you probably won’t, you will end up having to miss something out. If you follow the process described above, you will at the very least end up with a set of notes, all be them incomplete, on the most examinable topics. More importantly using the time that you have saved, you will have had the opportunity to practice answering past exam questions which will have taught you so much more than any notes can ever do.
If you find you lack a little self discipline and think that on your own you will not be able to do this, then once again a revision course may be worth considering. Having other people around who are in the same boat and share the “dislike” of the subject or of the “examiner” can for some reason make the whole process a little easier and slightly less stressful. You will also have to work at a pace that will increase the number of questions you get through in a day and so your chances of passing.
Tip three I will post on Sunday.
For some people reading this blog, the idea of sitting an exam in the run up to Christmas probably seems a little strange. Yet such is the variety and flexibility in examinations there is probably always someone sitting an exam. I can still remember whilst driving to one of my exams looking at other people and thinking, for you this is probably just an ordinary day, but for me it’s the accumulation of weeks and months of hard work that could all be wasted if I fail.
How I so wanted to be having an ordinary day….
So although examinations are never far from my mind, as some of my students are preparing for exams this November and December I thought it might be a good idea to look at what you should do as the tuition period comes to an end and the revision period begins. Below are my top three exam tips as to what you should do during revision.
Tip one – less is more
Let’s assume that you have a set of notes that have been taken during class or that you have made from a text book. In theory these notes contain everything you have learned and studied so far, in reality they are often not as comprehensive as you think and even though you have studied something it does not mean you have understood it. Chances are these notes are also a little on the thick side. Now depending on how you have studied (You might find it useful to read the blog on exam focussed learning ) it is more than likely that these notes will need to be refocused and cut down.
If you have not already done so you need to identify the most examinable topics for the subject you are studying. This can done by looking at say the last 4 exam papers and identifying topics that have been examined on several occasions. You then need to make these your focus of attention, each topic in your tuition notes needs to be ranked as must learn (most examinable topic) should learn (2nd most examinable topic) and nice to learn (3rd most examinable topic). Once you have done this you begin the process of going through your tuition notes using, must learn, should learn, and nice to learn as your guide as to how much time you spend making new notes on each area. These shorter, more exam focused notes will become your revision notes.
If you attend a revision course, these notes are often provided. In fact the reason revision courses are so popular and have higher than average pass rates is partly to do with these notes and the expert guidance you will get on the course itself.
If you are studying for your GCSE or A levels exams, in the blogroll is a link to a site that provides free revision notes.
Tip two will be posted soon.