Exams are stressful but I firmly believe that they can be mastered. It’s like decorating – it’s all about preparation. So I have four steps for you:
1. Gather intelligence
The key message in this blog is preparation and planning. And you can’t do either of these until you know everything you can about the exam. Usually lecturers will give standard information out to students during lectures and online. Do pay attention to this extremely closely – length of the exam, number and format of the questions, broad indication of the subjects to be covered. There is usually more to be found if you look for it. For example, you might find that not all topics covered in the lectures and reading will be set in the exam. Or that certain combinations of topics will be presented meaning that you can narrow the focus of your revision. Of course a particularly enjoyable contact sport is trying to fool the lecturer into giving more away about the exam then they planned to. I tell my students not to bother trying that with me as I have undergone resistance to interrogation training! Whilst this is actually true, the real reason they shouldn’t ask me too much is that I can’t remember and quite often inadvertently say something that means they end up with the wrong idea. So do make sure you aren’t pushing too much as it might not help you in the end!
Of course, previous papers can be a great help in working out what the exam is going to be like. However, do be very careful that you check on any changes to the content or style of the exam. Lecturers tend to make improvements to their modules every year – we absolutely have to show that we respond to student feedback and keep our teaching current. So previous papers might not give all that direct an indication for your exam. All these things can be made more effective if you consult your fellow students which is my next piece of advice.