Monday, December 8, 2008

Exam review

We were reviewing the exam results and I pointed out to students the importance of exams and a different way of looking at the whole process.

Before the exam
  • Use class time effectively
    There is no substitute for working well in class if you want good results. If you know the content, have practiced hard, retention is higher and understanding deeper. Muck about and the consequences follow.
  • Identify content
    It is important to try and identify content that may be in the exam. Check notes and chapters covered and have a good look at material at the end of chapters.
  • Identify proficiencies
    Do a few questions from the end of each chapter and see how well you understand the content. The more you are able to do, the better your exam results.
  • Make good notes
    Any areas that you need to refer to the book make notes of. Where notes are not allowed in the exam, use them as quick review to memorise key material in the days leading up to the exam. Where notes are allowed, to not have them is a recipe for disaster.
  • Find a study buddy
    Check what others are finding hard and things they think might be in the exam. They may have picked up on a hint that you haven't.
  • Ask the teacher for more information
    Ask the teacher stuff. Who knows what they might give away? You have nothing to lose.
  • Quarantine impossible material
    Some stuff you just can't learn in time. If this is the case focus on what you do know or can learn before the test.
  • Sleep well
    You can't expect to retain anything without sleep. Your anxiety levels will rise to the point where you will be unable to function. Little anxiety good. Lots of anxiety bad.

On the day of the exam

  • Be prepared
    Nothing is more likely to unhinge your confidence than losing your notes, calculator, pens running out, no ruler.
  • Focus
    Find that point of calm within yourself. Don't Panic. Grab your notes (regardless of whether you can use them inside or not) and review what you know. I find it easier to go sit on my own than sit with friends that may hype you up.
  • Wear comfortable clothes
    If that means you need to wash your most comfortable trousers or skirt the night before, find that shirt that is just the right size, make sure you have on your favourite socks (as long as you are still in uniform) then do it the night before.
  • Be punctual
    Be prompt. Having the examiner yell at you for being late is not a good way to get into an exam frame of mind.

In the exam

  • Seating
    Listen to the examiner and find a nice quiet place to sit. Settle your material just where you want it. Make sure that you only have material out that you need for the exam
  • Remember your exam technique
    Spend two minutes reading the paper before starting. Identify the hard questions so that you mind can start working on them in the background - allow yourself multiple 'aha' moments as the answers come to mind. Find the easy questions. Number them. Start from the easiest and work to the hardest. Make sure you get all the marks you can before you start the doubtful ones. Identify how many minutes per question and how far you need to be at different times to complete the exam.
After the exam
  • Reflect
    It is important to reflect (I didn't say beat yourself up) on how you did, identify your strengths and weaknesses and then use this knowledge for indicators how and when to really concentrate in class. It will help you at that moment of "Please shut up so I can listen to what the teacher is saying" as you will know when you need to listen and ignore the friend with that bit of gossip about the weekend. There's a reason some some students can ask good questions and others always ask questions that are irrelevant. Reflection is a key area of development for many students.
  • Natural Ability vs Good work ethic
    We have all seen the students that coast along until year 11 and then hit the wall. These students are not prepared for failure and typically fall apart blaming all and sundry. A good work ethic is necessary for success in academia and in the work force.

Despite what many may say, good students do these things and somewhere along the line someone has taught them.

Sometimes unfortunately it ends up being me in year 10.

Links to other articles on exams:

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