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Page 15A: Exams - Read the Question!
Continued from previous page
- Watch for the words being used in the paper. That word above, “Compare” tends to be a more general word meaning show similarities and differences. When the word “Contrast” is used it means show the differences. Another word sometimes used is “Evaluate” which basically means weigh up the pros and cons and draw conclusions.
- Watch out for questions that appear ambiguous. These are the sneaky ones (we’ll give the examiner the benefit of the doubt) that want you to look at more than one side of an issue. Don’t be afraid in such cases of using the language of, “On one side it appears that.... but on the other a case could be made for ......”
Part 2: The Adventure of Learning
4. Write the Answers
- Overall Approach: If knowledge is being asked for – give facts. If the nature of the question demands explanation, show that you understand the issues. Often the nature of the information given in a question, can actually steer you in the direction of the answer, so think about the actual information given on the paper.
- Presentation: Lay out your work neatly – remember what we said previously about your examiner being a human being.
- Specific Knowledge: If the question requires specific areas of information, limit yourself to what it requests and overcome the temptation to fill up a page with other things you know more about – the examiner will disregard that.
5. And Afterwards
- There really is little point in doing post-exam analysis – you’ve done it now! If this exam paper was one of a number, then move on to think about what is coming next.
- If you think you didn’t do very well, then consider why, and learn from it and move on. Go and do something relaxing before returning to revision or planning your next Course.
Well I hope we have given you something to work on. As we noted earlier, these are very general notes and specific subjects will have specific requirements that go beyond these pages, so check them out where you can.
Having said that, if you follow the things you’ve read on these pages, they should help you in quite some measure.
Read through the page again and take in specific things that are likely to apply to you, and make you be successful on the day!
- Clarity: Don’t waffle – don’t pad out answers with long winded introductions or long winded conclusions or summaries, avoid generalisations and clichés and avoid personal prejudice or even personal opinions unless expressly asked for – usually opinions or conclusions need to be based upon prior content (knowledge and understanding) from which the opinion or conclusion should flow.
- Quotes: If the nature of your study is such that it often draws on the works and quotations of scholars in that area, then include such quotes and references where applicable, making sure they stand out.
- Alternatives: If the nature of your Course requires you to know options, opinions, things that came about in history and supposed reasons for them, restrict your answers to the thing expressly requested by the question and present the alternatives that are applicable only.
- Process: Sometimes while going through the process of formulating an answer, we find that the intensity of thinking helps bring clarity as we go along. It may be that you do therefore need to add what is tantamount to a conclusion to your writing sometimes, but keep it clear and concise.
Maths, Science & Technology
- As we said earlier on this page, your Course Tutor will, hopefully, have given you guidance of how to approach your exam. We will simply add the following:
- Check what instruments, calculators etc. you are allowed / required to have and make sure you’ve got them with you on the day.
- When it comes to working out, the usual rule is show your working otherwise you may not be given the marks. Even if you miscalculate, if you have got the right method, you may still be given some marks for it.
- If in, say, technology, you are required to produce diagrams etc., be particularly careful with you timing – don’t make the drawings too fanciful at the cost of a lot of time that should be used on other questions. Make drawings simple and straight forward showing just what is required by the questions.
For more in these areas look out specific exam guidance from the appropriate Boards.