13 End of Semester Exams

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1 13 End of Semester Exams At the end of each semester you will take an exam for each of your chosen modules. Preparing for exams The day before the exam On the day of the exam After the exam Anxiety around exams Cram! Definitely not a recommended strategy!! Preparing for exams Preparing for exams involves planning your study, looking after your health, going over your notes and preparing questions and essays for your exams. Remember all your college assignments and essays are useful in preparing for the end of semester or end of year exams. So, cheer up, you already have some of the work covered. One of the most important things you can do is organise a study schedule so you can see when and how you will get your work done. Study some aspect of each of your subjects every day so that you don't focus on one subject and neglect the others. Little and often is the most effective way to learn. Good Health Stay healthy - eat well, sleep well and stay off the caffeine. Some people make changes - more coffee, Red Bull, all night study sessions - don't!! You need your sleep to study effectively. There's still plenty of time now. Do something active when you take a break from studying: do some exercise, go to the gym, go for a walk. Get plenty of fresh air and light. Organise to meet up with your friends when you feel you have done plenty of work. See it as a reward. Meeting friends at study break can be distracting. Study Plan Have a set place to study away from distractions - your favourite desk in library, or at home. Have all essential materials. 1

2 Consider the demand for library books. As the exams get closer books will be in shorter supply. Borrow or photocopy them now. Make sure you have a complete set of lecture notes. Divide your subject into topics. Look at past papers. Decide what you are going to concentrate on and make your study plan. Be realistic, add in time for yourself it is not productive or useful to do a four-hour stretch. Factor in short breaks. When making your study timetable - mix it up study a topic or subject you don't like, followed by one that you like. This will help to keep you motivated. Concentrate on one topic or section at a time. Use index cards to create manageable records of what you have studied for easier reviewing. Check your notes and texts note the topics emphasised. List each on a separate index card. On those index cards, list key points and the page references. Test yourself for the key points you listed on the index cards. Use coloured markers, post-it notes, and decorate your room with key words, definitions, formulas etc. Recite what you are studying out loud to yourself, your pet, anyone who will listen. If you find it productive, work with a friend or in a study group. Listen to music (classical is best, 60 beats per minute. Try Mozart) Practice makes permanent The importance of reviewing in helping you to remember information cannot be stressed enough. Review frequently, read over your notes once a week. Schedule periodic review sessions throughout the term where you might review a whole topic. Each morning, revise what you did the previous day - even for only ten minutes. Memory is a building process. Review only the major concepts the night before an exam. Avoid trying to learn volumes of new material, multitudes of small details. Past exam papers Plan ahead for the exams by looking up past exam papers in the library. Do this early! Looking at these will help you to discover the gaps in your knowledge and to get familiar with the format of the exam papers you will be 2

3 taking. This is reassuring because it means that on the day of the exam you can get straight into answering questions. Break the old exam questions down into lots of short, sharp questions. This helps you to gain confidence by being able to answer little bits out of which bigger questions are made. Practice answering questions, see how long it takes you to answer a question. Try to speed up gradually until you can answer a question in line with the time available. Revising for an exam essay Read past papers. Prepare likely topics, key themes or issues. Decide these from information you have obtained from your lecture or study guide notes, lecturers, tutors, past exam papers, etc. Don't rely too heavily on knowing in advance what will come up. Prepare more topics than you will be questioned on, in case the way a topic comes up doesn't suit you or in case it doesn't come up. Collect all relevant information on the topic including definitions, factual statements, evidence, examples, information from assigned readings, quotes, opinions, etc. Organise the information you have collected under theme heading. Practice writing answers to questions you are likely to get asked. Sort out the main points you will want to make (should you get asked a particular question) and practice recalling them in the right sequence. When studying, focus on key words and phrases that you should include. What marks do you need? Knowing how many marks you need to get from the exam can help to reduce your stress levels. Work out what marks you have already have from essays, assignments etc. during the semester / year. Estimate the mark you need on the final exam to pass the course. This is the minimum you need to achieve. It is advisable to aim to get more. 3

4 Before the exams Vital information How many When - a.m./ p.m.? Where Length of each exam Marking system Vital Preparation Getting to your seat in the exam room in the right frame of mind is important to your performance in the exam Plan your travel to the venue it may be different from the norm. Before the day of the exam, find out where the exam room is. This is especially important if the exam is in an unfamiliar building. A day or two before the exam, make sure you double check the time of exam as occasionally timetables change. Get together all the items you will need during the exam e.g. calculator, tippex, pens, pencils etc. Go to bed at a reasonable time and try to rest. The day of the exam On the day of the exam Eat breakfast you will need energy! Slow release foods good e.g. bread, cereals.. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the exam on the first day, factor in travel time traffic can be unpredictable Leave your notes and text at home. Don t study on the way to the exam hall; it is likely to make you anxious and you may muddle up material you have mastered which could impair your performance. Only bring essentials with you as everything else must be left outside exam hall. Remind yourself of what you know avoid negative self-talk. Relax. Don't wind yourself up discussing exam topics with friends. Check name on list for seat number. 4

5 Follow instructions of invigilator - invigilators are helpful; they're not the exam police. Someone from your school will come to check that the paper is okay, you understand the questions, etc. Ask a question if you are unsure. Examiners are fine with this - it happens in all venues, all exams. You are allowed bathroom breaks, in some cases food, rest breaks - if this has been agreed by your Disability Officer. You can leave early, but make sure you're completely finished. Don't leave early for any other reason. (Another reason may be something that an invigilator can help you with - food/bathroom break, etc.). During the exam Get comfortable and take out all the materials you need. When you get your paper, make sure it is the correct exam paper and do the administrative bits first e.g. put your name, candidate number, date etc. Check the instructions are on the paper to see how many questions you need to answer. Are there some questions from different sections that need to be answered? Then read through all the questions carefully. If you have to answer fewer questions than the number of questions on the paper, select your best questions. Budget your time. Work out how much time you have available to answer each question and factor in minutes spare for checking towards the end of the exam. Stick to this timeframe. You will get more marks for four partially answered questions than you will for two fully answered questions and two questions not attempted. Answer your best question first this will settle you down and give you confidence. It and may also leave your extra time for the other questions Circle or underline the key word(s) in the question that tell you what to do with the topic. Make sure you understand the question and can rephrase it in your own words. Many students who have a good knowledge of the information being tested do badly on the test because they neglected to carefully read the directions before answering the question. Plan your answers on rough work paper or in the margins. Use diagrams or spidergrams from the key words to help organise your answer. If ideas for other questions come to you at any stage in the exam, write them down in your roughwork you may not remember them a while later. 5

6 Write your answers as quickly and as legibly as you can; do not spend time rewriting your answer keep in mind Am I answering the question asked? Begin each answer with one or two sentence thesis that summarises your answer. If possible, phrase the statement so that it rephrases the question's essential terms into a statement (which therefore directly answers the essay question). Support your thesis with specific references to the material you have studied. Check that you have answered all parts of the question. If you have time available, use it to proofread your answer for content, spelling and grammar. It is a good idea to review what the question asked again to make sure you followed it. Jot down any ideas you forgot to include. Conquering Writer's Block It is not uncommon to panic in an exam if your mind goes blank. Try to overcome this feeling of anxiety. Take a complete break for a minute or two. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Let your shoulders drop. Return to your paper and re-read the question or re-read your answer if you have started writing. It can help to analyse the question and put it into your own words. Write the introduction - limit the scope of your answer to three main points, write down your 3-point plan. Try mind-mapping. Are there any key phrases that the examiner will want you to include? Use an extra answer booklet for planning - you don't have to hand this up, or you can if you want. It can be helpful to examiners. If you are stuck during the exam, re-read the question - think of all possible angles to answering it. Sometimes it is best to move onto the next question to make sure you keep to your allocated time and answer the required number of questions and then come back to the question causing you a blank at the end. 6

7 After the exam After your last exam you can do whatever you want. However, if you have more exams coming up, it is important to stay motivated and positive. Avoid the post-mortem. It is too late to change anything. You did your best. Post-mortems are also likely to demoralise you as you become pre-occupied with what you did not do right. Engage in a relaxing activity. This clears your mind so that you can leave the exam behind and get on with your next task. Exam Anxiety It s completely normal to experience anxiety at some time or another we all do. And while we may not enjoy feeling anxious, a little bit of anxiety can be beneficial. A little bit of anxiety helps to keep you motivated, focused and alert. However, too much anxiety may interfere with your ability to study, learn, remember things and perform well when doing exams. The following are common characteristics you may have if you are suffering from exam anxiety: You don t believe you will do well on an exam no matter how hard you study. You struggle to get started when studying for an exam. You are easily distracted when studying for an exam. When you re taking an exam you feel uncomfortable, you get an upset stomach, headache, sweaty palms, struggle to breathe, and get tense muscles. You find it difficult to understand directions and questions presented in an exam. You have difficulty organising your thoughts while taking an exam. You often can t remember things while taking an exam. You find it difficult to focus while taking an exam. You receive a lower exam score than you do on class assignments that you understood. After an exam is over, you re able to remember information that you were not able to recall while taking the exam. 7

8 The following are some things you can do before, during and after an exam to help reduce anxiety: Make sure you are prepared for an exam. Knowing that you are prepared will help you feel confident that you will perform well in an exam. This confidence will help to reduce anxiety. As you study be positive. Focusing on doing well in the exam, not failing. Maintaining a positive attitude will help to reduce exam anxiety. Relax while you are taking your exam. Don t breathe fast or hyperventilate. Take slow, deep breaths. This will help you relax. Make sure to get plenty of sleep the night before an exam. Also, eat a small healthy breakfast the day of the exam to make sure you have the energy you need to stay awake and focus. But don t eat loads of junk foods right before an exam this won t help. Take all the time that is allotted to you for taking the exam. Don t hurry yourself and don t worry about other students finishing the exam before you do. You may be the last student to finish the exam but you may also end up as the student with the highest mark. Once an exam is over don t worry about it any longer. Turn your attention to preparing for other exams or assignments you may have. Don t freak out or panic if the exam is difficult. Focus on those questions that you understand. Jot down what you can remember on rough paper. Answering those questions that you understand may help provide you with the confidence to go back and tackle more difficult questions. Answering those questions that you understand first will also help relieve your anxiety about the exam. If you get a bad mark on an exam use it as a learning experience don t get depressed. Everyone scores poorly on an exam every once in a while. 8

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