Key No. 6
Recommendations For Examinations
"FIVE questions must be answered, one of these MUST be question number 1, two questions must be selected from section B and two questions must be selected from section C."
This is a typical set of instructions given in an
examination paper. You are also given additional information on the total time
available, the marks allocated to each question, the need for correct
numbering, neatness and presentation as well as on the use of reference
material and inclusion of rough work. Donít forget to write in your examination
The examination preparation fever, the inevitable
cramming and the associated late nights, the examination hall environment and
your own state of mind all build up to a stressful and tense situation. There
is also the worry about subsequent examinations, orals, aptitude tests,
interviews and the difficulties that these will present. In this Key
recommendations will be given which will minimise these worries and which will
assist you to maximise your capabilities and increase your confidence during
Long Term Preparation
The main recommendation is that you complete the subject matter for each examination fully and that you revise the material sufficiently well to be confident that you can answer correctly any questions that can arise. This state of preparedness requires that you have a plan that ensures that the syllabus is covered fully and that you have a revision programme to match your mental retention capabilities. Each subject will require to be considered in these two ways and when conscientiously acted upon will give you the confidence to undertake and succeed in the examination. Any imbalance in the treatment of the syllabus or the necessary revision of one subject over the other will subconsciously at least cause concern and anxiety throughout the examination period.
Past Papers and Their Benefits
Following this preparation the completion of text book questions within a specified time and without reference to the text books should be undertaken. These questions should be corrected critically by yourself using the text books, answer books or alternatively your teacher may assist in the corrections. Text book questions however are poor representations of examination questions as such questions go rapidly out of date because of the development and raising of examination standards.
Undertaking past examination questions once the
syllabus has been completed have however a variety of benefits. These benefits
include greater understanding of the subject, improved ability to determine
interrelationships and the development of expertise in producing the correct
answers to complex problems. Patterns can also be detected from past papers of
typical questions or aspects of a subject that should be concentrated on during
preparations for examinations. However you should always be aware that
examiners can change their approach to subjects and to their methods of setting
questions so be ready for the unexpected. The bar can always be raised when you
least expect it. So anticipate and confound.
Where examination papers contain convoluted,† trick, or not the course questions, omissions, errors, poor quality diagrams, maps or illustrations and audio tapes or videos that are poor in quality the examination supervisor should take the necessary corrective action as such material is inexcusable.
Prior to any examination you should have adequate relaxation and sleep. Regular meals must not be neglected. Materials necessary for the examination, e.g. pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, geometry equipment, tables, calculators should all be kept in a state of readiness. Check the date and time of each examination. Donít forget your examination number and entry card. Sufficient time must be allowed to ensure that the examination hall is reached in time for the examination and for adapting to the strange surroundings as well as meeting your colleagues. Be sure and wish them every success.
Remember that everyone will be endeavouring to do
their best including yourself. First of all banish anxiety because you have
prepared well for this event, next ignore those that appear to be racing ahead
the minute the examination commences as they are taking a different approach,
then sit back, take a few deep breaths, be confident that you will do well,
relax, plan your examination strategy and commence.
Reading, Selecting and Scheduling Each Question for Answering
When the examination commences it is essential
that the examination paper instructions are read thoroughly and read at least
twice. Instructions as to which questions must be answered, which ones provide
choices, what are the marks allocated and the total time available must be carefully
noted. In allocating your time for each question, make provision at the end of
the examination to read over the questions and your answers. Any points of
clarification or correction, e.g. omissions, misspellings and grammatical
errors can then be made.
Next the selection of the questions which you are going to answer must be given careful consideration. Here a plan is necessary. A balance must be struck between the questions that can be answered, the degree to which they can be answered, the marks allocated and the time available. The objective must be to maximise the total marks that you can obtain in the examination. Time must be allocated according to your competency to answer the question and the marks attainable. Care must be taken not to spend 30 minutes on an answer which has only 10 marks allocated to it and then rush through another answer which has 50 marks allocated to it and attempt to answer it satisfactorily in 5 minutes.
It is essential to attempt the requisite number of questions otherwise you automatically limit your potential to maximise your percentage of the total marks available.
The process of answering each question precisely is the next critical point. Annually thousands of students give the wrong answers to questions. They misinterpret or do not understand the questions. Carefully reading each question a few times will eliminate the possibility of misinterpretation. The examiners are available to clarify any questions that cannot be understood. If a number of points have been asked for clearly identify your responses and flag them accordingly. Watch out for questions with subsections or parts (a), (b), (c) etc. The most important point is to answer the question that you have been asked.
A list of all the possible phrases associated with questions should have been compiled by you or your teacher and your interpretation of them should be clear. Very few questions can be answered simply by a description or a list of facts, most are formed to provoke analysis, comparisons, debate, explanations, deductions† etc. Typical questions and their requirements are as follows:
Analyse-†† examine the significance of the conclusion and the supporting information.
Compare- examine similarities and differences.
Contrast - examine differences.
Criticise - give arguments for and against followed by your judgement with supporting evidence.
Define -†† state the exact meaning.
Discuss - examine from different view points and give pros and cons.
Evaluate- examine the importance of the subject matter objectively.
Next the allocation of marks within questions for
content, relevance, composition, precision, examples etc. are defined and
guidelines are laid down for examiners. These should also have been obtained
and provided for you by your teacher or lecturer for your examination planning
An Approach to Answering Questions
The easiest questions with low or high marks
should be answered initially. They should be apportioned the correct amount of
time and level of treatment required. "Nothing succeeds like
success", confidence grows and tension and anxiety vanish. The more
difficult questions have already been read a few times and subconsciously your
mind has been working on collating the required material. It is surprising how
much information is hidden in the questions themselves which can assist in
formulating the answers and in triggering off key points in your mind. As such
answers are usually complex, requiring consideration or lengthy explanation,
care must be taken in structuring the answers. It is advisable to draft out the
main points and order them in your working papers before committing them to the
examination paper. Again, in answering such questions it is necessary to be
conscious of the time you have allocated to them.
Impact on Examiner
An overall important point is to ensure that your work is written clearly, neatly and well laid-out with correct margins, spaces, headings and reference numbers. All charts, diagrams and tables should be neat, well laid-out and referenced. When you consider the examiner who has to read hundreds of answers these points can create a very good impression and are often a break from the deciphering that has to be carried out.
As already mentioned, it is important to answer
or at least attempt the required number of questions. Marks have been allocated
to them and an opportunity to obtain extra points must not be missed.
Check for Completeness
Having completed the answers spend some time re-reading the questions and answers, carrying out corrections and adding points of clarification, if necessary, in the form of summaries or conclusions.
Finally, ensure that your name, if required, school, college, section, examination reference number etc., are properly inserted on all papers. Include your rough work papers with your answers.
Good Luck !