Thursday, 8 May 2014

Top tips from our team: how to prepare in the run-up to exams

This week’s blog is written by NEC Course Coordinator Rosanna. Those of you who are studying with us and sitting exams this summer may already know her quite well, as she specialises in supporting our GCSE, IGCSE and A level learners.

Rosanna, NEC Course Coordinator

With this summer’s exam session getting under way I would like to share with you some tips to help you to feel as prepared as possible. These tips are from NEC tutors and Student Support staff, including a special mention for Ralph who tutors for Chemistry and Physics and very kindly put together a pre-exam guide with some words of wisdom, so I hope you find them useful! If you have any questions please get in touch with us, and we would love to hear about the hints and tips that work for you.

The Final Countdown…

We would never recommend any last minute cramming, and the evening before each exam it can be much more productive to go for a walk, clear your head, have a nice long bath and get an early night. Do not try to learn anything new the night before – your brain needs a rest too!

However, in the few days before you can still be productive. Past papers are a great resource and free to download, along with mark schemes, from your online subject group. As well as giving you a feel for important themes and subjects, they’re also an indication of how the questions will be phrased and how much time you will have. Don’t rely on them too much though as awarding bodies do like to shake things up!

Try and compress each topic down to a single page of notes, then go for a walk or sit in the garden and pretend that you are giving a talk on one of your exam topics. It is a good, relaxing way of discovering holes in your knowledge and understanding, which you can address when you return home.

Not only does being active keep you healthy, but it can also help you concentrate. Whether it is taking the dog for a walk as a revision break, or listening to a recording of your revision notes while on the treadmill, engage your body and brain! Even when you are sitting at your desk going over your course materials, by writing notes or reading out loud you are engaging multiple senses which can really help information to sink in. Eating the right things helps with your concentration and energy levels too so keep the crisps and chocolates as a reward, drink plenty of water, eat fruit and avoid processed foods. And before each exam make sure you have healthy, filling meals that will help you to sleep the night before and concentrate during your exam. Plus, you want to avoid the dreaded rumbling stomach in the exam hall…

Exam Day...

Don’t panic! By now you have learnt everything and are prepared!

In the days leading up to your first exam read the information that your exam centre sent to you with your Statement of Entry. This will tell you things like your exam start time and how soon before you should arrive, where to go when you arrive, and what you can and can’t take into the exam room. As a distance learning student it is likely you will be sitting your exams somewhere you have never been before, so it can be really useful to do a ‘dry run’. Make the journey at the same time you will need to on the day, a few days or weeks before if you can. That way you’ll know how long it takes to get there and it will remove some of the worry on the day of your exam. Don’t be late! It is certainly better to be waiting around before the exam, than to be running to get there. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time so that you can find the exam centre, find your room, go to the toilet, and sit down and relax!

A piece of advice that lots of our tutors have offered seems so simple, but in the pressure of the exam room it can be easily overlooked: read the questions carefully, and more than once, to ensure you understand what you’re being asked to do. Look for ‘clues in the questions’ and be wary of the ‘sting in the tail’. Underline key words or important instructions that you do not want to overlook, such as giving your answer to a particular number of decimal places. Remember to always keep your answers relevant – link them back to the points in the question so there can be no doubt you have answered it well!

Don’t rush! If you have done practice papers you should have an understanding of how much time you have for each question, otherwise the amount of marks available can be a good indicator. Pace yourself and remember to leave enough time to check over your answers. If you’re really stuck, try moving on to the next question – you might find that when you come back to that tricky question afterwards, the answer will come to you.

And it’s as simple as that! Remember, if you have any questions as you prepare for your exams you can contact your tutor or get in touch with me. And we would love to hear how you do once you have received your results in August, so please keep in touch. In the meantime, relax and GOOD LUCK from everyone at NEC!

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