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Exams – How to make them work for you

Have you got exams coming up? Our advice will help you be at your best, both preparing for the exam and on the day itself. 

Make sure you’re revising the right thing!

Be clear about what sub-topics will be covered on each exam. If you aren’t sure, check – there’s no point revising something which isn’t likely be on your exam!

Manage your revision time

Regular bursts of revision are a lot more effective than marathon cramming sessions. Plan your time effectively and build in time for breaks. Make sure not to waste time by having revision materials handy when travelling on a bus or waiting for an appointment. Pick up a copy of Stella Cottrell’s The exam handbook: achieving peak performance from the library for a host of other handy revision tips.

Boost your powers of recall

Have you ever done lots of revision and then gone blank in an exam? Try revising using flash cards and keywords to help you recall information more easily. If you want to stick to the laptop, free online flash cards can be found through Quizlet. Practice making mind maps for longer answers, including whatever sub-topics and examples that you plan to use. For multiple choice exams and short questions complete the questions you are confident with and revisit ones you are unsure about. Repetition also helps boost memory – so repeat the information you’re learning often.

Learn from the past

Looking over past exam papers can be really useful when preparing for an exam. They can help you familiarise yourself with the structure and content of the exam and they can also enable you to check for gaps in your knowledge. The Library has a collection of past exam papers which are all available electronically on our past exam paper webpage.

Begin your search by typing in a couple of keywords to limit your results – for example, words from the module title often bring back useful results. You’ll then be presented with a list of past exam papers that match your search. Click on the title of the one you’d like to look at. If you’re off campus you’ll need to sign in with your username and password to see the exam papers.

Get yourself ready in advance

A few days before the exam, make a checklist of everything you’ll need to bring and what you’ll need to know. Think about the following:

What equipment will you need? For example, a pen, a calculator, your glasses, your ID card.

What can’t you bring into an exam? For example, your phone, any wearable smart technology.

Where are you headed? Double check the time, date, room and building of each exam. Make sure you know how to get there.

Help to take the stresses out of the day

Remember that comfort is key, so take some water and layers of light clothing. Leave plenty of time to travel into University – if you’re travelling by public transport, get the earlier train or bus and if you’re driving in, don’t forget to leave time for parking.

Doing an online exam?

Your course may require you to take part in an online exam. Whilst many elements of an online exam are similar to one you would go into University for, there are a few things you might want to do to ensure you know what to expect and can prepare well for them. Check out our Online Tests and Exams eLearning to find out more about the different types of online tests and exams, and to find out what is expected of you when doing these kinds of assessments. Our eLearning also offers you handy tips and advice on what to do before, during and after a test or an exam to help you succeed.

Take your time to read the instructions carefully

When you have your exam, remember to read the instructions and exam questions carefully. Don’t start writing your answer until you are certain you understand what the question is asking for. Underline, highlight or circle the key elements of each question to be sure you know what is being required of you. If you are writing a long answer, make a short plan.

Plan how to spend your time

Time can behave in strange ways when under exam conditions. Work out how long you’ll need to complete each section of the exam in the time allowed and then stick to these timings. Make sure that you divide your time appropriately according to the marks available.

Good luck with your exams!

For further support with revision and exams, check out our Skills for Learning Revision and Exams advice. This will help you be more productive with your revision, guide you on setting yourself an effective timetable and help you prepare for your exams.

Please contact your Library Academic Support Team if you have any problems accessing past exam papers. Library Search has useful textbooks on exam revision.

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This blog is written by library staff at the University of Salford.
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