exam hall

It would be great to think that the only reasons to study are because you’re interested in the subject, or that it will be useful throughout your life. Teachers would love to believe that’s why you’re in lessons. Often, a more relevant (short-term) goal is to achieve high enough marks in exams to have more choices in the future. Better grades cannot be a disadvantage, even if you don’t plan to continue with a subject. You never know when an extra high grade will make the difference when you’re being compared with another applicant.

So how to get those higher grades?

Paying attention in lessons isn’t enough. Reviewing and revising effectively isn’t enough. You also need to demonstrate your knowledge, skills and understanding in assessments. It’s about showing what you can do, what you know and what you’re capable of.

Obviously different assessments need different kinds of preparation. A lot of it happens during lessons, supervised by teachers – because they are preparing you for those very exams. There are things you should know as early on as possible, certainly at the start of the course.

  1. How and when will you be assessed?
  2. Where can you get (lots of) practice questions and/or papers?
  3. What content (from the lessons) will be tested?
  4. How much time to do how many questions?
  5. What kind of questions – multiple choice, short answer or essay? Some optional or all compulsory?
  6. What equipment will you need in the exam?

In the exam, you need to be able to perform under pressure. Alongside your revision, you should be practicing how to answer questions so that you get as many marks as possible. The details of this vary between subjects, but the general principles are pretty straightforward. Specific suggestions will be posted and archived under the ‘exams’ category.

Exam Technique

  • Read the questions properly, paying attention to command words.
  • Make sure answers include enough detail, including technical terms.
  • Check that your answers make sense when you’ve finished.
  • Get the timing right to give you the best chance at each available mark.

None of this is easy under pressure, but that’s why you practise it. You can make it easier for yourself, by revising thoroughly so that you feel more confident. If this isn’t enough and you get anxious about assessments, whether mildly nervous or really panicky, then there are things you can learn and do that will help. Have a look at the stress page for more information.


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