For people who have recently completed their education, the prospect of taking an exam creates a potentially unwelcome new demand on their time as they get to grips with a demanding new job. For those who have not taken an exam for some time, it can seem even more daunting. Success will lie in creating a realistic study plan and following it.
Start from the exam date and work backwards to create your study plan. The last week, at least, should be devoted to answering practice questions and completing past papers. Read examiners’ reports, if you can get access to them, they provide an insight into exactly what the people marking your paper will be looking for.
This sounds sensible in theory, but such theories should be treated with a pinch of salt and a healthy dash of common sense
Plan a realistic amount of study time each day, and build in some spare days in case something important causes you to miss a study period. Jobs and families sometimes demand a great deal of our time, and experience suggests something unexpected will almost inevitably crop up to eat into your study time.
Keep your study plan on your computer, or in your diary, and follow it carefully.
Much has been written about learning styles. There are many different theories suggesting you should identify your preferred style and adopt learning methods that suit your own style. This sounds sensible in theory, but such theories should be treated with a pinch of salt and a healthy dash of common sense – some are at best simplistic and others potentially harmful.
It certainly does make sense, however, to consider a mix of different methods to help you to retain information. Reading alone is often not enough to fix the detail in your mind. Get into the habit of making notes. Using other senses apart from the purely visual will help to make information stick. Invest a little time in considering how you can make notes that you’ll find helpful to revise from. Some people like lists, others prefer mind maps or diagrams. Using colour and highlighting can also be very useful.
While some people are happiest with good old-fashioned words on paper, others are auditory learners. Recording information to listen to in the car, on the train, or while out running can prove very effective if you are one of these people.
Try to develop yourself as a learner by using as many different learning methods as possible to see find out what works best for you and increase your opportunities to learn.
A well-timed training session with an experienced and qualified trainer can also be invaluable. Exams require knowledge you can learn by reading, but exam technique is equally important. A good trainer can advise on how to answer questions and will know what the examiner is looking for. This can be crucial to passing first time.
Make sure you have had plenty of sleep. Arrive in good time with your exam permit and any documentation required.
Know how long to spend on each section of the exam and allocate your time between questions to reflect the marks available.
If you do not know the answer to a question, keep calm. If you have followed your study plan, you will know the answers to the other questions. Answer all the questions you can to the best of your ability – and you will not go too far wrong!