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8.2 Preparing

Both activities in this phase - analysing the task and making a plan - are critically important when it comes to preparing for an exam. Start by gathering together everything you have been sent that relates to the exam or end-of-course assessment for your current course. Also collect any advice you have had in the past about exam preparation. But the really important thing at this stage is to try and obtain a specimen exam paper or any detailed instructions relating to your end-of-course assessment. Use this information to analyse the task. While you are looking at these documents, think through what it is that you are expected to do and look back at any previous experiences you have had that might be relevant to the task. This is particularly important in preparing for an exam. Activity 12 is designed to help you if your course has an examination.

Activity 12

Before you start any revision have a look at these questions. You can either note down your responses or, preferably, share them with another student or someone who will 'interview' you, listen to your responses and perhaps question you further. The object of this exercise is to recall how you have prepared for and performed in examinations previously. If you have not taken an exam before, think about how you will probably do it this year, instead. The list starts with a general question, focuses on revision and then on the examination experience, and ends with another general question.

Revision and examinations

  1. How would you summarise your overall feelings about examinations?

  2. About how long is your revision period - how long before the actual exam would you start revising?

  3. What sort of pattern does your revision take - do you work in phases, small bits or longer periods?

  4. How close to the exam do you revise - up to the night before or do you have a break?

  5. How carefully do you plan or structure your revision - do you plan a detailed outline of what you will do or do you just start and work through?

  6. If you need to memorise material, do you have any particular way of doing it?

  7. Do you record material in any way - perhaps summarise it on cards or paper, or record it?

  8. Do you try to include any new material while revising or stick with what you have already studied?

  9. Do you try to re-organise your material - perhaps re-write notes, or select from different parts of the course?

  10. Do you make use of back papers or practise actual questions?

  11. What do you do on the night before and the morning of the examination?

  12. What do you think and feel as you journey to the examination place?

  13. Do you stand outside talking with others or stand alone?

  14. Between going into the room and starting the examination do you have rituals such as where you place the things you've taken with you? Do you meditate, pray or practise relaxation?

  15. Once the examination starts, do you have a particular pattern of work - of tackling the paper?

  16. Do you have a problem with timing?

  17. Do you check back through your work before the end?

  18. What do you do immediately after the examination?

  19. Do you contact other students or your tutor after the exam?

  20. Looking back at the examination(s) you have taken, do you feel you have learned anything that has helped you, or might help you, to do better?


When you have answered the questions, make a list of what you feel are your main worries about examinations or what you find most difficult to cope with. Then you could:

  • contact your tutor to ask for advice
  • find out if there are any exam preparation workshops in your region.

Make another list of any good ideas you intend to try as you prepare for your next exam.

Depending on the task and format of the assignment, planning to complete an end-of-course assessment can be different from planning for an exam. Planning for an exam includes planning your revision too, while preparation for the end-of-course assessment may be more like preparing for one of your course assignments. Here scheduling is very important. The time between your last course assignment and the exam, or the end-of-course assessment cut-off date, will probably be short, so make detailed plans of how and when you will revise or prepare. Your tutor will probably give you some good advice.