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Revision and examinations
Revision and examinations

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4 The exam itself

When you arrive at the exam centre, you may prefer to stay quietly on your own, rather than chat to other students. Do what suits you best and helps you to feel calm and positive. Once you are in your seat, try not to look around. Your senses can be heightened by tension and can fasten on irrelevant details, such as what other students are doing or wearing. Try visualising a relaxing scene, or relax using breathing exercises. Visualisation and relaxation exercises are described in Section 5.

Getting off to a good start

You may find it useful to plan the way you will start your exam. Having a routine can be calming when under pressure. This is from a student who recommends a checklist:

‘I have a mental checklist of what I need to do once I’ve turned over the paper. I do this because I used to rush in and answer the first question that looked at all familiar, only to find that there was a much better question further on. I would spend ages on this first question and not leave enough time for the rest. I tended not to plan, and so the facts were all jumbled and I realised, when the exam was over - too late - that I had left out some really good material in the heat of the moment. My checklist makes me stop and think.’

Activity 12

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes.

Using a specimen or past exam paper, give yourself 10 minutes to do a mock start to the exam.


What sequence of activities did you go through? Could you make this into a checklist? If you have a revision partner, ask them what they do at the start of an exam. You might not have as clear a checklist as you would like. You may find our checklist a useful starting point.

  1. Check the instructions.
  2. Read the whole exam paper through carefully.
  3. Choose the questions and order them.
  4. Plan your time.
  5. Plan your answers.
  6. Start writing.