Mastering mid year exams

Mid-year examinations are coming up in a week. You’re probably feeling the pressure a bit, so we’re here to give you a few tips on how to thrive in the upcoming exams.

  • The key is to know what you’re doing them for! Everybody should be studying differently depending on each of their own goals. Are you using the exams to test the efficiency of your recall throughout Term 1? Or testing the effectiveness of your study system? Maybe you really want to get that top in class to feel more confident for the rest of the year. How you tackle the next week is completely up to this decision.
  • Ask your teachers about the topics to be tested. The test-writers try to choose past papers that show a good balance between all the parts of the material so it’s important to know where you’re weak on and target those areas.
  • Have a go at the past papers. Some should be available on Knowledgenet. The school exams are generally more difficult than the externals so I would not advise using official past papers yet. You just want to get a feel for the format of the exam, and probably working under time pressure.
  • Onto actual revision techniques. Active recall is vital. That means, you’re not feeding information to yourself, from the internet or the textbook. You’re trying to get information from your head out. You should be practising what’s going to happen in the exam, which is being able to formulate an answer without external resources. How can you do this? Flash cards with the main learning outcomes made into questions? Having your friends make up questions and test you from the textbook? Trying to write down the main points of a topic or a chapter without referring to it? Be creative.
  • Active recall is absolutely useless if you don’t actually know any of the information though. You should be up to date with notes, and if not, spend the next week making them. Spending time writing notes the day before the exam is really too late, unless you’re using it as a form of active recall. Make sure you have no gaps in your knowledge; the definition of gaps depending on what you’re aiming for (purpose, grades etc.)
  • Get a system together. This works for both answering the question and your test-taking technique. I find that knowing what questions I’m going to do, and the format I’m going to answer them in is very handy for writing subjects (Social sciences, English, paper 5 subjects, language writing papers etc.) So make a structure for your essay like TEXT (Topic Sentence, Example, explanation, tie-back), know what you’re looking for to analyse in source-based tests, know what texts and topics you’re most comfortable answering on. You want to lower your decision making in the test as much as possible, while still producing an original, personal piece of work.
  • This applies for the sciences too. Know how you’re going to sit the paper, be it simply by going form front to back, or choosing your most confident topics and moving through it. There are some ways you can systemise the short answered questions as well. To minimise time, you want to just answer the points that they’re asking for so be precise and don’t write long contradicting sentences that may lose you marks and time.
  • Test taking technique then. This really boils down to creating the standard habits you do on exam day. I think this is really critical to making sure you’re confident and ready. Have a good breakfast, create some sort of food incentive that hypes you up (mine’s miso paste :P ). Come to school knowing what you’re going to look at, the stationery you need all packed, and just learn to relax before the test. Go to the loo, try not to get intimidated by everyone who are saying they’re going to fail because it’s crucial to believe that you won’t.  Once you’re in the room, set up your stationery in the most aesthetic manner, calm down, smirk at the people around you. With nothing you can really do anymore, convince yourself that you will achieve your goals in this test. And when the exam starts, implement your plan from above.

Exams are almost purely a test of preparation ability and self-belief. Use the next week wisely, don’t stress out and try a few of the tips above!

By Keniel Yao

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