Exams are a part of University education – you will not be able to avoid them! But, you can get better at taking them and reduce the stress of them by following these tips.
Three key strategies:
Plan carefully – know what to expect.
Revise effectively – work out the revision techniques that suit you best and play to your strengths.
Know what you need to do on the day – the practical bit to help you avoid last minute panics.
Select a tab for more information.
If you plan and prepare well you are less likely to become stressed or to get a nasty surprise on the day of the exam.
Preparing for exams
Do not stay up late or go out drinking the night before your exam – you will regret it in the morning!
|Pens, pencils, drawing instruments|
|Calculator (if allowed)|
|Dictionary (if allowed)|
|Watch or clock|
Effective revision begins at the start of your course with the notes you make and the methods you use to follow up on lectures and tutorials. This will lay the foundations of your learning. Closer to exams, you will need to spend more concentrated time on the process.
Think about these questions.
Memorise facts and formulae in exam conditions (quiet, well-lit space), it may help you to recall them more easily.
Before the exam
Stay healthy: sleep well, eat right, drink water!
Check your checklists: make sure you have got everything you need.
Be in good time, but not too early - a long wait will increase anxiety.
Don’t talk about the exam – there will always be someone who has done more revision than you!
Check key facts and brief notes on the exam day, but avoid last minute ‘panic’ revision.
In the exam
Practical arrangements: Listen carefully to instructions from the invigilator – there may be important information you need to know about the exam.
The question paper:
Read the instructions carefully, then read them again!
Are any of the questions/ sections compulsory?
Do some questions carry more marks than others?
Read all the questions before you begin so that you can work out which ones you can answer best and draw up a plan for the exam.
Plan which questions to answer and in which order.
Attempt the questions you feel most confident about first.
Allow time to answer all the questions you are asked to do.
Allocate time to questions proportional to the number of marks they carry.
Answering the question:
Make sure you understand the question and address what it specifically asks.
Plan your answer before writing it.
Don’t be tempted to simply write down all you know on the topic, or replicate a prepared answer which does not match the question.
If you can’t answer a question, or you get stuck, move on and come back to it later.
For answers containing calculations, show all your workings – you can still get marks even if the final answer is wrong.
Checking your answers: Always allow yourself time for this at the end of an exam.
Look for mistakes in spelling and grammar.
Check your facts – getting these wrong will not impress the examiner!
Check numerical answers using dimensional analysis.
When you have finished
Make sure the answer books all have your correct name and candidate number.
Check that all the answers are correctly numbered.
Be sure to include all relevant workings and notes before you hand in your script.
After the exam
Take a break: relax and enjoy yourself a bit, but don't lose focus if it's not your last exam!
Exam papers database - this links through to the database of past examination papers for all subjects. You may need to log in with your university username and password to access the database if you are off campus.
If you experience problems which affect your ability to sit your exam(s) you need to follow certain procedures. Here are some useful links.
Assessment timetables - Timetables, guidance and support on assessments at UoS
Exam Regulations – Student and Academic Administration website
Examinations Policy for Disabled and Dyslexic Students
Getting started with Short Duration Online Assessments (SDOA) (UoS staff and student guide)
Special Considerations and Extensions Requests (UoS Quality Handbook) - guidance and forms
Special Considerations and Extensions for Taught Courses (SUSU guide)
Pencil image by Max Griboedov/Shutterstock (image ID:332782838). Image edited by Southampton University Library.
Exam Dos and Don'ts by SUSU
How to Reduce Exam Stress by Psychology of Effective Studying
How to study for exams - Evidence-based revision tips by Ali Abdaal
A short guide to essay-based exams by University of Birmingham [PDF]
Revising for exams by University of Southampton [PDF].
Study skills - staying focused by University of Southampton [PDF].
Managing your time by University of Southampton [PDF].
Exam papers database by University of Southampton
Exam revision by Staffordshire University Information Services
Get the most out of your revision - a revision and memory guide including resources aimed at students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), by UoS
Managing assessments: study and wellbeing by Student Disability and Wellbeing, UoS - information, advice and practical resources for assessments/exams
Managing exam anxiety: from stress to success - an online workshop created by Student Disability and Wellbeing, UoS
Multiple-choice questions - log into Skills for Study and find out more about the structure of MCQs and strategies for answering them.
Online open book exams - a useful guide to what they are and how to prepare, by University of Leeds
Revision and exams - exam preparation, revision and writing skills by Leeds University Library
Revision and exam skills by University of Leicester
Your 3 step guide to revising for essay-based exams a short blog on how to recap, read and rehearse for exams by Newcastle University
Create a revision timetable by Get Revising, The Student Room Group
Revision Teqniques - Here is a collection of revision related videos, that may help aid your preparation for your exams. Key elements include creating a study plan, reviewing your notes and taking rest breaks.