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 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, not too much unless it is 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.
Exam Regulations – Student and Academic Administration website
Exam papers database by University of Southampton
Exam revision by Staffordshire University Information Services
Online open book exams - a useful guide to what they are and how to prepare, by University of Leeds
Revision and exams by Leeds University Library
Revision and exam skills by University of Leicester
Student life problems: Exams by Enabling Services, University of Southampton