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Author: Pencil Case  Date: 22 August 2019

Exams = Important

Exams can be hell for the disorganised but they don't have to be. With a little planning and forethought you can make life a lot easier for yourself. The main thing to remember is that exam preparation starts on day one of school, not the night before an exam.

Preparing for exams


1 Know when your exams are and what subjects have exams. Write this down on your time line (see time management).

2. Put aside a page in each subject file where you can write down things the teacher says about the exams e.g. they might say that the history of the Liberal Party is always heavily assessed in politics exams. Write this down. It will help you to concentrate your study time in the future.

3. Ask the teacher if your subject has anything special you need to know about and how it is assessed e.g. in some subjects, using dot points in an exam means automatic failure but in other subjects dot points are expected. Write this information down on your exams hints page mentioned above.

4. Keep good quality notes from day 1.

5. Begin your Easy Notes on day 1.

6. Set aside a time per week for general review of the information that is likely to be assessed in all your exams. No matter how busy you are stay true to this time and never use it for other things.

7. Review information as regularly as you can. Perhaps use every Saturday morning as your time to go over all of your notes and especially your Easy Notes for the whole year to date.

Advanced Tip

Weak students only work on what they are doing in class that week. Advanced students put aside time every week to go over a summary of the whole year to date. If you think about it, by your end of year exams you will have reinforced some information over 40 times!

8. As you get closer to exams try to increase the frequency of your reviewing. Ideally you want to build to the point where you are reviewing the most relevant information daily.

9. When you are about a month out, start to simulate exam conditions:

-Practice writing essays as quickly as you can.

-Work through old exam papers in real time.

-See how quickly you can complete multiple choice questions.

10. Start to reduce the volume of material you are studying:

-From about a month out from an exam you should stop using your text book (unless absolutely necessary)

-You should start working primarily from you own written notes

-Start condensing your notes down to key words and phrases for review and use memory techniques on these words

-Continuously review your Easy Notes

Time Line - 1 week out

By 1 week out from an exam you should no longer be using your notes

-By now you should have condensed the entire year or semester down to 4 to 6 x A4 sheets of notes

-The last week before an exam should be spent memorising those notes and practising the expansion method

-Check to see that you have all the pens, calculators etc. you need for your exams and put them safely to one side

-Double check the time of your exam and what room it is in

-Start using affirmations and start becoming really positive about the exam ahead

Time Line - 1 day out

By 1 day out from the exam you should be absolutely full bottle on your subject

-You should have memorised your 4 to 6 pages of information

-You should read through your Easy Notes for the very last time

-You should eat a big healthy dinner

-You should drink lots of water

-You should do some relaxation exercises

-You should go to bed early and not stay up all night cramming

-You should get all the items you need for the exam ready and pack your bag for the next day

Time Line - The morning of the exam

The morning of you exam

-Get up early and go for a walk

-Have a big healthy breakfast

-Drink lots of water

-Get to school early

-Go over your 4 to 6 pages of notes and read through them once only then put them away

-You're ready. Good luck!

What to do in the exam

With the exception of most maths and language exams and to an extent English, most exams tend to follow a roughly similar format i.e. reading time, multiple choice questions, short answer questions and essay questions. The best advice I can give is to see your teacher for each subject as each subject has it's own preference as to how each area is dealt with. For example, a short answer question in economics is often considered to be a page long whereas a short answer question in science is often only a few lines. However, these rules may change from year to year so ask your teacher what will be expected this year and write it down.

Reading Time

Reading time is usually about 10 mins at the start of the exam and is very important. The main thing here is to try and read all of the questions once or twice over. Don't dwell on a question or start thinking about it. Just read it and move on. Your mind will realise that it needs the information you have just read and will go looking for it. In an hour or so when it comes time to answer that question your mind may have found all the information it needs. This is particularly important for standardisation tests that most year 12's have to do. You can't study for these tests and there are usually 100 or so multiple choice questions. By reading as many of them as possible first you will set your mind to solving problems in the background. All this and you didn't even know you were doing it.

Multiple Choice Exams

Multiple choice exams should be the easiest of exams but many people often do surprisingly bad at them.

There are two schools of thought with multiple choice exams:

1. Leave the multiple choice component of the exam to the end because if you are short of time you can spend your last few seconds of the exam guessing and quickly circling random answers and hoping for the best.

2. Do your multiple choice questions first as they often jog your memory to a lot of information that you will need for the rest of the exam.

Our suggestion is that if you have done a good level of preparation you should not need the memory jogger and that you would be better off leaving them to the end. But if you are under prepared you might be better doing them first.

When completing MCE's there is one overriding premise that you should always remember because it will keep you out of trouble. And that is:

"Trust your gut feeling!"

Your brain is very good at rapidly working through large amounts of information and quickly determining the most likely answer. It is self doubt that often leads us to the wrong answer in a multiple choice exam.

If in doubt, stick with your first answer.

So how do we tackle multiple choice questions?

1. Read every question that you have before you answer any of them. Your brain can multi task and it will be searching for the information you need while answering other questions. Have you ever done that thing where you just can't remember someone's name and yet 3 hours later it pops into your mind. This happens because our brain has prioritised that information as being very important and so has spent the 2 to 3 hours searching through millions of old pieces of information in order to find that name. The same thing will happen in the exam. As you read questions your brain will start tracking down the answers.

2. Above all else, the first answer you thought was right probably is. So when completing the exam circle your first answer and stick to it. In other words this means that unless you are 100% certain that you were wrong the first time, stick with your original answer as more often that not it is going to be the right one. Not all the time but more than 50% of the time this will save your bacon.

How do we work out which answer is right in the first place?

1. The key to MCE's is to work backwards and eliminate the wrong answers first

2. Multiple choice questions usually have 4 answers

3. Read each answer carefully

4. One answer is usually totally wrong or mostly wrong. Cross it straight out with your pen

5. One answer is usually a bit right but something about it makes it wrong. Cross that one out as well. Even if you are not sure of the right answer by eliminating the wrong answers you have increased the likeliness of getting it right from 25% to 50%. I like those odds!

6. Of the two remaining answers one is either totally right or more right that the other. The wrong answer often has only one small factor that makes it wrong.

7. Make your best decision, circle or cross the answer and as we said above stick to that answer unless you become certain you made the wrong choice.

8. Move on to the next question and repeat.

Advanced Tip

In multiple choice exams it is possible to have two correct answers. However, one of the answers will be more correct than another because it matches the wording of the question better.

For example, a question in a first aid multiple choice exam might ask:

To control bleeding what would you do first?

a)Bandage the wound to control bleeding

b)Apply direct pressure to the wound with your hand

c)Elevate the wound to reduce blood flow

d)Check for danger

What did you say? The correct answer is d) check for danger because the question asks "what would you do first". Of course you would check for danger before you did any of those other things even though the other answers are correct for controlling bleeding, they are not correct for what you would do first.


Complete this multiple choice exam:

Q23) Which of the following is the correct answer:

a)This is the correct answer because it is clearly wrong

b)This is the correct answer because it seems right but something the teacher once said makes it stand out as a wrong answer

c)This is the correct answer because it seems right. However, there is another answer that is even more right or this answer is only partially right in certain circumstances

d)This is the correct answer because no matter which way you look at it seems to match the question perfectly

Q24) School is important because:

a)It keeps me out of gaol

b)It gives me a good start in life and it keeps me away from my parents

c)It gives me a good start in life and allows me to make friends

d)It sets me up to succeed for the rest of my life

The correct answers were d) and d).

Short Answer Questions

Short answer questions are similar to essay questions in the way that you answer them. They have a similar structure however you will tend to go into far less detail and explanation and you generally do not need to prove a deep level of understanding of the topic. On the flip side however short answer questions are designed to show that you have an understanding of a topic.

Tackling short answer questions (that are a paragraph or less in length).

1. Read the question carefully and highlight key words that must be addressed

2. Don't waffle, get straight to the point and try to use the key words from the question in the answer

3. (Clarify for each subject) Using dot points is often a great concise way to answer short answer questions properly

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