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Revision & Exam Skills


Exams are a fact of life. Some students feel intimidated by the whole exam process. Here are some hints to consider on making your revision and exam period a less stressful time.


Why are exams necessary?

Exams give you a chance to make sense of your learning and to apply your knowledge under time-limited conditions. In a sense, this is the kind of skill you need in the workplace; rather like 'thinking on your feet'.



The best advice is to make a habit of reading through your lecture notes at the end of each week. This helps to consolidate the concepts in your mind and helps you identify areas where you might need more information.

In reality, we often leave revising until the last 2-3 weeks before the exam period. It is still possible to give a reasonable account of yourself provided that you follow a structured and organised approach to revising.


Revision tips from students


Revision tips from lecturers


Exam skills: before

The key is to find out as much about the exam beforehand. Obviously knowing the questions would be nice but in the absence of these you can help yourself by checking:


Exam skills: during

Some students find it useful to keep to an exam plan. For example:


Exam skills: after

Avoid a prolonged post-mortem outside the examination hall. Instead take some time to be alone and think about how you prepared for the examination and what you might do differently for the next examination. Ask yourself questions e.g.


Answering Examination Questions

In answering examination questions it is not just what you know that counts, but how you say it. A great deal of emphasis is placed on being able to use what you know to argue a case that relates directly to the specific question you are being asked.  Whether it is answering a question in a written examination, or for a piece of coursework, how you interpret the question is the most critical factor if you want to gain maximum marks.

Here is some study advice which should help you to think about how to interpret questions so that you can answer in the most effective and appropriate way.


Analysing the question

The following three steps will help you to interpret what the question is asking you to do:


Identify the subject


Identify the instruction


Identify other significant words


Finding questions

It is always helpful to look for examples to analyse. You will be able to find a wide range of questions in places such as:


What am I being asked to do?

In most questions there will be a keyword which guides you towards the required approach. In order to successfully answer the question you will need to highlight and interpret these keywords, targeting your writing accordingly.


Common keywords

Here are some of the most common key words and a suggested meaning for each: