and Revision Techniques
First Class Exam Answer
exam answers look as if the examinee was following a set of instructions
down whatever comes into your head on the general topic of this
question. Do not structure your answer, nor write an introduction
and conclusion. Include irrelevant material, and do not evaluate
between opposing viewpoints."
Most exam questions
can be rewritten to show how a student was reading it depending
on the grade she or he received. For example, this question comes
from the Sociology of Modern Britain exam paper for 1998:
"Discuss the causes and consequences of poverty
in modern Britain" [my emphasis]
This is how
students gaining different grades appeared to have read the question:
the causes and consequences of poverty. Discuss these consequences,
drawing conclusions about the nature of gender, racial and class
inequalities in modern Britain. Comment on the adequacy of sociological
definitions of poverty in the light of your conclusions."
Second Class (B)
the consequences of poverty. Discuss these consequences."
Second Class (C)
some of the features of poverty."
down anything you can think of about poverty, in any order.
Avoid giving any conclusions, but if you do, ensure that they
are not justified by your answer."
Habeshaw et al, 1989.
is more important than quantity. Plan your time, and make sure you
have decent breaks from revision. Split your time between reading,
making notes and practising exam questions.
2. Practice both making up and answering questions.
You'll develop an ease with the medium, and learn what the examiners
are looking for.
3. Understand that reading is not the same as revising.
Once you've read something - like your lecture notes - summarise
it on paper so that you can see if you've absorbed it. Then go back
and see if you've missed any major points. Repeat until you can
summarise all the main points without looking at the text.
4. Meet with friends doing the same exam at frequent
intervals. Discuss questions with them. Do not panic when they come
out with things you don't know. Focus on those things in your revision.
5. Most importantly, don't worry. If you are feeling
stressed, talk to friends, and do something you enjoy. Stress is
the worst thing for interfering with memory and concentration.
the day before, avoid cramming. At most, go over in your head what
you will do in the exam.
2. In the exam, make sure you know how many questions
you have to answer, and how long you'll take for each one. Read
all the questions and order them according to preference.
3. Re-read the questions you have decided to answer.
Start with a good question. Re-read it again, and start answering
4. Write a brief structure of the answer, bearing
in mind what the question is asking for. Decide what your conclusion
will be, taking into account words in the question like 'how' 'why'
'explain' 'assess' 'comment' 'compare' and 'contrast'.
5. Ensure that your answer refers back to the question
every so often. Don't merely write down everything that you know
about the subject. Give yourself a minute off every so often to
mull over what you've written. Remember to humour the examiners.
6. When you've finished, re-read all your answers.
Ensure that each of them has answered the question to the best of
your ability. Make minor corrections, and re-emphasise key points.