Revision tips: taking exams

Revision is more than just reading through the notes you made in class - it also means knowing how to answer the questions for real when you're sitting in the exam. Using old exam questions to practise on will help make passing your exams easier.

Why preparing for exams is important

Revising works best when you practise what you'll be doing in the exam ­and that means answering questions. By concentrating on key facts and writing them down as exam answers you'll be making it easier to remember what you learned in class.

Know what you'll be examined on

In the exam you'll be expected to answer questions on the subjects you studied in class, which means you'll need a full set of notes to revise from. If you missed some classes your notes may not be complete.

To make sure your notes are up-to-date, check your notes against the subject revision checklist given to you by your teacher. If the checklist shows you are missing notes on some subjects, ask your teacher which chapters of your text book you need to read and make notes on so you can fill in the gaps.

Past exam papers

Before you sit the exam your teacher will usually start handing out copies of old exam papers. These are really good to practice on.

Your subject text book  will also usually contain a few example exam questions. More practice exam questions, together with their answers (known as the mark scheme) can be downloaded from the exam board websites.

Organise your revision notes

Past exam papers are very useful when organising your revision notes. Arrange your notes in the order the topics appear in the exam paper. Once you've done this, try recalling the key facts needed for each topic.

You'll find that organising your notes makes them easier to remember and improves your memory. The easier it is to remember the facts, the more quickly you'll be able to write them down in the exam.

Practise doing the exam

Passing exams with top marks means knowing what to write down and what to leave out. You don't have to write down everything you remember and getting this right requires practice. Before you start writing, read the number in brackets after each question. This tells you how many points each question is worth and gives you a clue to the length of the answer.

For example, a three-point question means you'll have to write down three facts, a question with higher marks will always require more facts and a longer answer. Some other clues found in exam questions are:

the word 'define' means you have to explain each fact
the word 'suggest' requires you to use your knowledge to provide an idea

Once you have completed your practice exam you can check you answered the questions correctly by comparing your answers to the mark scheme downloaded from the exam board website.

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