Exams… Don’t panic!!!

Exams are coming up again, a stressful time of the student life. Long hours in the library and a lack of sleep and then finally they’re over and you collapse onto your bed (or somehow end up in Wind Street).

There are ways to prepare yourself, some of these may seem obvious but I have seen the same bits of advice ignored and then in hindsight wished it had been followed.

  1. Make a plan! Know where your exams are and when. How you are getting there and leave plenty of time to get there. Have an all the stuff you will need ready the night before. Pens/pencils, spares.
  2. This carries on from number 1.  in your plan, have a revision timetable. Plan what you will cover and stick to it. At the end of each bit, test yourself. What are you confident about, what needs more work? You can adapt this each week. Lightly go over the previous stuff and add in more. Build up what you cover and again, test yourself.
  3. (This is mainly from experience) Understand the theories! It’s fine if you can describe 50 odd theories, but description will not get you the higher grades. Know how to take that theory and apply it to a different situation. What are the strengths (why is this theory the one to use in this situation) and the limitations (what can it not help with/account for?) How would you counter the limitations? This will help you get the higher grades.
  4. Make revision cards (or post it notes). You can use these in two ways.
    1. Write a question on the front and answer on the back
    2. Write a small bit of information on them.  Stick them around your room/house or keep them together and use them to test what you know. The more you see and walk past or look at, the more you’ll keep asking yourself those questions, then hopefully it will stick in.
  5. Have a look here   http://issnews.swan.ac.uk/?p=1011   for some subjects it is possible to see past exam papers. Look at the type of questions that have been asked. See what they want/are asking and plan how you would answer these questions. They won’t be the exact questions, but you can use these to see just what you do know and what you need to work on.
  6. This builds from numbers 4 and 5. If you have seen questions or are using the past exam papers. Set yourself roughly the same exam time and write your answer out.  Plan your answer before hand, learn it and then see what you are able to remember and write out. This will help you gauge how long it is taking you to write what you know/remember and where the gaps are.


The night before.

  1. Do NOT stay up late and try to cram anything.
  2. Go to bed at a decent time and make sure you have enough sleep.
  3. Make sure you have everything you need ready. Bus Pass (or money) student card, pencil case, water bottle etc.

Exam day

  1. Do not try to revise on the way to the exam location
  2. Get there with plenty of time so you can go to the toilet and compose yourself and get yourself ready mentally
  3. Once in the exam and you are allowed to start, DO NOT TOUCH the question paper. Open your answer booklet and on the first page, write down everything that is running about in your head. Names, dates, theories, ideas, bullet points. However you have remembered stuff, write it out. Once it is on the paper, you can then focus and group stuff together and what goes with what.  Spend a few mins doing this. Then open the questions and see what is there. Now you can use what you have written down to make an essay plan and play with the order a little and then write it out. Once done, put a line through the page with your notes on and it won’t be looked at.


Also, DO NOT spend every waking moment stuck to your desk as this will be just as bad as having a break after all you’ve done is open the powerpoint and getting a notepad out. You need a balance, you do not want to burn out!

Bryan Robson

I'm a PhD research student, researching the ways that eyewitnesses approach line-ups and how accurate they are. I'm also a student rep for psychology post grad and a mentor for international students. I'm currently training for an INVNCBL course and just in general as well.

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