Exams made easy

26 Nov 2016


Illustration by Ahmed Amin
Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Mid-year exams are not the final exams so some students don’t take them seriously, but being exams, their marks count for most of what is reflected on your report card.

As December is the month when many schools have their mid-year exams, most of you must be busy right now in trying to grasp the exam syllabus and planning how to cover all the topics with your regular school work.

The problem with mid-term is that the classes go on until right before the papers start and so much unfinished syllabus is covered in the last few days that there is little time to learn and revise previous work. But you can’t use this as an excuse for poor marks. Plan and start executing your exam preparation plans at once as there is little time left. So let’s get cracking!

time to learn and revise previous work. But you can’t use this as an excuse for poor marks. Plan and start executing your exam preparation plans at once as there is little time left. So let’s get cracking!

Find out more about the exams

You need to know what you will be facing to be able to handle it, so learn as much about your exams as you can and then plan accordingly.

For instance, do you know how much marks the papers will carry and how much will the exam marks be worth in your overall total? Will the marks of the exam make up 50 per cent of your over all marks, and the rest of the 50 per cent will be from your test and class work? You can calculate how much you have scored so far in your tests to know how much you need to score in the exams to get the percentage you desire.

You also need to know the paper pattern, for example will there be multiple choice questions or essay type, choices to be made from a number of questions or you need to attempt all the questions, etc. Having these information is important in how you study for the exams.

It is also vital to know the duration of the papers and how many questions, of which type you will be attempting so that you don’t get bewildered when the paper arrives.

This is where many students get stuck because they don’t manage their time well and leave questions that they know the answer to.

Review past exam papers

Another thing closely related to knowing more about the exams is to go through past exam question papers, if available, to know the structure and format of the paper. You can ask your seniors and teachers at school for copies of old exam papers and if there is none, question them about it and note it down.

Reviewing and practise answering the questions within the specified time limit are what you should be doing with past papers.

Sort out your subject material

Check and sort all your study material. Check all the handouts and practice sheets that your teachers gave, your notebooks and books. Arrange the things in a way that the course material of one subject are together in one place so that you don’t have to waste time searching for different books and notes when studying a subject.

Review what you have and what you may need, like if you missed a class and don’t have its notes or don’t know what was taught in that class, ask a classmate or teacher about it.

Make your study area clutter-free. Clear away unnecessary books and papers from your study area and remove all non-study related material which can distract you.

Ask for help

As you go through the course you have to cover for your exams, you will find that there are some topics that are not clearly understood by you. First ask your teachers for help, then your classmates and family at home, but the teachers have to be your first point for reference as they can better explain it to you from the point of view of its significance in the exam syllabus.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, even if it is as late as the night before a paper. Don’t be afraid to appear silly or dumb because not knowing a question in the exam and losing marks is more embarrassing. There is nothing like a silly question.

Listen and look for clues

In the weeks before the exams, your teacher will probably drop a lot of hints about what will appear in the exam, so listen carefully in the class. Pay attention to the question the teacher discusses in the class, especially in the maths and science classes. Whenever the teacher writes something in detail on the board, copy it down as it is likely to appear in the exams.

Likewise a teacher will also drop hints about topics or sections that are not very important from the examination point of view so you don’t have to spend too much time on that. But don’t ignore it if it is in your exam syllabus as hints are not easy to understand and decipher, so you might be mistaken in your interpretation of what the teacher said and end up leaving something important.

You can even ask the teacher about it to clear your doubts but don’t always expect a clear answer as no teacher likes to give away the questions appearing in exams.

Make a study schedule

Your serious study preparations need to start a few weeks before the exams so by now you should be in full gear. Make a list of all your subjects and divide the amount of chapters you need to cover in each subject by the number of days. Calculate how many hours you have to devote to each subject and each section, assigning the time according to the level of difficulty of the subject matter.

Now stick to your schedule.

Cut out everything else

Cut down on everything else in the world to focus on studies.

The TV is still going to be there when the exams end, and so will all the video/cellphone games that you like to play. You can get back to them after the exams, but you can’t redo your exams.

The world will not come to an end if you don’t post a status to let the world know what you are eating or post your picture to show what you are wearing. The world is more interested in other things.

Test yourself

Make questions out of the different topics you have studied and test yourself. Practice answering these questions according to the pattern required in the exam, this will make it easy for you to form your answers at the actual exam time, even if the questions are different.

It is important to practice a lot, indulging in output activities that test your power of recall. It is a great way to check what you know and remember.

Now just get started with your learning and all the best in your exams.

Studying in a group

There are two major ways of studying — studying on your own or in a group. For most people a combination of the two is effective because there are many things that you can learn on your own, and faster, while there are some things that are better understood when discussed or explained by someone else.

What works best for you is something you need to evaluate yourself and it also depends upon the amount of time in your hands.

We will briefly discuss the pros and cons of group studying so that you know how to get the best out of it.

The advantages:

Studying with others and discussing your problems with them can calm you down if you are overstressed about the exams.

You can consolidate your knowledge by teaching what you know to others in the group. When you explain or teach a particular topic to someone else, you will also fully grasp that information.

In a group, the chance to discuss things with others can help you understand complicated topics.

One among the group who understands something better will explain it to others and in no time they will grasp it too.

Group study is more effective when done a few days or weeks before exams so as to understand the difficult topics through discussion and still have enough time to study solo and do some serious learning.

You can decide what works best for you and start studying.

The disadvantages:

If you prefer writing down things repeatedly, making bullet points or summery notes in order to learn something, then you should study solo as having others around you will simply distract you.

If you are easily distracted or there is a chance that you and your friends will spend more time in chatting than studying, then don’t think of studying in a group.

When there are more people around, there are more distractions.

And it can also happen that you and your friends may end up spending more time going over things that you already know and don’t get around learning the sections you are having trouble in understanding.

So studying together will waste your time, but you can avoid it by first deciding what topics you will be studying so that if there is anyone who is not interested in that can opt out of joining the group study session rather than wasting time there.— TN

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 26th, 2016