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Top tips from your teachers to get on top of exams

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Submitted by on Sat 03/06/17 07:26
Facing exams again? Want to go into the exam room feeling ready and confident? Your teachers know what it’s like to face exams (having done many themselves) and they want the best for you. Here's the top advice for exam prep from three of your most experienced teachers. 


by Mr Jackson

Here are my top tips for exams and assignments:
  1. Get a good night’s sleep. When I was an undergraduate at Avondale I lived in the boys dormitory. On the night before my second semester physics exam there was a fire alarm in the dorm at about 2am. While we were waiting for the fire brigade to give the all clear, I decided I could use the time wisely and headed down the physics study area to revise a few concepts. This was a big mistake. When I returned to the dorm I had a restless sleep because one equation kept turning over in my mind. I’m pretty certain I didn't get any questions about that equation correct. Getting enough sleep is really important in the lead up and during exams because you need your brain to function at its best.
  2. Write your own detailed summary notes. I took a subject for my masters degree at The University of Queensland that was very challenging both in the depth of material but also the quantity of the material. I was feeling very overwhelmed approaching exam time. My lecturer, though, required us to write a detailed course summary that we had to submit to him. This was very useful as it allowed (and forced me) to work out what the major ideas of the subject and were and how they connected together. As a result, I was a little calmer approaching the exam and managed to achieve a better than expected result.
  3. Do practice questions. It’s not possible to learn science just by reading about it. To truly master a subject you need to do lots of practice questions. Your textbook will have questions that you can do. It’s also pretty easy to find secondhand copies of other textbooks, which will provide even more questions to practice.
  4. Identify specific things that you don't know. I wrote an entire masters thesis that was really just about solving lots of small problems. Each problem I encountered forced me to look for the cause of the problem and then work out how I could solve that. Sometimes I needed to ask for help to figure out how to solve that smaller problem but once I had worked out the source of the problem I was usually able to solve it for myself. When you’re studying, try to use the pieces of knowledge that you have to work out the solution to problems that you encounter. If you’re still stuck, that’s when you should ask for help.


by Mrs Tooley

Here are my top 10 tips for preparing for exams:
  1. Give yourself enough time to study. Don’t leave all your learning to the lastminute.
  2. Find out what you need to study. Ask for the topics that will be examined.
  3. Have a study space and organise it. Have a tidy desk free of distractions.
  4. Use flow charts and diagrams to help your visualise and memorise material.
  5. Have someone ask you questions that may come up in the exam. Explain your answers out loud.
  6. Organise study groups with friends. Use the time to study, not socialise.
  7. Take regular breaks – at least 5 minutes each hour. Move around, drink water and get some fresh air.
  8. Snack on brain food – nuts, fruits and raw veggies.
  9. Know what you need to take into the exam room and be prepared.
  10. On exam days eat brain food and drink water – not sugary drinks.


by Mrs Fiaalii

Here are my top tips for preparing for your English exam:
  1. Read over the notes given to you in class. The teacher will have focused their teaching on the areas you need to write about, so ensure that you understand the themes or concepts you’ve covered in class. Ask your teacher if you are unsure.
  2. Have your quotes ready to use, whether from the novel you have studied or, if the exam is not on a novel, from experts in the field etc.
  3. Your teacher wants you to do well! If a draft or practice exam is offered, do it! You will do always do better in the exam if you have had practice.
Here are my top tips for when you are in the exam room: 
  1. Read the exam question carefully and answer the set question. You may have written practice essays in class, and it’s easy to memorise them, but you need to write your response to the actual question set on the day.
  2. Spend five to ten minutes planning. Make sure you brainstorm all of your ideas, pick your best ones (usually three) and plot out how you will structure your piece of writing — that way you know exactly where it’s going. It’s easy to panic in an exam, but a good plan will ensure that your writing is not just a lot of thoughts with no structure. 
  3. You have learnt how to structure your paragraphs using TEEL. Remember this in the exam.


Take a short break between exams. Maybe a bracing swim in the pool would wake you up a bit? A relaxing hot chocolate with a friend? GIve yourself an hour before hopping back into study again. Once it's all over, that's your time to celebrate!
Students, very few people go into exams stress-free. But by preparing as well as you can in the limited time you have, you can go into an exam knowing you’re ready to show what you've learned and doing your best. God bless!

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