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SRS Revision Skills and Exam Techniques Birkbeck College - 2012

SRS – Revision Skills and Exam Techniques Birkbeck College - 2012 Revision & Preparing for Exams

Revision & Preparing for Exams Study and Research Skills Module Saturday 28/04/12

This is the final session of the Study and Research Skills module. The focus of the day is revision and passing exams. In this session, through the resources on BLE and in the teaching in your subject classes, we will be giving you guidance and advice on the best way to prepare for and answer exam questions. Our aim is that you will understand and be able to implement the key strategies required for exam success. These include:


Critically reviewing your own skills and progress in order to identify most important

Name the examination dates, times and venues


areas for practice and revision Knowing what memory work is required how to memorise and retain key


information Understand the concepts required in each topic mathematical / physical /


applications / graphical , have an overarching view of the topic (use concept maps) Select and organise relevant information


Organise & manage time effectively, use target setting for revision timetable for next


6 weeks


Know how to access past exam papers and how best to use them.


Gain practice in how to critically read and interpret questions, including devising and


implementing procedures to perform calculations and solve problems Analyse past papers for common themes.


Use the concept map for a topic to construct your own examination questions

In the following sections we give you some tips and advice on how to prepare and sit exams to maximise your chances of obtaining the mark you are hoping for. We also give tips on how NOT to prepare .......

How NOT to Revise

avoid revising

spend too long at each revision session until your mind is confused

leave it too late, then worry

re-read everything with no plan

read through worked answers provided by lecturers or in text books before you have spent considerable time trying each question yourself - you learn most effectively from grappling with questions you can’t do

re-write your notes

write model answers and learn them



SRS Revision Skills and Exam Techniques Birkbeck College - 2012

Revising- so what is involved ?

Revision means going over work in order to:

Check your understanding.

Make links between different topics -see how the whole subject fits together.

Remind yourself of material you have forgotten.

Reinforce your learning.

Identify and fill gaps in your knowledge

Some suggestions for getting started:

Collect your notes/sources (don’t spend too long on this!)

Create an Overview perhaps in the form of a Course Map of the module(s) for which you are taking the examination

Break each topic into clusters

For each topic establish what you need to memorise and what is given on the formulae sheets

Establish how much you know

Establish where you need to revise most

Work out a Revision Timetable there are on line revision timetable templates that you can download and then plan week by week.

Working on your revision topics

Rework the topic you are revising into a chart or diagram - you might create concept maps, posters, colour coded notes. Consider displaying these on your wall! On a concept map you should be able to summarise an entire topic on a single side of A4 paper with links, equations, units and the areas on which questions normally focus.

Summarise material under headings onto index cards.

Make links, comparisons and contrasts between different topics and also between your two subject areas e.g. P/M, M/FM,

Do practice problems especially new ones you have not previously tackled

Read your summary again the next day. Keep reading the summaries of all topics every so often (it takes 7 times reading to memorize something it is said)

Discuss the material with other people

As well as past papers look at this years assignments and tests and problem class worksheets. Are you confident you can do all those questions?

Taking Your Examinations


SRS Revision Skills and Exam Techniques Birkbeck College - 2012

Before the exam

Focus on being practical. Make sure you know exactly where & when each exam will take place and the start time. Visit the room within the next week or so if possible.

Plan to leave much earlier than the journey usually takes to get to the exam. If something makes you late, this will not be taken into consideration by examiners and you may not be admitted to the examination. You are expected to plan for transport delays.

Check you have spare pens, pencils and a permitted calculator (not one with data storage). Obviously you may NOT use your mobile phone as a calculator.

Take water to drink.

Do not take notes or bags with you as these are not allowed into the exam room.

Stay positive. It is easier to revise and remember when we are in a positive state of mind. Avoid people who make you feel anxious about the exams

Get enough sleep.


In the Examination Room

Look over the entire exam paper before you begin writing your answers. Mark your best questions in order of preference.

Budget your time according to how much each question is worth. Make a note to remind you of when you should be finishing a long question.

Do your best (easy) questions first. Not only does this warm up your brain, but it also helps to calm exam nerves. Once you have answered 50% of the questions in your order of preference you may well have passed the examination - from then on you are building up marks towards the good grade you need! The easier questions can provide helpful hints on how to solve harder problems later on.

Read each question carefully. Rephrase it in your own words. This may help you to understand what the question is asking and remind you how you went about solving similar problems in the past.

Re-read the question. Underline units where these are involved in a question. Be aware of +/- signs.

Set out all the stages in your answer clearly you will get marks for each stage of your answer even if you cannot entirely complete it

Keep track of all units. Convert values to keep the units consistent.

Make an educated guess. Predict a reasonable answer that, given all the information, the real answer would be close to.

Keep a track of your progress through the paper and an eye on the clock to ensure you are sticking to time.


SRS Revision Skills and Exam Techniques Birkbeck College - 2012

Some Extra Tips for solving Problems in Physics & Maths

For a question with sequential parts on one topic e.g. i, ii, iii etc it is normally best practice to work through the question in order as the first part leads into the second etc

Avoid missing out the later parts of questions because you have not completed the first parts- use the information you have, formulae, given values, graphs to attempt all parts.

For a question where a calculated answer is required limit the rounding of numbers in intermediate steps until the final answer for that calculation has been reached

Present numerical answers with the correct number of significant figures. Always write down the units

Look at your final answer. Does your answer look reasonable, logical? Is the value you have calculated feasible? If not, you may have made an error somewhere. Go back and check your work, but don't get hung up on a difficult problem, and remember to stick to your time limits

Review at the end. If possible, try to give yourself a couple of minutes at the end to check all the answers.


Difficult Problems

Break problems into smaller parts in order to simplify. If you can do most of the parts, you're on your way to solving the whole problem. You will also receive marks for the parts you have got right.

Sketch out an outline or diagram. Add data to your sketch. This may help you to remember any missing details. Write down what you know from the question and what formulae you may use.

Re-read and paraphrase the question in order to better understand it.

Be open to trying a different strategy to solve a problem if your usual method doesn't work.

Substitute simple numbers for a math problem in order to see what a logical answer may be.

Work backwards from the solution. Make sure your answer is reasonable.

Skip the problem and move on. You don't want to lose easy marks somewhere else because you spent a lot of time trying to solve one question. You can always go back to the question at the end.

Look for similar problems in the exam that you have already answered that may give you a clue.


SRS Revision Skills and Exam Techniques Birkbeck College - 2012