How to Pass that Exam

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How to Pass that Exam (please forward to anyone you know who is sitting an exam)

– if every tip here each helped you gain a mark – you would get an extra 15 marks! Think about it.

The Top Fifteen Tips

In Advance…

1. Study past exam papers and take a mock exam in them…… with the same time period etc. Past exam papers are invaluable.

2. Schedule your revision periods to suit your best energy times. You may be a “morning person” or an “evening person” – schedule your main revision periods accordingly.

3. When you feel tired…Take a break, or switch subjects – sometimes changing a subject can be as good as taking a break.

4. Believe that you will do well. We automatically move in the direction of whatever we think about most – being optimistic will help you be more relaxed, more open to learning and is proven to help in your exam. Also, listen to music that helps you relax – which may even be The Arctic Monkeys.

5. Use a memory technique – there are thousands available – choose one from the web – and use Post-it notes all over your books.

6. Parents out… be seen and not heard, be there to make tea and offer help when you are asked for it…

7. Senses help recall of memories – what I mean is – you know how a song makes you think of an event? Well pick a separate CD for each subject and always play it when you work on and revise that subject – then play it before the exam – it will access that bit of your memory like a key in the lock of a filing drawer.

8. Eat the right foods at the right time – Eat a light meal at least an hour before the exam and avoid carbohydrates as they use up vital resources in digestion that you need to be sent to your brain – also some foods are better than others for brains – consult food doctor books. A small chicken salad is a good idea.

9. Allow time for travel – Make sure you allow a good half hour contingency when travelling to the exam as the last thing you need is worrying about arriving on time as well as remembering all those facts!

10. Help others – There is nothing like explaining something to someone else for making it clearer to yourself – how many times have you said “I don’t know why this maths answer is wrong. I did this and I did that and then… OH – I know, I should have done… “ and you answer your own questions. Do this for yourself in the exam too (although without actually speaking!).

11. Relax and get enough rest – Don’t go into an exam tired – your brain is an engine and will run at its best if it is not worn out.

12. “If you don’t know it now, you never will…” is simply untrue. Short term memory is very powerful, so have a refresh just before you go into the exam – this will gain you extra marks.

13. Glance through the exam paper in advance before writing anything… And notice the questions that you CAN answer and be proud of yourself at your preparation –
answer these questions first to gain confidence.

14. Plan your time – And use up all of it. You can always gain an extra mark here or there with additional points that will come to you later on. And if you run out of time, put a summary of the points you were going to cover – e.g. if you run out of time with only 10 minutes left for a 30-minute question, then answer it in outline only – stating the main points and facts, if an essay, and by jotting down formulae and how you would use them to reach a solution, if science or maths. More marks can be gained this way with limited time available.

15. Write down formulae at the start – For any exam where you have to remember formulae – particularly if it’s a difficult one – write them all out on the paper as soon as you get into the exam. Then you don’t need to worry anymore about whether you’ll remember them at the appropriate time.

Don’t TRY your best

DO your best!

With my love and best wishes


Share your top tip


  • Ryan Norris

    Those maths questions to get the comment on are getting harder.
    As for the NL week, love those tips and just love the last bit about trying. It’s not about trying because if you try and fail it means you simply haven’t tried hard enough.

  • Dan Jones

    The CD relating to subject is jenius. Love that.

  • Nick Watkins

    The one I’d add is:

    Do not panic if a difficult question comes up. My theory is that a hard exam favours the prepared candidate. If you know the syllabus then trust yourself that you can get to the answer – even if it takes a bit more thinking.

    I’d also offer a slight variation on 13 above. My advice is to start with an easy question to get your confidence up, but then try the hardest question on the paper when your mind is still fresh.

  • Francis Greve

    When i took an exam a few years back I knew I had failed because I finished half hour early. So important to take all your time and that is great advice.

  • Naked Leader

    Reply received by email thank you…
    Huh. Now I feel like I have been ‘cheating’ because I’ve been using these. There I was labouring under the illusion of quasi-genius – and actually I just had great exam technique. 😉

    I would also offer up some others that seem to be useful too: small alarm clock on my desk so that I don’t have to waste seconds looking at the wall clock. I always divide my time for the points and make sure that I MOVE on from a question when the time is up – rather than trying to be perfectionist.

    No time to read a whole book? Take a cup of tea to bed (or whatever your bedtime relaxation routine is). In NO MORE THAN 30 MINS [it’s a trick of the mind – it only works at SPEED] – Flick through and look at the pictures. Read the contents, flick through the index. Read the first line of every chapter. Go back through and read the first line of every paragraph. Now skim across the pages, noticing the pictures and picking up the key words that you happen to notice (like when you do a word search). Smile. Put the book under your pillow and go to sleep. Wake up in the morning, flick through, and be amazed at how, by magic, the other sentences in the book have ‘jumped’ from the book into your brain [my Mum taught me this magic trick and it always works]

    Use traffic lights for revision. Key points on index cards and colour code. Green for ‘I get this’; Amber for ‘I can get this with a bit of effort’ and Red for ‘yuck. FROG. FROG. Don’t make me do this. Don’t make me’.

    I used to do a Green, then Amber, then Red, then Green to finish with. Or, if I had more reds than greens I did Green, Amber, Red, Amber, Red, Green. I used to think of it like those profile things on the machines at the gym….As you get better you can cross out the red and turn it to amber, amber to green – etc….and then repeat 🙂 It’s perfectly OK to still have some Reds before you go into the exam, as long as you have done the stats on the past papers and have enough greens and ambers to get you the grade you want (with a reasonable chance of the ‘right’ questions coming up). For example, I found everything from 1900 onwards in American History to be ‘Red’ – whereas the Civil War and Revolution were easy Greens. So I just learned everything prior to 1900 (really well!) and remain blissfully ignorant of the grim details of Japanese Internment Camps and 20th Century American politics :-). I got an A.

    Don’t know if any of that makes sense – but the card idea has helped a lot of friends.

  • Michael Sumner

    Quasi genius = genius expression.

  • Graham Stagg

    Take a break, that’s genius because revising is extremely tiring.
    When I was younger it was all on the exam, these days it’s so much easier with course work counting for a lot of the marks.

  • Anita Raymond

    That’s not strictly true now as they are fazing in the exam more and removing course work as a percentage of qualifications which is great in my opinion.

  • Daniel Terat

    The way to pass an exam is to work hard, put the hours in, revise until an inch of your life and get the job done.
    Preparation. Isn’t that the key to everything?
    Although interestingly, watching Peter Kay on the The Tour that Didn’t Tour, Tour, his world record number of gigs watched by 1.2m people over a two-year spell, he preferred to arrive at his ‘exam’ at the last minute. That was the illusion anyway. He arrived at the O2 Arena in London on a boat with 10 minutes to spare, dashed into make-up and ran to the stage. ‘I don’t like the waiting around I just like to turn up and go on’ was his reasoning as 30,000 people waiting his entrance.
    Amazing and yet you can be sure he had done the work already, had per-rehearsed everything and knew exactly what he was going to do, even though some of his ad-libbing is excellent and shows the man’s genius.
    The point is, we all approach our ‘exams’ differently. There is no set way, it is just whatever is comfortable and sits best to make sure we get the marks we need to move on.

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