Below, I want to share with you some truths - many of which you may find hard to face. But if you pluck up your courage and accept the validity of the comments, they will certainly help you to achieve your academic goals. I have focused on mathematics but many of the comments are equally applicable to other subjects:
1. Get Working: Stop making excuses. Stop writing timetables. Stop arranging your desk. Stop reading this (after you’ve finished it). To start with, get yourself a copy of the syllabus and at least 6 (preferably 10+) sets of past exam papers. (Ask your school or contact the examining board from the numbers found in most good revision guides.) Set the exam papers aside for now.
3. Divide up the syllabus into about 10-20 chunks: Work through about 5 chunks a week. Read the topics required, refer to your school notes and then practise the questions on those topics in your text book. You really need to practise loads of questions, so don’t stop after just a few. The aim is to create ‘zones of comfort’. i.e. topics which, if you were to see them in the real exam - it would bring a smile to your face. Before leaving a topic, ask yourself this simple question, ‘would I be smiling if this came up?’ If not practise some more. If you’re stuck, get help from your teachers or look at the worked examples in text books or revision guides.
4. Focus on your mistakes: Know them. Treat them as the enemy. Do not turn your back on them in the hope they won’t rear their ugly heads again. I recommend that even after you’ve resolved the problem, you still repeat the question, TWICE. It’s tedious, but it is a sure-fire way of eliminating the problem. I do not recommend leaving difficult topics until later. The confusion simply festers. Attack the topic with the confidence that if your keep trying, and looking for help, you will master it.
5. Find ways of checking your answers:Almost every topic in mathematics has quick and simple ways for you to check. For instance, if you have solved the quadratic ax2+bx+c=0 then a simple check is that the product of your solutions must equal c/a. Did you know that? Ask your teachers for quick ways to check answers. Use the functions of your calculator (I strongly recommend getting a graphic calculator - these help you to check your graphs, solutions to equations, statistics...) Come the day of the exam, it is these checks that are you guarantee of getting the mark you’ve worked so hard for.
6. Test yourself: This is a tough one. If you really are concerned about doing well, then you will quite naturally feel fearful of self testing. Every time I used to test myself, I would feel the surge of adrenaline, my heart would race, my stomach turn. All of the symptoms of the ‘fight or flight’ response. I chose to fight. Run away from self testing and your chances in the exam are all but gone. Students who can stand the torture of self testing will simply outclass those who wimp out. Use the tests at the end on each topic found in the text books or in the revision guides.
7. Your initial exam practice: After you’ve finished the entire syllabus (but at least 3 weeks before the exam), it’s time to dust off those past papers. The first four sets are open book, untimed papers. Take as long as you need and look up anything you wish to help get you through. BUT, make a note of the time taken and the topics you needed help with. Get a teacher to mark the paper, or get the marks schemes from the examining board. You must correct your mistakes before moving on to the next paper. Again, the questions you failed should be repeated twice if you really are determined to exorcise those demons.
8. Your final exam practice: The remaining papers should be practised under exam style conditions. If you are following my advice to the letter (especially the advice about corrections), then you will find that your marks steadily improve through the papers. If you are not, then your marks will fluctuate dramatically and you will gain no comfort from the practise.
9. Having completed all of the past papers: At this stage the mark you can hope for is the average of the last two papers. If you want to improve upon this mark, then it’s time to go back through all of those papers and see where your mistakes lie. If mistakes are made from the same topic more that twice then practise that topic some more using a different textbook. It there were lots of silly mistakes then you have omitted to find checking procedures. Knowing your mistakes and eliminating them is the one true key to exams success. Do that and your exam performance will surpass your own expectations.
10. With less than a week to go before the exam: It’s time to make a list of all of the things you find difficult to remember and the errors you wish to avoid. You are allowed just one sheet of A4 paper. Carry it around with you everywhere. Read it on the train, toilet, whatever.
11. Relax on the day of the exam: Your performance is steadfastly secured by all of the steps you have taken. It’s true to say that your grade will not be decided on that day, but has already been set over the past weeks and months. The only important advice you need to remember is not to dwell on a single question for too long - otherwise you won’t finish the exam. If you can’t think how to proceed within about one minute, move on. When you come back to the question after finishing the paper, your subconscious mind will guide you (Eureka!). If you are still stuck then produce the most obvious working you can and continue to put forward answers to all parts of the question. By the time the exam is over, you should have attempted everything, finished everything, and checked everything.
I will not wish you good luck for if you have taken my advice then luck will play no part in your success. So instead, I wish you happy holidays.
[Found this online and thought it'd be helpful to some people]
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Tips for success
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