How to prepare for a Btec exam

students sitting an exam

Take the pressure off exam day by making sure you’ve done all the right preparations

Many Btecs are assessed through a combination of coursework, set tasks/controlled assessments and exams. The exams are likely to take place under the strictest conditions, which can make them feel a bit daunting.

But as long as you’re properly prepared, you should be able to breeze right through – here’s what you need to know.

For more tips and advice from other Btec students, check out our dedicated Btec forum

More like this: top Btec exam revision tips from Btec students

Before the exam…

Map out your time

Avoid that dreaded last-minute panicky feeling  by making sure you’ve set aside enough time to revise for your exams. Our article on how to make a great revision timetable that you'll actually stick to should get you started.

It's rarely a matter of the quantity of revision but the quality of it. Even half an hour of concentrated, focused revision is way better than two hours with constant distractions and little effort.

It's also more effective to structure your revision: don't go into a revision session with only the vague idea that you must study. It sounds obvious but if I decide to study I need to know exactly what I'll be doing or I lose focus and procrastinate.


Write up your notes

Pulling together all your resources and making notes is the first step of revision for lots of students. 

If you don't fancy writing them all out by hand, you can use these free online resources to create quizzes, flashcards, mindmaps and more.

I've mainly written out notes in a booklet form – it seems to help!

student highlighting notes

Look at past papers

Answering past questions is a great way to revise. It can show you exactly where you need to improve and help you get used to the structure of the exam, so you don’t get any nasty shocks when the big day comes around. Here’s a more in-depth look at how you can use past papers to ace your exams.

You could ask your teacher if they have any that you could take a look at. Alternatively, most Btecs have past papers up on the Pearson website

Time yourself while doing the past paper. There's no point letting yourself spend hours and hours on one paper, because you aren't going to get that amount of time in the exam.

Go through your past paper being really strict on yourself. After you have marked your exam, you can see clearly how much you struggled with it. Make notes of any questions/concepts that you struggled with, and focus your revision on them.


During the exam…

Be ready for the kind of questions the exam might ask

In general, Btec exams are applied – meaning they will probably ask you questions about how you would deal with specific case studies or situations. They’re also likely to include a mixture of short factual questions and longer, more in-depth ones.

So, as an example, a Business Btec might ask you to give two advantages of contactless cards as a short question, then get you to evaluate which would be the most suitable insurance policy in a particular case study as a longer one.

More like this: seven things to do the night before and morning of an exam

students sitting an exam

Understand what the different key terms or commands mean

Your subject will have a list of key terms and command words that will typically be used across your subject. 

Command words are the ones used in each question that tell you what kind of thing you need to demonstrate in your answer. ‘Explain’, ‘discuss’ and ‘calculate’ are examples of a few different command words.

Sometimes command words can sound very similar but actually be asking to you demonstrate slightly different things. Their exact meaning can also differ across courses, so it’s worth making sure that you’ve got a really good understanding of your subject’s command words. Your teacher should be able to help you with this, or you can find your course on the Pearson website here and click through to open the specification, which should include a breakdown of the key terms and command words you’re most likely to come across. 

student writing in exam paper

Plan your answers 

It can really pay off to give yourself a little bit of time at the beginning of the exam to properly read the questions – about five or ten minutes should be enough.

Make sure you definitely understand what the questions are asking you to do and write out a rough plan for how you’re going to answer. This doesn’t have to be massively detailed – even just jotting down a few key words or phrases you don’t want to forget to include can be really helpful.

I always highlight and scribble on the paper to draw my attention to the most important bits so I don't forget them.

Also if you really don't get it, go on and come back to it at the end with a open mind.

Starry Sky

More like this: your guide to dealing with exam and revision stress

Get the timings right

Some of the questions on your Btec exam will probably be asking for short answers, while others will need longer responses – so make sure you allocate your time accordingly.

If you decide roughly how long you want to spend on each question before you start answering it, you’re less likely to end up scrambling to write out a full case study analysis in the final minutes of the exam.

It’s also a good idea to leave about five minutes at the end to give your paper a final read-through and check for any mistakes that you can quickly fix.

Find more useful articles on our Btec hub, including advice on how to prepare for a set task

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