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How to do an exam paper question - approach

Leading on from the previous post, we now have the materials we need, so we will approach the question in order to maximise learning.

First, do the question. You get the most learning by doing it without notes or things to refer to. This way, you get the best picture of what you would know in an exam.

Secondly, mark it, and mark it as honestly as you can. Sure, it would feel good to know you got full marks, but do you deserve them? It won't do you any good to be too generous here - all that matters are the marks in the exam, and you aren't marking that.

It is also harmful to try to be too harsh - you might decide that you need to spend time on something when you don't. It is less harmful than being too lenient, but being harsh will not do you any favours.

Thirdly, look at what you did wrong - this means there is a gap somewhere. You need to decide whether this is a gap in your knowledge/understanding or a gap in exam technique. If it is knowledge/understanding, then you need to go back to your notes/books and revise what you have missed.

If it is a gap in exam technique, then make a note of what you need to do next time to pick up the mark. This could be part of a list of things to remind yourself before the exam.

If you got the question correct, then well done! You can still make a note of anything you might need to remind yourself in case you didn't know why you got it right - for example, you used a required word, but you didn't know that it was required (required words are underlined) - you could make a note of that. Remember that you will never get the exact questions in the exam that you were practising, so you need to understand how to approach a question of this type rather than just be able to answer the question you are doing.

Mark all of these notes in a different colour on your question and maybe add some things to your list of things to remind yourself before the exam.

If you have them, look at the examiners' notes, even if you got the question correct. You can do this for several reasons:

It will point out the common mistakes people make. You can avoid them. Since exams are graded on a bell curve system, then being able to get the questions correct that everyone else gets wrong will mean you will get a higher grade (provided you are answering all the easy questions correctly!!!!).

Some exam boards have general comments at the beginning which give teachers advice on future concepts to concentrate on to improve their students' grades. These are very useful, too.

Finally, put your question away somewhere safe. If you have added notes to it, then it is an excellent revision tool closer to the exam to remind you of what you need to focus on.

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