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Exam Technique

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This article was written by Tavistock Tutors

Exam Technique

In my experience, students commonly have two concerns when they or their parents seek private tuition. The first concerns factual recall. The second concerns exam technique. I intend to deal briefly with both of these issues here, providing tips to aid factual recall and improve essay writing ability in particular.

Psychological studies have consistently shown that our brains work in very different ways. Some people learn through repeating examples again and again. Some learn through visual aids. Others learn best through sound. Each individual has very different memory functions from the next and we, in the private tuition industry, are conscious of this fact. The following list introduces some of the best techniques and strategies to help improve memory. Of course, it will differ from person to person.

  1. Focus – in order to consolidate learning it is necessary to have complete focus, removing oneself from all distractions.
  2. Organisation – by organising and structuring the material you are studying you can take advantage of the natural fact that our minds organise information in related clusters. Grouping similar concepts together is one example.
  3. Relate to existing memories – by relating new information and ideas to information already memorised, it dramatically increases the chances of recalling the new information.
  4. Mnemonics – this is a light-hearted way of memorising information which works by using positive imagery or a catchy play on words and associating this with the material you want to learn.
  5. Teach others – reading material out loud significantly helps improve recall. Working with others is a fun and challenging way to do this.
  6. Do not cram – memories take time to cement themselves in the human mind. Regular, structured study helps to achieve this better than an all-night session the night before an exam.
  7. Focus on difficult information – we have a tendency to take the path of least resistance and focus on the easy materials that we know. It is vital to tackle the difficult information before the easy information – the order in which we take in this information plays a big part in how we remember it.
  8. Elaborate and rehearse – a great way to improve long term memory is to start with a basic idea and build upon it each time you consider the matter.
  9. Variation – variation of study routine, such as studying in a different place, makes it that little bit more interesting. Research shows that this helps improve long term memory.
  10. Visualisation – visualisation of charts and diagrams acts as a great cue to factual recall. Using pens with different coloured ink is a simple but effective idea when making notes.

Exam technique can be tricky but once it has been mastered there is no looking back. One of the simplest ways of structuring an essay is to use the PEEL technique. Point – make the point you want to make. Explain – explain the point you have just made. Example – provide an example which backs up what you have just said; it makes it much more persuasive. Link – link everything you have just said to the question you have been asked. This lets the examiner know you are answering the question and makes it easy for them to give you the marks.

This very simple technique can be used as the basis of any essay up to undergraduate level. Once the individual has developed the intellectual confidence to stand by their ideas and express them clearly they can develop a more sophisticated technique suitable to them.

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