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Exam techniques


Examination Preparation

Take with you a Photocard means of Identification, e.g. Driver’s Licence or College Photobadge, as most Qualification Authorities require this to be shown before the Examination commences.

If possible pre-visit the examination venue, including viewing the room planning well ahead. Take careful note of the parking arrangements and opportunities available. Remember the day of the week- some people have visited at the weekend and have not taken account of the increased volume during the week.

Check with the Syllabus to show the scope and emphasis of the topics covered within the Examination you are sitting. Read the Rubric at the start of the paper and note the title and level together with the start and finish times. Ensure that they are correct and you are in the correct room. Equally note the amount of questions that need to be answered or if all are required to be attempted.

Remember that if this is the case that each question may carry equal marks and so give the same volume of detail evenly across the whole paper. The temptation is to provide a greater amount for the first few questions or to those that you are the most comfortable with.

Note the structure of the question and the balance of marks within the whole question and across the different sections.

Also note the active words used in the question and their meanings:

List = a number of connected items, each statement is provided in one or two words, usually consecutively to form a record or aid memory.

State = express, fully and clearly, a short response of a fact or facts for consideration.

Review = provide an assessment, overview or general survey of a subject highlighting the major, or a requested number of, points.

Describe = state the characteristics or appearance of an item, covering the number required in the question.  

Explain  = provide further detail outlining the main points of the subject, making them clear and intelligible.

Discuss = highlight the main points around the subject in a balanced way; give in more detail any perceived benefits and limitations.

Contrast = comparison showing any striking differences; provide both the positive and negative points around the subject.

Evaluate = assess or appraise the value of an item or skill in a number of ways- not just financial.

Name = give the word or words that an item is known by, e.g. for plants use botanical names, where possible, that is providing both the genus and species name as standard. This clarifies which particular plant you are referring to or recommending. 

Always try to include any supporting examples, where time allows, to emphasise your points, especially if these are requested, note any minimum numbers required.   

Note the style of the question and response, answering as required. Especially with positive and negative points of view, e.g. Describe TWO methods of reducing the air temperature in a NAMED protected structure. Therefore you give your response from a high starting point, also stating the selected structure.

Remember that any figures required should be given as metric measurements. With temperature the move to Centigrade / Celsius seems mixed. With more people comfortable in referring to low temperatures in this scale, e.g. 4ºC, but with the higher ones the Fahrenheit scale still holds sway, e.g. 70º F, rather than 21º C. Please do not mix your scales of measurement- this can commonly be a problem.   

Finally, if time allows, reread the question and your response - add any other details you can.

Examination Notifications

Your selected Examination Centre will inform you, in good time, of the details of the papers you will sit.  

Equipment and materials to take

e.g. Photo ID and your Candidate Number.

Access Arrangements

Any extra time or enlarged examination papers, may also be of a different colour, i.e. some dyslexic candidates find black text printed on to pale blue paper much easier to read. A separate venue may also be used for a reader and or scribe. Possibly Amanuensis - the use of both a reader and scribe - may be recommended and approved by the Qualification Authority setting the examination. Also the use of a computer or word processor, rather than handwriting, could be recommended.

In this day and age with the common daily use of computers and word processors, time should be spent practising handwriting as undertaking a number of examinations one after the other can cause cramp in your writing hand. Also the standard of your writing can decline as the examination time continues. If the examiner can easily read and understand your response to the set question then you will be fully rewarded for your efforts.   

Read through the whole paper and then attempt the questions in order. Leave any troublesome areas and return to them later. Sometimes you may find that by reading and responding to questions further on in the paper it may stimulate or trigger ideas or memories resolving your earlier problems.

Try to keep within the spaces provided for your response but try to leave some space between your statements so that you may add extra information later on within the examination time. Make one point per mark - examiners are looking for the use of key words or phrases given in the correct place, usually supported by suitable named examples. If these are plants, then botanical naming is standard, with the use of both genus and species being best practice. 

Ensure that your candidate number is included on each paper and that any extra sheets that you have used are, if required, affixed to your main script with a treasury tag.

After the paper

Once the complete time set for the paper has elapsed and your responses have been finished then try not to undertake a post mortem with the others in your group, go and do something else and put it out of your mind. The results will be forthcoming in good time, once marked, checked and moderated.

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