Before starting any exam revision, it’s important to take time to think about what is being examined. In some exams all topics are covered. In others, some aspects have been assessed using coursework and only certain topics are included in the exam paper. So you’ll need to be clear about which topics could be included in the exam. Some students look back at past papers and try to work out which topics are most likely to appear by looking for those which haven’t been on a recent paper. This is a risky process. Unless a tutor has specifically indicated that some topics will not be examined, there is no guarantee that this will be the case.
It’s also important to understand the length and the structure of the exam. How many questions will there be? Will they require short answers, long essay style answers or are they multi-choice questions? It’s also important to know whether all questions are compulsory or whether students will be allowed to choose to answer a certain number of questions. Again, care needs to be taken here. If, for example, the requirement is to answer four out of eight questions, revising just four topics could be risky. Not all topics may have questions and it’s possible that the question on a topic you’ve revised is wording in a way that you feel unable to answer. It’s also possible that one question will draw on learning from more than one topic area.
It’s important to understand what the examiners expect. This information can be found by reading past examiners reports or by asking a tutor for advice. Usually, just learning facts and being able to reproduce them will be insufficient. Examiners are likely to look for analysis of facts, and application of material to the question asked.
Some exams are ‘open book’ which means that certain books or notes can be brought into the exam. Students should check whether this is the case. If books can be taken into the exam it is important to check whether they can be annotated in any way.