Exam Techniques, Tips and Tricks

We know you’re busy – but take a couple of minutes to scan the following techniques, tips and tricks – then try any out that you think could help you with your revision and exams.

Preparing for an exam

Revise actively – don’t just read your notes. You could try …

  • Flash cards – with a question on one side of the card and the answer on the reverse
  • exam-prep5Making up poems and mnemonics
  • Summarising your notes – use colours and diagrams to help you learn
  • Setting them to music
  • Extracting key points and writing them down
  • Making up quizzes – and doing them
  • Writing limericks
  • Above all – do problems.  Make up your own if you run out.  Get active!

The last 24 hours

  • Don’t be tired, get a good night’s sleep
  • Eat protein before long exams…
  • Get the important facts into your short term memory
  • Exercise – get the blood pumping…

The exam itself

  • Plan your campaign
    • Allocate time to read the exam questions and to look over your work at the end
    • Subtract that time from the total exam length
    • Where questions are equally weighted, divide the remainding time by the number of questions. That is the time you have to answer each question
    • Where questions are unequally weighted, make a judgement on how long you plan to allow for each section of the paper
  • Do the easiest questions first
  • Aim to stick to the time you have allowed to answer each question. When the time’s up, move on to the next question. Using any remaining time towards the end of the exam to finish off incomplete answers.
  • Remember to check both sides of the exam paper – there may be a question on the reverse side of the paper
  • Use the marking scheme to guide you in how much to write
  • Take a bottle of water in with you – and sip throughout the exam
  • Use common sense
  • Always explain what you are doing
  • Never leave an exam early


If you’ve got time left at the end of the exam, think ACUTE – Assumptions, Calculations, Units, Truth, Explanations…

  • Assumptions – have you explained them all, even when not explicity asked
  • Calculations – have you checked them all – doing things different ways if possible and if time permits.  Did you press those calculator buttons right?  Do the answers to different parts of the question agree?  Check, and check again.
  • Units – have you written the units you’re using?  Do the units for all formulas make sense and agree – this is a very powerful technique for checking that your derivations are right and you’re using the right formula.
  • Truth – have you done all the parts of all the sections in the questions?  If asked to make a list and explain why, don’t just make a listRead the question and answer the question, the whole question, and nothing but the question.  Just like the truth in a court of law.
  • Explanations – have you explained what you’ve done at all stages – good explanations might get marks for method even if the answer is wrong; miss out the explanation and you could be throwing away easy method marks.

Adapted from



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  1. Exam season reminders | InformS

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