Writing exams can be very stressful. Yet exams are an integral part of most grading schemes. The following advice will help you excel and get the best grade possible.

  • before starting, read all exam questions - sometimes it helps to start with the questions you can answer with confidence.
  • notice the marks allocated to each question - use your time wisely by focusing more effort (and detail) on the questions worth the most marks.
  • understand the question before answering - read the question carefully and seek clarification if you are unsure
  • be clear – carefully consider what you have written to ensure it expresses what you intended to say. For essay type answers you should consider “collecting your thoughts” on the back of page before composing your final answer
  • Be aware the following terms have specific meanings:
    • list - means provide a simple list of words (phrases), there is no need for detailed descriptions
    • compare/contrast - you need to point how ‘two things’ are similar and how they are different. This is best handled by first providing a brief definition (description) of each item and then doing the comparison
    • briefly describe – obviously a short description is necessary; length may vary from a few sentences to a few paragraphs - the number of marks assigned should guide you for length
    • discuss - a well thought out and detailed response is expected – likely a page or two in length; a combination of paragraphs and bullets is usually acceptable
  • calculations - require that all work is shown neatly in an easy to follow manner; include units, and underline your final answer
  • measurements - if required (i.e. on maps) need to be taken with care as accuracy counts – typically measures are to the nearest ½ m

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