UMASS Blog

Preparing for exams

Preparing for exams takes many different forms; depending on what subject you are sitting an exam on and on how you work as an individual. As a Politics student, my exams take a very similar form to most humanities subjects. I usually have two hours to answer two extended essay questions, chosen from a range of questions that are linked to specific topics in the course. It is crucial to have a clear idea of the format your exams are going to take as this not only helps you to best prepare for them, but also means that you won’t have any surprises when you walk into the real exam.

For me, preparation takes the form of identifying four topics that I am going to revise thoroughly, which gives me some flexibility when I get into the exam and see the questions. For instance, if I only revised two topics and the questions for those were much more difficult that I was expecting, I wouldn’t be able to do much about it. However, having two extra questions as a safety net allows me to feel much more confident as I walk in to the exam. Once I have identified the topics I am going to revise, I then work through the relevant material assigned for those topics. This includes going over lecture notes, the required readings and the further readings. Once I have got more familiar with the topic, I’ll move on to creating mind maps for past paper questions. Instead of memorising answers to past papers and then attempting to regurgitate them in the actual exam, I find I perform much better if I try to develop a real understanding of the issues at hand in the topic during my revision. Having a good grasp of the topic better prepares you for any question that might turn up in the exam.

The University of Manchester puts a lot of extra support in place for students during exam time to not only cater for the increase in numbers wanting to study, but also to help make sure students are staying healthy and mindful during this more stressful period. Exam Extra allows students to track where available PCs are across the University’s multiple study spaces, as well as the libraries operating longer opening times. Exam support workshops are put in place to help students practice mindfulness techniques so they can approach a full day of revision in a much more clam and productive manner. During the two exam periods of January and May/June, a two week timetable of sport classes are made available for free to ensure that students can keep healthy and de-stressed. Classes on offer include yoga, swimming, as well as various fitness classes such as interval training and body conditioning.

Indeed, exam periods are more high pressure than elsewhere in the semester, however the support is there for you to make sure you can do your best when that exam dates come. It is also vital that you practice some self-care too during this period. Making sure your sleeping and eating well, as well as taking regular breaks really do help to avoid you burning out.

Good luck!