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Psychological Tips For Effective Examination Techniques By Dr. Hari S. Chandran

One of the inevitabilities of University life is the examination. It is your opportunity to demonstrate your new knowledge and to reap the rewards. Examination remains one of the most common forms of assessment in higher education. It is vitally important to prepare well in advance to give yourself the best chance of success.

The written examination is the most prevalent means of evaluating student learning at the University. SO BE PREPARED.

In examinations many candidates do not do justice to their abilities.

There are two requirements for success in any examination:

  • The first is knowing the content.
  • Second is demonstrating the knowledge.
PREPARING FOR EXAMINATIONS

Target your studying

Figure out what is important and will likely to appear on the exam by looking at old exams and analyzing what the teachers emphasizes in their class. This includes not only content but also level of learning.

Practice appropriate activities

Studying for an exam should be seen as practicing the activities you will have to perform in the exam, under exam conditions. For example if you will have to do problems, practice doing problems from memory, with in a time limit. Or, if you will have to write essays, practice writing essays from memory within a time limit.

Keep up through out the term

Review regularly through out the term. Without regular review you may have to re-learn a large portion of the course in the week or two before the final… when you are most likely to be finishing up major assignments, practicals etc. Getting started

  • Plan a revision timetable and start planning well before exams begin. Take your teachers or parents to help to do so. Jump starts and cramming madly just before exams put too much pressure. Many last minute crammers end up falling ill on the day of exam.
  • Make your books, notes, etc. easier to use by preparing summaries, headings subheadings, and highlighting and revision cards. Attend the revision classes with out fail. Get more revision tips from teachers and friends. Essentially you must do what suits you best.
  • Make notes on important topic as you revise. This will be helpful during future revision, or when you need clarification from a teacher. One of the best methods to develop confidence is to attempt previous papers.
  • If you do not understand something, ask help from a teacher or someone who knows the subject.
  • If you feel stressed, talk to someone. Getting worried off your chest will make you more willing to take in what you learn.
  • Last minute revision is better avoided, as it makes you nervous. Besides last minute cramming is not conducive, if you wish to understand certain topics. Mechanical learning keeps you where you were-definitely at the starting point.
  • Subjects you are not fond of require a lot of revision. Do not keep them for the last minutes. Constant revising will make tough subjects easier to understand.
  • Overnight cramming tires your body and brain. You can only do well when your body and mind are healthy.
  • It is important to eat and sleep well. Do not skip meals or eat in a hurry. Small meals (like snacks) at regular intervals will make you less sluggish. And most importantly, get you adequate sleep. A six to seven hour sleep will freshen your mind and body.
  • Put yourself first-It is an important time for you. Talk your family and find out how they can make studying easier far you. If you feel disturbed due to loud music or television, you should tell your families to keep volumes low. A personal room during exams will keep your mind from wandering.
  • Finally don’t revise all the time. Take breaks to do things you enjoy and help you relax. Don’t forget there is a life beyond revision and exams.

PANIC AND ANXIETY DURING EXAMINATIONS

The night before

Panic and anxiety are really the outburst of uncertainties regarding one’s preparation. Panic sets in the night before or on the day of exam, but you can cope once you are in the examination room. Spend the last hours calmly reviewing what you have learned. Try not to tackle new materials then. Avoid staying up all night. The shorter you are on sleep the less clearly you will be able to think and reproduce what you know. Cram selectively-It is very difficult to study intensively or prepare rapidly for an examination, just on the eve of the examination.

The night before an exam when you are more anxious than usual is one of the least effective times for study. Your ability to deal with concepts and synthesize material is greatly reduced; even your ability to memorize is impaired by marked anxiety. Cramming only help you to be more frantic about the exam and less prepared to do your best. If you do come to the exam time unprepared, use your last minute study as a review of key concepts, instead of trying to learn it all. It is very important to stay calm.

Anxiety- Keep in check

  • Please understand and accept that exam time is particularly stressful, for all.
  • It is only normal to have stress, it happens to everybody.
  • Little anxiety is sure to help you to heighten your awareness and can enhance your performance. Beyond certain limit, it may be a cause of distress.

Now let us see how one can overcome this:

  • Carry your notebook to the exam but don’t open it. It provides a feeling of security (because you could check a question if you really need to, before the test) and your ability to avoid looking in it increases your feeling of confidence.
  • Panic is contagious. Stay away from the source of contagion.
  • Admit to yourself that you will not know all the answers.

You should assume "Some of it I won’t know… and some of it I will." Thus when you read the first question and don’t know the answer, you will respond not with the conclusion that you know nothing, not be clutching, but by saying “That is the one I don’t know”. At this stage please note that whatever is your level of preparation, your task is to do the very best you can.

GUIDELINES FOR APPEARING FOR EXAMINATIONS

On the day of the exam

Focus your attention on what you do know rather than on what you don’t know and be confident of what you know. Don’t study on the way to the exam hall or in the exam hall. Give your brain little rest. It will help you remember the answer when you write the exam. Make yourself comfortable by wearing loose and comfortable clothing Do what you need to do before the exam hall. Talk to friends, if it helps you to relax. Sit on your own, if the presence of other people are likely to rattle you.

  • Have a good breakfast. It will provide the energy and the nourishment you need. Ensure that you eat food that is not greasy or difficult to digest.
  • Leave for the exam hall well in advance.
  • Take everything you need, like for instance, extra pens, water, pencils erasers, stapler, calculators (if permitted) etc.
  • Go to the toilet before an exam. Going to the toilet during the exam is an embarrassment as well as it may break your concentration.
  • Finally you feel anxious, take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly. A wonderful way to bust anxiety is to inhale a deep breath and count to 20 and then slowly exhaling.

WRITING THE EXAMINATION

Getting started

Get as comfortable as you can in your seat.

First read the front cover of the answer paper. Ensure that you fill in the correct details of the Exam paper such as your Roll No., Exam Code, Centre Code, Subject Code, and Subject etc. Fill all the necessary details called for.

When you get the question paper

  • Read the instructions in the question paper thoroughly. If anything is unclear do not panic. Ask the teacher or invigilator for clarification.
  • Read the question carefully twice if necessary. After that, give yourself a reasonable time frame to answer each question. There are many who write one answer for too long and end up with too little time for the others.

Read the instructions in the paper and make sure you fully understand them. If you don’t, don’t sit and agonize over the words- ask an invigilator.

Check what is required

How many questions must you answer, and how many from each section. Must you use separate answer books? Read through the whole paper.
Make sure you have read all parts of each question.
Check if the question goes on to the next page.
Have you read the back page of the question paper?
Before you start answering the question read it through at least twice.
Decide which question to answer, and in which order.
Pick out questions that relates well with your revision and come back to others.
Doing an answer easier one can boost your confidence and relax you. Just like that tackling a more difficult one while you are still alert may be best for you. You may decide upon this as per your choice, preparation and presence of mind.

Follow the instructions

Answer the correct number of questions. Do not answer extra questions in the hope that you will get extra marks. You won’t. This is very important as the examination is aimed at our expertise and ability to present our knowledge only in relation to the questions that are asked, and not our expertise on the whole syllabus.

Manage your time

Don’t save the best till the last. When you have read through all the questions on the paper a few times, work out which are likely to be your best questions, and answer those first. This will give you a few guaranteed marks, and also make you feel better. There is no point in struggling through difficult questions, and then finding that you don’t have time to answer those that you know could do well on, if time permits.

Keep an eye on time, so that you will have enough time to answer all the questions that you have little awareness. If you don’t have time, make a skeleton answer in note form. Or you may even bullet point answers, as a last resort in case of acute scarcity of time. At least you have put something down to which the examiner can go through to assess your basic knowledge on the subject in relation to the concerned question.

If you can’t think of an answer to some part, leave space and move on to the next part. Don’t write about something else if you do not know the correct answer. This is just a waste of your valuable time and as well as the examiners. Aim to attempt all parts of a question. This will of course maximize your potential marks.

Avoid perfectionism

Don’t try to write down all the information you have learned. Avoid wasting time for perfection. Relate the length of your answer to the marks for each question.

Is your answer book clean and legible?

Be neat- research has shown that when the same paper is written neatly or sloppily, the higher marks are given to the neatly presented paper than the sloppy paper. The answer books have lot of pages to use. There is no need to cram all your writing and diagrams into few pages. Spread things out and help the examiner to see everything clearly. Apart from knowing and understanding the course material that is being examined, the way that you answer the exam questions is very important, because your exam answers are going to be read and marked by the examiner…who is another human being (well…You do not know what kind of)

So, the clearer you make your answer, the easier it will be to make off and get the marks, you really deserve for your contents.

Try to help the examiner read your answers easily. It is in your interest, and it is in the examiner’s interest. Remember although you will be answering only one exam paper per course, the examiner may have to mark hundreds of papers.

The well-organised, neat appearing individual will usually get the node over another equally capable person who is disorganised and careless in appearance.

Writing style

Don’t copy the actual question from the question paper to your answer book. When a question asks for an essay style answer, write an essay, when a question asks a number of technical questions, essay style answers aren’t appropriate. Address each part of the question. If you want to make a list of things then writing in bullet pointed style is acceptable. But don’t make your answer just a list of unconnected bullet points.

Clearly mark each part of your answer with the question number like Q2B, if it is part B of question 2. Presenting diagrams

Make your diagrams as clear as possible. One of the problems often seen is that many students for unknown reasons- draw very small diagrams. Most examiners will not have a magnifying glass handy, so draw your diagrams large, and annotate clearly.

When you have finished

When you have finished answering all the questions, go back to the start of all your answers and read through everything you have written and drawn, checking that it is clear and you have said what you wanted to say. Tie your main answer paper and additional sheets used properly.

If there is still time left, use it. Read everything again. Check you haven’t missed anything. Review all your answers and check them against the question paper. Do your answer match the questions and the question numbers properly.

When writing in haste we tend to:

  • Misspell words
  • Omit words or parts
  • Omit parts of questions
  • Mistake dates and figures
Try to read through your answers before the final bell. Many of us make silly mistakes, like missing an article. This will reduce errors. Resist the temptation to leave early until you are really sure you have nothing left to your answers.

CHECKLIST FOR EXAMINATIONS

  • What are the days and date of your exams?
  • What time are they and how long does each one last?
  • Where is each exam being held?
  • Have you any clashes that need sorting out?
  • How will you get to the exam?
  • Have you got a bottle of water?
  • Have you got ordinary pens (including spare) different colour pens and a highlighted pen, pencils, a sharpener and an eraser?
  • Have you got any specialist equipment you need?
  • Have you got a game plan of how long you will spend reading the paper, answering each question, and checking your answer?

ANALYSING QUESTIONS

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Benjamin Bloom created this taxonomy for categorizing level of abstraction of questions that commonly occur in educational settings. The taxonomy provides a useful structure in which to categorize test questions, since professors will characteristically ask questions within particular levels, and if you can determine the levels of questions that will appear on your exams, you will able to study using appropriate strategies.

COMPETENCE SKILLS DEMONSTRATED QUESTION CUES

Knowledge

Comprehension

Analysis

Synthesis Observation and recall of information Knowledge of dates events places Knowledge of subject matter Mastery of subject matter

Understanding information Grasp meaning-Translate knowledge into new context Interpret facts- Compare Contrast-Predict consequences

Seeing pattern. Organization of parts Recognition of hidden meanings Identification of components

Use old ideas to create new ones Generalise for given facts Relate knowledge from several areas Predict Draw conclusion List, Define, Tell, Show

Describe, Label Examine Tabulate Quote Name Who When Where Summarize

Describe Interpret Contrast Predict Distinguish Estimate Differentiate Discuss

Analyse Separate Order Explain Connect Classify Arrange Divide Compare Infer

Combine Integrate Modify Rearrange Design Compare Rewrite

The following words are commonly found in essay questions. Understanding them is essential to success on these types of questions.

Analyse -Break into separate parts and discuss examine, or interpret each

Part. Argue - to give reasons for one position and against another on something

Compare -Examine two or more things. Identify similarities and difficulties.

Comparisons generally ask for similarities more than differences.

Contrast -Show differences. Set in opposition.

Criticize -Make judgments. Evaluate comparative worth. Criticisms often

involve analysis. To judge good and bad points of something.

Define -Give the meaning, usually a meaning specific to the course of the subjects. Determine the precise limits of the term to be defined. Explain the exact meaning. Definitions are usually short.

Demonstrate -To show something.

Derive -To trace something back to (a source or origin). Describe -Give a detailed account. Make a picture with words. List characteristics, qualities and parts.

Discuss - Consider and debate or argue the pros and cons of an issue. Write about any conflict. Compare and contrast.

Enumerate - Give your opinion or cite the opinion of an expert. Include evidence to support the evaluation.

Evaluate - To assess worth of something Identify - To associate (one person, thing or group) closely with another.

To see clearly or pinpoint (a problem, method, solution etc.)

Explain -To show causes of or reasons for something. Illustrate -Connect upon, give examples, describe relationships. Explain the meaning, describe then evaluate.

Interpret -Comment upon, give examples. describe relationships, explain the meaning, evaluate.

Outline -Describe main ideas, characteristics or events.

Prove -Support with facts (especially facts presented in class or in the text).

Summarise -Give brief, condensed account. Include conclusions. Avoid unnecessary details.

Trace -Show the order of events or progress of a subject or event.

ANSWERING ESSAY QUESTIONS

1. Set up a time schedule

If six questions are to be answered in 45 minutes, allow yourself only five minutes for each. When the time is up for one question, stop writing and begin the next one. There will be 15 minutes remaining when the last question is completed. The incomplete answer can be completed during the time. Six incomplete answers by the way will usually receive more credit than three completed ones.

2. Read through the question clearly

Answers will come to mind immediately for some question. Write down key words now they are fresh in mind. Otherwise ideas may be blocked or be unavailable when time comes to write later question. This will reduce clutching or panic.

3. Outline the answer before writing

Whether the teacher realizes it or not he is greatly influenced by the compactness and clarity of an organized answer. To begin writing in the hope that the right answers will some how turn up is time consuming and usually futile. To know a little and present that little well is by and large is superior to knowing much and presenting it poorly when judged by the grade it receives. Be sure to follow the directive words, and check your outline to see that it is logical. The well-organized, neat appearing individual will usually get the node over another equally capable person who is disorganized and careless in appearance.

4.Take time to write an introduction and summary

The introduction will consist of the main point to be made; the summary is simply a paragraphing of the introduction. A neat bundle with a beginning and ending is very satisfying to the reader. Be sure that your answer is direct and really answers the question.

Here are a few tips, which can be effectively used for writing a planned answer for an essay type question:

1. Make notes on back of exam sheet 2. Read directions carefully…should you answer all questions? 3. Survey all questions before answering and note worth of each question. 4. Mark key question words. 5. Number all parts of the question. 6. Jot notes along side each question as you read it for the first time. 7. Start with easiest question to gain confidence. 8. Before you answer, make sure you understand question with precision-Ask the instructor if you are unsure. 9. When beginning to answer a question, sketch out your answer in rough and, jot down any additional points and number your points and ideas in the order that you will use them. 10. Your attitude when writing should be that this paper is targeted at some one who is virtually ignorant of your topic-explain everything that falls outside realm of common knowledge, but keep in the limits of the context of the question. 11. Use facts and logic, not your feelings about something. Exams are testing your understanding of a subject matter 12. Answer the question directly and forcefully in the first sentence and include some of the words in the question to keep you focused. Include only one main idea per paragraph state your important idea clearly and precisely and then follow this statement immediately supporting factual or logical evidence.

After the Examination

Avoid post mortem. It is too late to change any thing. You gave it your best shot. Engage in relaxing activity. This clears your mind so that you can leave the exam behind and get on with your preparation for the next examination.

EXAM RESULTS AND AFTER

If you have done well, great.

If your results are below expectations: Failure or bad results is not the end of the life. You can opt for improvement. You can reappear. Besides, there will be lots of opportunities to prove you in life.

Get it off your chest.

That while preparing for exams or on result day let your emotions out. Bottling up is bad for your heart and mind. If you feel that you can’t cope with pressure, talking to someone you trust is the best way out.

Keep things in perspective, which means a three-hour exam is not the ultimate assessment. A child’s potential not mirrored only by results. For instance, there are students who top score in Maths but poor in language. That doesn’t make them less intelligent. Seek expert advice if you are worried.

Finally exams are important but they are not the only way to a successful future. Albert Einstein was an average student, but how do you rate him as a Physicist… Great is it not?

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