Regular and consistent study sets you up nicely for examinations. But from now on you must also give serious thought to your answering strategy. If you adopt a planned approach to answering questions you are likely to be more successful. The "Mocks" or "Practice Examinations", which are now about three weeks away, are an ideal opportunity to work on your presentation, timing and answering techniques. They should also be used to establish that the quality of your knowledge is up to speed.
The "Mocks" are usually marked externally so the corrector of your script has no preconceived ideas about you. The "Mocks" provide you with an impartial assessment of your progress and your state of readiness for the State Examinations. So make a favourable impression on the corrector by submitting a script that is neatly presented. Answer each paper in an A4 booklet. Properly number each question and each sub-question in the left-hand margin of each page to make it easier for the corrector to follow your work. Write your answers clearly and work your way down the page in a neat and orderly manner. Write legibly and keep your answers well spread out for easy reading. Do not split questions by answering a part of a question on one page and then the other part a few pages further on. If you are unable to completely answer a question or if you suffer a momentary mental block leave a page blank to which you can subsequently return. This will enable you to add more information to a question if you wish to do so later in the examination. Use diagrams, sketches and illustrations, as appropriate, to enhance your answering. Small drawings aren't helpful and may be difficult to interpret. Use decent size diagrams, as they are easier to draw and allow greater inclusion of detail.
The core of any examination is the quality of your answering. The content of your answer must be relevant to the question asked. Your task is to address, as best you can, the questions, which appear on the paper. Therefore read each question very carefully before deciding which ones to answer. You may prefer to tackle a good question first to settle you down. Be concise, accurate and relevant. Don't be long-winded or wordy. Waffle and repetition will not impress the corrector. B e familiar with the format of each paper well before the date of each examination session. Know how the paper is presented. What topics are examined? How many questions must be answered? What styles of question can you expect on any examination paper? Some questions are essay type while others are based on fact. Others still provide you with scope for analysis and critique. Familiarise yourself with the choice available on the paper. Is one or more questions compulsory? Be particularly careful about a paper, which is subdivided into subsections. Without prior knowledge of such a paper you could very easily fail to address the relevant number of questions. When you are handed each "Mock" paper read the instructions very carefully.
Doing well in any examination involves not just knowing the course material but in presenting your answers within the time allowed. The "Mocks" are a great trial run. Go into the "Mocks" determined to attempt the required number of questions. If you don't make an attempt at a question you can't possibly earn any marks for it. So be aware of the marking scheme for each paper and work out in advance the approximate time you can afford to devote to each question. The allocation of time to each question should be proportionate to the marks available for that question. Take for example a paper, which is two and a half hours long and carries a value of 300 marks. Every minute of that examination is potentially worth two marks to a candidate. If a question on that paper is worth 50 marks, it should be answered in approximately 25 minutes. Let me reemphasis that if you attempt the required number of questions you will maximise your grade in that subject. So use the experience of the Mocks to get your timing right.
As soon as your examination paper is handed to you read carefully through the instructions. Then spend at least five minutes reading the entire paper. This preliminary scrutiny of all the questions gives you the feel of the paper and allows you to settle down and gather your thoughts. Keep to your own pre-prepared answering plan and once you have made your choice of questions, start with a question you can answer well. When you have finished each question, reread it to ensure that you haven't omitted any part. Allow at least five minutes at the end of the examination to read back over your answers and to check your enumeration and your overall presentation. Stay in the examination hall until the time is up even if you are finished early as some extra information may dawn on you. Every mark counts so don't leave any after you!
The old maxim of making your mistakes in the "Mocks" and getting things right in the State Exams is as true as ever. But, as they say, practice makes perfect and the "Mocks" are the perfect practice!
Billy Ryle M.Ed BA HDE DCG DME is a Chartered Member of The Institute of Guidance Counsellors. He is a regular writer and commentator on career and educational issues.