By Leanne Goodall
Often OU students are taking exams for the first time in years. Leanne has some words of advice if you have an exam coming up soon.
Every year I hear of OU Students saying that they are about to embark on their first exam for many years. ‘Many’ here can range from four or five years to actually never having done a big exam before in their life. I was in this position last year where I hadn’t done an exam for 21 years which basically means that I was a child when I last did one. So how exactly does a student cope with this situation? I’m sure that everyone is different but I thought it might help for me to share my experience and advice.
I know that’s such an obvious one to start with and actually so hard not to do – but it’s also crucial. Panicking will get you nowhere and anything that you try to revise will either not be taken in properly or will vanish when you need it. If you can focus on one thing then I would encourage you to try your hardest not to panic. Even if you think you know NOTHING.
You’re obviously already keen to help yourself or you wouldn’t be reading this article, so that’s great. I would encourage you to spend a little time getting more advice from several sources. Ask your tutor how you can prepare, they are likely to have some top tips about this particular exam so listen carefully and use those tips. Read the specimen exam paper that you will have been given (if you haven’t found this then look on your module website or ask on the forum). This will give you an idea of the format and questions. However do not panic if the specimen paper makes no sense at first, that’s quite normal. Take a look at the revision forums that have been set up and see if there is anything on there to help you. Often tutors will give guidance or post things to think about, so it can be very helpful.
Use Your TMAs
You’ve worked hard on your TMAs and you know those subjects pretty well. Print them off, read them and use them for revision. It helps to make things manageable and you’d be surprised how helpful they can be. If you can remember the basic ideas within your TMAs then you have the basis of several exam answers that you can tweak according to the question.
Make it Manageable
Do you actually need to know everything for your exam? The likelihood is that you don’t. Ask your tutor how you can break it down and pick areas to focus your revision on. Select the best bits and focus your revision on those. Nobody is expected to know absolutely everything. Having said that, make sure that you’re not missing out anything that could be really important.
There’s a huge difference between reading your books over and over every single day and actually revising actively. When we read information we have a limited amount that our brain can take in and digest in any one time. By physically writing notes, drawing mind-maps or making any other form of revision material we are actively involved and, for most, this is far more effective. So get creative if you want to! There is no right or wrong way to revise. I found that mind-maps worked quite well for me so I made loads. I used all kinds of colours on them and stuck them all around my house (luckily my husband is very understanding!). I also liked flashcards for when I was out and about. I made loads up with little things to remember or definitions of tricky / core words for the module then I could read them anywhere I liked. This year I am going to try recording my notes onto my phone so that I can play them back when I’m out walking.
So, to round things up for you: It’s not exactly easy, but you will do it. Keeping that panic under control is absolutely vital; as long as you’re calm you will retain information and be able to access it in the exam. Ask how others are approaching it. Your tutor will certainly have advice and many other students will be in a similar position to you – it’s a common thing for us OU students. Then have fun with it, be creative and do whatever it is you want to do to consolidate your notes into little bits of information to understand and remember. Keep the workload down where you can and just give it your best shot.
Leanne is half way through a BA (Hons) in History with the OU and enjoys writing as a freelancer as well as on her personal blog, Growing my Knowing, where she catalogues here experiences as a student. You can catch up on all of Leanne’s excellent contributions for STOU here.
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