Exams – again… How do you survive?
The bad news about resits is, well, they’re exams … again. The good news is that they are only exams and while no-one ever wants to do more exams than they have to, the ones you have already survived will have taught you things, however unpleasant the experience was.
Please remember: you failed an exam / some exams. This does not mean that you are a failure. Exams do not define you. It just means that whereas you have succeeded in many things in life (including getting in to University in the first place) you haven’t succeeded in those particular areas YET.
Failing an exam or even several does not mean that you will never pass. In all likelihood with some help and some work you will pass. Failing exams is not uncommon, particularly for first year students, many of whom go on to get good degrees. As the years progress any failure will be more of a disappointment to you but if you managed to get to University in the first place and you are failing in your final year something has gone wrong.
The last thing I want to write is a post on how to do better in exams without putting any effort in :-). However, I have seen many good students stressing unnecessarily because they don’t quite understand how exams work. Yes of course exams require preparation and revision but they also need to be managed like any other challenge – to be broken down into manageable chunks.
These posts are my attempt to debunk some myths in the hope that in so doing students won’t lose marks for no good reason (because they ran out of time to attempt a question, for example) and perhaps even more importantly, that someone might find the whole exam process just a little bit less scary.
How to make exams less scary
Exam FAQs: Which question should you answer first? How long should an exam essay be? What can you do to get better marks? What’s the point of an exam? I do my best to answer these questions here.
Exam Myths: bullet points are fine, I have to show the examiner everything I know, biographical detail is important, examiners give better marks if you have good handwriting, the essay is too short, the examiner won’t notice :-).
How to do better in exams: sections on how to revise, be relevant, break down questions into blocks, use quotations and textual reference, common errors and how to avoid them.
How to choose exam questions: simple strategies for how to approach exam papers and to determine quickly but efficiently which questions you answer.
5-Minute Exam Tips: simple but important things you can do before and during the exam to maximise your chances of doing a good job.
What if you decide that University isn’t right for you?
Occasionally students decide that University isn’t for them and choose a different path (not necessarily because they can’t do the work – they may no longer want to be at University) but please don’t leave without talking to tutors and really thinking about what is sensible to do. See my posts on What if University isn’t for me? Part 1 and Part 2, Student Stress and A Student’s 5 Minute Guide to Stress.
Universities are very keen for students to pass exams and often offer revision and exam technique sessions. It may also be possible to get some feedback from the exam /s you failed.
I wish you all the best in your studies!