There are many aspects to creating good study habits, and the first of these I have already mentioned in a previous post which is to get organised. Creating a timetable can save many precious hours as we come to exams.
Another component of revision is going through past papers. In fact this should be included in your revision plan. Giving yourself mock tests can highlight how you work under pressure and it will show you the gaps in your learning. Going over your revision notes many times is a pointless exercise if you haven’t tested your knowledge .
When you are ready to do a mock exam (at least three weeks before the exam), make sure that you do it under exam conditions and that you keep to the time limit. You may have gone through exam papers in class already, so choose an exam that you know you have not seen before. Make sure it has a mark scheme so that you can give yourself a grade when you mark it. Mark yourself strictly, and as you go through the paper analyse what went wrong. the table below summarises the most common types of mistakes students make and how to fix them.
What went wrong
How to fix it
|I couldn’t do the question on a specific topic||Go over the mark scheme and make sure you understand the answers. Go back over your notes and revise this topic again. Then redo that question.|
|I didn’t finish on time||Why was this? Was it because you spent a lot of time trying to remember your work to answer the questions? If so, then you need to revise more so that the information is at your fingertips. You shouldn’t have to rack your brains to remember things.|
|I made silly mistakes||This is the most common reason why students get low marks. Get into the habit of checking your work at the end. Aim to finish 10 minutes before the end of the exam so that you have time to do this.|
|I didn’t read the question||Use highlighter pens or underline key words in the question. Learn to skim read so that you can pick out the important information in the question. Exam questions are very wordy and you can easily lose yourself in the background information. Learn how to get to the heart of the question. A good way of doing this is to imagine you have to tell someone what to do in the question without reading out the whole question.|
|I left out a lot of questions||Never leave a blank answer. Especially if it’s a multiple choice or a one mark question. If you skip the question thinking you will come back to it at the end, you might forget. So make an educated guess and write something down.|
A week before their A2 Chemistry exam I taught 2 different students. The first got a D grade last year and the second got an A grade. And in my opinion, both seemed to know their subject equally well. But what differentiated them both significantly was that the A grade student had completed and marked 4 full exam papers and highlighted specific questions for clarification from me whereas the D grade student had attempted 1/2 a question paper, not marked it and not even highlighted the parts that she needed further support on.
Upon marking these papers, the A grade student was getting a C grade and the D grade student was failing. A day before the exams, the A grade student had completed and marked and read through at least 3 times all past papers since 2002 and the D grade student hadn’t attempted any. Her excuse being that she had other subjects to revise for.
What actually happened was that getting a bad grade in the initial mock exam seemed to motivate one student and de-motivate the other. It made her face her fears and her “fight or flight” instinct kicked in. The D grade student chose”flight”. But, if she had stuck to her timetable and been more organised, and maybe started going over past papers 3 weeks before the exams, then would the results have been different? We shall have to wait and see what grades both students get.