Writing an essay in an exam is a different experience to producing one over the course of a term.  You might have a three hour exam with four essay questions to answer and preparing for it needs some skill in effective preparation and good revision sheets.  Here are some tips to help you prepare and then stay calm once you’re into the exam hall:-

  1. Preparation. Before the exam find any past papers that are available (these will often be in the college library) and practice answering questions to time.  If your tutor offers any workshops where they will go through model answers make sure you go.  It may be spring and sitting out in the sun may be tempting, but these sessions (if offered) are really valuable.  You can’t afford to waste time during your essay writing.
  2. This is not a test of your memory.  We often think that we need to cram our heads full of information before an exam, but when did you last see an exam question that asked you to “Write down everything you know about…” the topic?  Don’t stay up late the night before “cramming”.  The purpose of the exam is for you to set out your opinions.
  3. Answer the question. As with essays during the term, it is absolutely key that you understand and answer the question.  If you see “Civil War” that doesn’t mean that you write down everything you know about Oliver Cromwell.  Understand what the examiner wants.
  4. Use course material. Sometimes being the star pupil can be a hindrance to exam success!  If you are ahead of the class you might have spent time reading material that wasn’t set by your lecturer.  Make sure that the material that takes centre stage in your exam answer is from your course notes and recommended reading, not the obscure text that you found fascinating.
  5. Presentation. Try to keep your handwriting as neat as possible.  Put a clear line through any rough notes that you made.  Pay attention to sentence and paragraph construction.

Get a good night’s sleep before the exam.  If nothing else, a clear head and calm nerves will put you in a better state of mind than many of your fellow students when tackling exam essay writing.  Have you any special pre-exam tips?  Please let us know by posting a comment below.