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What is the purpose of exams? 

  • Demonstrate ability to think critically and present arguments under
  • Understand material previously used and discussed in lectures
  • Provide evidence of reading and research
  • Present well structured information

An exam is - NOT about the ability to retain and regurgitate information, BUT ability to organise information into an argument. In other words, an exam is NOT a memory test.

Preparing for exams - top tips

  • Make sure you know where and when the exam is, and how long it is
  • Listen to your Tutor - he or she will give you valuable hints
  • Look at previous years' papers
  • Do revision well in advance, and plan how you are going to do the work
  • Don't revise for too long - set targets and have breaks
  • If 'open-book', make sure your notes are well organised or you will waste time searching
  • Have some sleep! It is impossible to do well in an examination with no sleep the night before
  • Don't work all the time - have some relaxation or you will be stale.
  • What types of exam are there?

    Multiple choice exam / short answer exam

    Analysis of a case study

    Unseen Exam - An unseen exam is a time-constrained assessment task, presented to students for the first time at the beginning of the assessment. Unseen exams are usually hand-written and last two to three hours. They are sometimes required by professional bodies.

    Seen Exam – A seen exam is a time-constrained assessment task, presented to students at some time in advance of the assessment. The actual exam is still taken under strict conditions, with no external material allowed into the exam room and a time limit for completing the answers.

    Open book exam – An open books exam is a time constrained unseen exam where students can bring in books or folders. 

  • Planning for your first exam or assessment at University?

    Do you wait until the week before exams, and then start to prepare? Or do you wait until the night before your actual exam? Leaving your preparation this late means that you’re likely to feel very stressed and unlikely to get the grade than you really deserve. Don’t leave it too late!

    This resource might help if you are worried about how to prepare and how you will cope on the day of the exam. This presentation aims to help you gain a better understanding of how anxiety or stress can affect your academic performance and what tools you need to overcome those emotions. You will also pick up tips from students on their revision techniques and exam strategies.

    Remember – it is up to you to find out:

    1. When are your exams?
      Dates and times
    2. Duration
      How long is the exam?
    3. Location
      Where is the exam being held? How will you get there?
    4. Scope
      How much of the course does the exam cover? Which learning outcomes?
    5. Format
      What type of exam is it? What will you be asked to do?
    6. Marking criteria
      How much is each question worth?
    7. Equipment
      What do you need for the exam?
      Pen, spare pen, calculator, notes? Anything else?
  • Taking an exam

    • Read the paper very carefully
    • Stay calm, concentrate on the questions, and do not worry what others are doing
    • Decide which questions you are going to do, and allocate the time in proportion to the marks
    • Don't miss out a question (you will lose ALL the marks for that question). If you are running out of time, summarise the main points you wanted to make
    • Make sure you really answer the question asked - not just write all you know on that topic
    • Take 5 minutes at the start of each question to plan what you are going to write
    • Try not to waffle
    • Try to write legibly
    • After the examination, don't hold massive post-mortems, put it behind you

    Find out about the University of Cumbria's academic regulations, procedures and marking criteria.

  • Resources for exam preparation

    Dealing with Stress

    Health and Safety Executive - dealing with stress

    Coping with exam stress

    Say goodbye to academic stress

    Time Management

    Managing your time

    Essay Questions

    You Tube from Aston University - Essay questions which require critical thinking

    Understand the Essay Question

    Essay Structure Diagram

    General resources

    Learn Higher -

    Leechblock - helps you avoid online distractions  

    How to Study


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