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04-26-2007, 05:00 PM
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Secrets of exam success revealed
By George Turnbull
Student exams doctor, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

Put "study skills" into one particular search engine and you get almost 27m responses offering help.

Some may help you but how do you know which ones? So that despite the technology and vast oceans of information on tap, more time can be spent surfing than helping.

Don't make that mistake.

Understanding these limitations - and knowing that grades depend on student effort and planning - is more important and a good starting point for success in exams.

And with only weeks left now until the start of the exam season, now is the time to stop mucking about and get on with it. Regardless of your state of readiness there are certain things which can be done to improve your results.

So read on. Swots too.

Parents: Out!

And parents can play their part - by being seen and not heard. Tea, sympathy and understanding are the best they can offer. There is little else they can do and pointless turf wars may therefore be avoided.

So read on if you are a student with exams to sit, as you are the one that can make a difference.


But getting started is often the most difficult bit. Three hours in your bedroom - with good intentions - but playing with the cat, texting friends and looking out of the window instead, is pointless. Go for 10 minutes only but work in that time and do nothing else. That's all it takes to get started.

Have a 10-minute break and start again, gradually building up to 20 or 40- minute periods, whilst keeping the breaks at 10 minutes. Try it and see. You may even work for longer periods without a break.

Each of us is different and if it works for you, then do it. So that when you are working, you work, and when relaxing, you relax. The two don't mix.


Grab extra quality study time during the day by getting up earlier or shortening your lunch break. Thirty minutes each school day would give an extra two-and-a-half hours a week, which may allow you to have a night off. Recreation should be built into your schedule. Make sure you get some but don't let it take over.


Know when and where your exams are. Do past exam papers for practice. Ask your teachers if you are stuck. Work with a friend, if you really do work and it helps. Do two or three subjects in an evening, starting with the one you hate and finishing with the one you enjoy. You may even get to like the hated subject as you work on it and overcome those initial difficulties.


Exam rooms and dentists' chairs share certain memories, but the former need not be painful, if approached in the right way. A leisurely breakfast and a walk to school would be a good start. Don't rush and don't be late.

Avoid friends, they can be off-putting and may confuse your thoughts. Mobile phones should be left at home. You could be disqualified if you have one with you. Have a glucose sweet to help the energy go to you brain.

Take six deep breaths to relax and ignore those around you. It's your exam that concerns you, not theirs.


Read through the questions, jotting down formulae and points to remember on the question paper. Choose your questions, starting with the ones you can do to build confidence. Don't spend too long on any one question and try to do the number required. If you run out of time with only 10 minutes left for a 30-minute question, then do it in outline only - stating the main points and facts, if an essay - and by jotting down formulae and how you would use them to reach a solution, if science or maths. More marks can be gained this way with limited time available.


Don't leave the exam room early and avoid friends discussing the paper afterwards. Nothing can be done to influence your marks on that paper now, but a lot can be done on the papers you have yet to sit. And that work should start straight away.

Put your finished exam papers in a drawer and forget them, until your grandchildren ask to see them. They are of little value to you now, so don't waste that precious study time which you have available before the next exam, where you can make a difference.

"Work", after all, comes after "success" - only in the dictionary. Remember that and do the best you can. I wish you well.

George Turnbull George Turnbull is the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's Exams Doctor and can be contacted at:


Please note that the BBC is not responsible for the handling of such correspondence.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2007/04/26 09:14:08 GMT


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04-26-2007, 05:33 PM
"Work", after all, comes after "success" - only in the dictionary. Remember that and do the best you can.
Good tips, jazaakAllah khair.


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