Academic Skills



Little and often is better than long spells. Half an hour a night could make a real difference. Plan a realistic revision timetable and stick to it. Start with past papers (the earlier you do this the better; check on Unilearn or ask your tutor) and go over your notes pulling out relevant information. Share revision – compare notes and test each other. Ask your tutor or do more research if there is something you don't understand.

Make sure that your notes are memorable. We remember what is interesting and exciting, not what is boring. Use: colour, highlights, numbers, underlining, capitals, or pictures. Try making pattern maps or mind maps of main ideas. Make connections. For example: Two opposing sides of a political argument? One column in blue on right side of paper and one in red on left of paper will make more connections than simply written all the same in black. With short answers think about grouping them into meaningful sets or learn them alphabetically or numerically so that you can picture what comes next.

Keep calm

Deep breathing really does work – more oxygen to the brain etc. Work out the timing beforehand and stick to it. Many marks are lost when people don’t attempt all the questions. If you are out of allotted time on a question, leave space and move on. Most marks are gained in the first half of any answer. Take into account the percentage value e.g. spend twice as long on an answer that is worth 40% as one worth 20%. If you are prone to stress or feel you need some help, try

Essay type questions

Take time to read the questions carefully and highlight or underline key words. A question is very rarely – ‘tell me all you know about…’ so think through the relevant points.

Plan your answer – either in your answer book (then put a line through it), or in your head. Many students get half way through an answer and then realise they can’t finish it and start another one. Think it through first.

Point questions

Usually you either know them or you don’t so don’t spend ages agonising. If you’ve done the right sort of revision you should have memory triggers to help you. An intelligent guess is better than no answer at all.

Nobody expects perfection in an exam so don’t worry too much about spelling and grammar but it must be legible; you can’t gain marks for something the marker cannot read so take your time in making it reader friendly; e.g. leave white space at margins and between paragraphs and make sure that your handwriting is reasonably clear.

Keep it in proportion. First year marks do not count towards your degree classification; on the other hand you should want to do your best so that you know what you are capable of, and success breeds confidence. This material is foundation for next year, so work you put in now will make next year easier. If you are second or third year, remember that it is your overall mark for the module that counts.

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