Exams: getting started with revision – OurWarwick
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Exams: getting started with revision

It’s an annual event like the monsoon. Exams are on the horizon, and we all know it is a storm we must weather.

This will be my third year facing university exams, I will share some things I’ve learnt from surviving previous storms that will hopefully help you not only keep your head above the water but surf the wave like an absolute legend.

This year, like the last, exams are online using AEP. I’m not sure how this impacts the effectiveness of my metaphors, or whether they hold any water. But as you can see, I will go down with this ship.

Heh.

Sorry. (not sorry)

Moving swiftly onwards… (like we have the wind in our sails…)

What should I revise?

This depends on your degree and modules, of course.

There are different types of exams. In CS, papers tend to have more problem-based questions and short answer questions rather than essays. In AEP, these papers tend to be file-based (I’ve written about how I did these exams last year).

I have found that an effective strategy for revision is to tailor it based on the type of paper.

Last year – the first year in which we had online exams – I saw a general shift from bookwork questions to problem-based questions in CS papers. Of course, this is pretty normal for maths-y papers. I’ve found it quite useful to take notes on how to answer various problem-based questions.

(Can one come up with an algorithm to solve questions on algorithms? I would like to know).

Online exams are open-book, and so it becomes less important to memorise information. For example, instead of learning formulae off by heart, it could be more useful to make sure you know when to use which formula and roughly what they look like – and then have them in a very accessible place.

How should I revise?

That is the question. And even as I reach the end of my degree, I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I think the answer lies in what type of paper we’re revising for, but it’s also down to personal styles of learning / working.

When it comes to revision, especially in CS and online exams, I think it’s all about practice.

Practice solving problems. So, where do we get practice questions? Past papers for each module are available, of course. But this is where textbooks become very useful as well – questions can often be found at the end of every chapter.

Practice writing the answers to questions. Some may call this exam technique. Compared to A levels and GCSEs, I think it’s much harder to practice exam technique for university exams because we are not given the answers to past papers – and so we don’t have a ‘model’ answer to copy. We can send our answers to the module organisers for individual feedback. Checking answers with friends can also be useful, especially with questions that have a more definitive answer (e.g. maths questions).

Practice answering questions under near-ish exam conditions. Especially as we get closer to the exams, I find it quite useful to practice in conditions that will be similar to when I do the actual thing. I always plan to leave at least one past paper (typically the most recent one) to answer like a mock exam, under timed conditions and without distractions.

Another thing I’d like to emphasise is that everyone has their own preferred way of learning. As a visual person, I like diagrams and videos. Don’t forget the existence of YouTube when revising – sometimes, when a textbook explains something in a way that’s too maths-y for me, I will find a video on YouTube to understand the concept, and then come back to the book.

In this post, we went through what and how to revise. In part 2 I go through when to revise, including time management.

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