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What I Wish I’d Known About…Preparing for Exams

Our resident blogger Kieron explains the five things he wished he’d known about taking exams as a postgraduate student.

By the time I’d started my postgrad it had been close to a decade since I’d last taken an exam. My undergraduate experience was based on project work I studied at Art College, so the tense, coffee fuelled nights from my A-level days were a distant memory. It turned out exams were a pretty major part of my postgraduate course and there are definitely a few things I would have liked to have considered before I started it.

Teacher Knows Best

It’s an old adage but it’s true. Even at postgraduate level don’t get tempted to move above your station. It took until my second set of exams during my postgrad before I started to note down every intricate detail my lecturers were telling me to revise for – but luckily it wasn’t too late. My course was only nine months long, a postgraduate diploma, so it was really helpful to know which areas I needed to revise for. After months of intensive learning, this kind of direction is invaluable.

They’re Rather Intense

Depending on which course you decide to go for at postgrad level you may have very little time for revision. My postgrad was relatively short, at least in comparison to a full length Master’s degree, so the amount of information I needed to process was quite hefty. Add on top of this the fact that much of it is completely new, it’s vital that you give yourself enough time for revision. Time management at postgrad level is so important. The cramming you may have attempted in your younger years simply won’t work at this level.

Don’t Be Complacent

When I undertook my postgrad I was at first a bit complacent about the exams themselves. With vocational training and, essentially, a pass/fail scenario at the end of the course, it’s easy to forget how important exams are. Luckily, my revision to learning ratio evened out quite nicely after my first exam.

Work Together

Group study sessions were so helpful for me during my postgrad. With so much information and such a short amount of time to process it all, the luxury of discussing revision tactics and swapping notes with friends is one you must take up. It’s monumentally easier to wade through mountains of notes with a group of fellow students and, inevitably, there will always be someone who can decipher certain areas better than you can.

Get There Early

Ok so this one might be relevant at undergrad level too but it’s easy to forget it. Along with the standard issue reminders (e.g. bring more than one pen) getting to an exam early really sets you up to succeed. Giving yourself the time to relax and focus is so important. You might, as I was, be coming in from outside of the city you’re studying in too, so the last thing you want on exam day is to feel rushed and stressed out.


Next Step: Find out how to get high marks in postgraduate essays.


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