Never fail an exam again

Learn languages May 14, 2015

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“It is very important to be sober when you take an exam,” according to Terry Pratchett in Moving Pictures. “Many worthwhile careers in the street-cleansing, fruit-picking and subway-guitar-playing industries have been founded on a lack of understanding of this simple fact.”

If you take sobriety as a starting point – a good idea in life generally – there are still many things you can do to ensure that you pass your next exam in style. We caught up with Liz from British Study Centres in Bournemouth to get her exam preparation tips.

1. Know what the exam requirements are

Different exams have a different balance of content, and it is relatively easy to find out what to expect. It is much easier to prepare when you know exactly what you are preparing for.

You can find information on forums from people who have previously sat the exam, and teachers will also be able to give advice based on experience.

2. Give yourself enough time

There are few things worse than feeling rushed or underprepared when going into an exam. Fixing a date and a plan will help you feel properly prepared and confident, so you can relax when the big day comes.

3. Organize and plan your study time

If you are studying abroad, there can be a temptation to go into “holiday mode” and of course it is important to get out and enjoy your destination. But studying for an exam requires special focus and you need to make a study plan that is realistic for your needs.

4. Use diagrams in your study

Diagrams provide a visual aid to revision and help to highlight target language; this can be especially useful for different written genres.

5. Use past papers

Practise past papers so you are familiar with the type of questions and tasks required. This also helps you spend the right amount of time on each section.

6. Study at the best time of day for you

Only you will know when your ideal study time is, but use those hours wisely because efficient study is central to passing your exam.

7. Find a bespoke class for your particular exam

Finding a class where there is the possibility for interaction, discussion and teacher and peer support will also help with motivation. We offer preparation courses for a wide range of major language exams, including short summer courses in tempting locations.

You can find some of our popular destinations for English exam prep courses in this article.

8. Course books and online courses

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If you can’t find the time or investment for a specialised preparation course, there are plenty of course books published to guide you through each exam, and several online courses that offer preparation, tests and exam techniques.

You won’t have the same social, international study experience as you would on a language study trip, but the exam basics will be there.

9. Organise study groups with friends

Studying together with friends who are doing the same exam means you will benefit from mutual help and support. Agreeing in advance on an amount of time to focus on a topic helps channel time effectively.

10. Get enough sleep

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Arnold Schwarzenegger sleeps six hours a night (“some of you out there that say well, wait a minute, I sleep eight hours or nine hours. Well, then, just sleep faster”), Margaret Thatcher slept for four, while most of us aim for around seven or eight. Whatever you need, make sure you get it – and not just on the night before the test.

11. Take regular breaks

And get some fresh air!

12. Drink plenty of water (not coffee)

Staying well hydrated is one of the easiest ways to boost your health and keep your body functioning. You can celebrate with something stronger once the exam is over.

13. Read the questions carefully

All of your hard work will be for nothing if you don’t answer the question that is in front of you. Read it, re-read it and understand it. Then show them what you’ve learned!

What are your tips for exam preparation?


By Alex Hammond

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