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How to Learn Part 3: Managing your Exams

Written by Emma Burbidge Posted in Education and Learning

How to Learn Part 3: Managing your Exams

Currently the British education system is made up of exams and coursework. Coursework allows you to work on something over a period of time, making changes in consultation with your teacher. You have time to plan, write, review and execute an argument which can help you get a good overall mark. You might think this is useless and pointless and doing coursework makes no difference to your life, you can’t be bothered, why should you care?

Despite what some people are saying about coursework, it is very much like the sort of work you do in everyday life and so is excellent preparation for the world of work. In the world of work, you may not have to remember lots of facts off the top of your head, but you may be given a project to do or work on one thing over a sustained period of time. You may have to balance this with other projects or everyday tasks in your job, and so therefore the ability to do coursework is crucial and should not be neglected from your thoughts and efforts.


In order to be successful at coursework you need to follow these simple steps:

  • Make sure you have all the information you need about the task. If you don’t understand what you have to do then ask your teacher, there is nothing worse than working hard on something only to find you should have done something differently
  • Ensure you have all the notes. Often coursework will be related to your lessons, so it is important you take good notes in these lessons which you can refer to later. If you miss any of these lessons, then you need to speak to a teacher about catching up
  • Plan your work. Sometimes there may be a choice of question or you might even be able to write the question yourself. If this is the case, make sure you think carefully about whether this is something you can actually answer. A plan does not have to be too detailed, but it does need to include a basic outline of what you are going to do or write
  • If you are writing an essay, make sure you stick to the word limit, answer the question and provide sources for your work if required. Copying your friend’s work or pulling something off the internet can result in serious consequences, so do your own work. Coursework is not an easy route for cheating, you will get found out
  • Time your coursework appropriately, so that you do a certain amount of work each day or week, and can balance it with other work and things going on in your life. Don’t leave it to the last minute to do everything, as the end result will never be as good.


Exams are about remembering information and recalling what you know in a constructive manner according to the questions asked. It also demonstrates your ability to work under time constraints and extreme pressure which is important in many careers and areas of work.

The important thing in an exam is to answer the question. You don’t have to know everything, but you have to try to answer the question, and every answer on the paper. You only get one shot at exams (a lot like job interviews), so you need to put in a lot of effort into preparing properly so you perform well on the day.

Here is some useful advice on approaching an exam:

  • The night before an exam, make sure you eat well and get a good night’s sleep. It’s important not to overexert yourself with last minute cramming and to get a proper break before an exam. Do something to relax yourself, go for a walk, maybe watch some TV and read your notes for the exam again. Don’t go out drinking with your mates though, it will only end badly
  • The day of the exam, especially if it is a morning exam, get up at a reasonable time and ensure you eat breakfast. It’s important you have the energy to get through your exam
  • Some people find it helps to go through their notes with a friend before an exam, but sometimes this can add to the stress, especially when you don’t appear to know as much as your friends
  • Make sure you have all the equipment you need. If you need a calculator, for example, then make sure you have it, if you aren’t allowed it then leave it outside the exam hall. Only bring in what you need. Ensure you have enough pens and pencils in case your ink runs out or your pencil breaks. You are not allowed your mobile phone in exams, so leave it on silent in the box provided or in your locker outside the exam hall
  • When you get your exam paper, do not open it in until told to do so. The first thing you should do is write your name, the second thing you should do is read the exam paper
  • Read questions carefully before you start answering them. When you start writing, make sure you provide all the information they ask for. If you don’t know the answer then you may move on to the next question, but remember to leave enough time to come back to that question later. Putting down any answer, even if it is not right, is better than nothing
  • Once you have finished, if there is still time, review all your answers and check for any spelling and grammar mistakes.

These steps are also useful for your job in the future, so it is important you learn these skills and do your best.

Good luck!

About the Author

Emma Burbidge

Emma Burbidge

Emma Burbidge is the marketing assistant at TCHC. She helps to manage the website and promote the Youth Contract. She enjoys writing for the blog and sharing advice and tips with young people on a range of topics, from finding a job to battling with depression.

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