Due to the popularity of post-exam discussions, I have decided to copy and paste one of the 45 chapters from my book directly into this post. This is the third part of Examination Technique
IB Exam Revision [Part 3]
"Cramming: The Night Before
No words of advice or comfort can really help ease your preexam stress and make you relax the night before your first examination. You will remember that date for a long time. For most of you, this is probably the first official externally graded examination that you take (unless you’ve done GCSEs or SATs). This can be a scary notion but you just need to realise that in a matter of a few weeks all of this will be over and you will embark on the longest holiday of your teenage life.
Now, what should you be doing the night before an exam? Well, as a golden rule, you should restrict your revising only on material for which you will be examined the following day. This means if you have a math exam tomorrow, you should be doing just math today – not biology which you have in a weeks’ time or something like that. You need to keep the subject fresh and familiar in your mind – focus all your energy on it the night before and hopefully you will wake up with most of it still in your head.
Now, what about cramming? There is a heated debate as to whether cramming even works. Some say that having late night cram sessions is not only ineffective, but that it can put you in unnecessary stress and increase your chances of “going blank” the following day. Others will tell you that cramming is the best form of revision, and everything you stuff into your brain the night before just spills on your exam paper the next morning. Then there are also those who will tell you that cramming works – but you should not do it because you are not learning long-term, you are merely memorizing stuff in the short-term which you will probably forget in a weeks’ time. Those people are missing the point.
From a personal viewpoint, cramming the night before an IB examination was helpful, but only to a certain extent (and only for certain subjects). For example, I found that cramming popular mathematic proofs was extremely helpful, however cramming an English novel was not. Use your common sense a little when it comes to cramming. More importantly, don’t overdo it. Your sleep and nutrition can play a large role in your examinations, so make sure you are getting a minimum of six hours of sleep most of the days. Exceptions can be made when you have an exam the following day, and then after that you have a day or two break from exams for recovery – in that scenario I have seen some students even pull off near all-nighters.
Disappointment: The Morning After
However well your exam went, you are more than likely to come out feeling rather disappointed. This is natural. If you come out of the exam room very cheery and happy that usually means that either you have been very lucky and really aced it, or you really messed up a question or two because you misunderstood what was being asked. Either way, the most important thing to remember after every examination is to move on. Don’t hang around outside the exam halls asking all your friends what they answered or what they thought of a certain question. The exam is over. Whatever you say or do after is not going to change what you wrote on that paper or the outcome of the exam. You need to revise for your other papers.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see students make when it comes to revision. Instead of studying for the next paper, they waste time talking to their friends and trying to figure out how they got this or that answer, or what they wrote about in their essay. You are likely to get even more disappointed and discouraged if you waste time asking your friends what they wrote down only to find out that your answer was totally different. After you have just sat an examination, just go home as fast as you can and focus on the next one.
Moreover, if you have finished the last paper for a certain subject, then make sure you get that subject totally out of your head. Clear all the notes and papers for that subject out of the way and pretend that you don’t even know what it is. Instead of doing six subjects, you are now only doing five. It is of vital importance that you make the transition from one subject to the next as smooth as you can as the exam schedules can be very hectic.
Method of Elimination: A Technique
One factor that separates the more successful exam candidates from the others is that the they have picked up certain examination techniques along the way. One of these is a revision technique by which you use a process of elimination to make an educated guess as to what might show up on the next paper. Let me give you an example: when I sat my HL Economics exam, Paper 1 had a big question on monopolies, but neither Paper 1 nor 2 had anything on negative externalities. I made an educated guess that there would be a big question on negative externalities on the Paper 3, with little emphasis on monopolies. This was indeed the case that year.
You can do this for almost any paper. Each subject has its key syllabus areas on which students should be examined. This is perhaps more true for Group 3, 4 and 5 subjects than the others. You can use the process of elimination to make a clever guess as to what could potentially show up on the next paper having already sat the first one. Discuss this with your friends as they probably have a similar inkling. This technique, combined with cramming, can practically make you an overnight expert on an area with which you were previously not that comfortable.
Last Minute Revision
You need to make full use of the last few moments before you enter the examination room. Find a nice quiet place to quickly run through key points and get any last minute cramming done. Avoid large groups of people as you will probably not be able to concentrate that well. You should probably even revise in the car/bus ride to the examination place. Just don’t waste any valuable time that you have on useless distractions."
... that paragraph about just moving on is pretty important. i know its tempting to discuss and see how many answers you got correct but YOU HAVE TO MOVE ON, YOU HAVE MORE EXAMS UP AHEAD AND LIMITED TIME. all of that discussion can wait until after the last exam. Good luck!