The ABE essential guide to exam success
If you want to succeed, then preparation is key!
Make the most of homework opportunities as this is your chance to obtain feedback on your work – whether it is of the appropriate standard to pass the examination.
If there is a mock exam, don’t shy away from it! You might not do as well as you would like, but it will help you identify areas where you need more revision and, once again, it will be an opportunity for feedback.
Planning your revision and doing it over several weeks is better than cramming at the last minute – you will retain more and be able to recall it for the exam and afterwards, which is important as gaining an ABE qualification is ultimately about succeeding in your career, so you need to be able to remember and apply what you have learnt for more than just the examination!
Most people find it helpful to make brief notes of the material they are trying to learn – from texts, study materials and course notes – or to make mind maps; the purpose is to store material under relevant headings that can be retrieved at a later date, so find the time to reduce your longer notes into headings.
As part of your preparation, look at past papers and, after you have done some revision, practice writing answers under time constraint. Few of us have to write by hand for very long anymore, so it is good practice to have to collect your thoughts, plan and then articulate a logical answer under pressure of time. You can check your work using the Examiners’ Reports that include feedback on overall performance and the marking schemes. These are available free of charge in the Members’ Portal.
Make sure you read the Exam Regulations – if you do not conform to these your work may not be marked and all your study time might be wasted!
The two most common reasons that candidates fail exams are because they:
- don’t answer the questions set
- run out of time.
Both of these are avoidable: you just need to be savvy! All too often candidates spot a word in a question and then immediately start to write down all they know about it without first looking at what the question is asking them to do with that information. Students who run out of time do so either because they have written information that was not asked for or, more sadly, because they came into the exam well-prepared but did not plan their time well.
These errors can be easily addressed. Firstly, it is very important to read the whole question paper; if there are choices to be made, make them, and then plan your answers to the questions you have decided to answer. Your plans can be brief outlines or mind maps, whatever technique you find useful, but having written your plans, split the time you have left across the number of answers you need to write, allowing 5-10 minutes to check your work at the end. Stick to the time you have allowed, even if you haven’t quite finished an answer. It is better to leave some space and come back to finish that answer if you have time, rather than not completing the paper. More marks are gained from attempting all of the questions required than writing lengthy answers for only some of them.
Understanding the question is so important. Read it carefully and do exactly what it asks you. For example, if the question asks you to ‘Evaluate’ make sure you do this rather than just explain.
Here list of commonly used ‘command words’ and what they mean in terms of assessment at different levels can be found here; it is important that you understand these as they are there to help you:
If the question asks you to use certain concepts or theories, you must do this if you want to get good marks. Wherever it is appropriate, use relevant examples to support your answers as these will show that you understand how what you have explained relates to practice. If there are several elements to the question, you must address all of them to achieve the marks that are available, and use your time in proportion to the marks available for different elements of the question if it is split.
Other tips to consider are:
- Define terms to avoid any misunderstandings or confusion in exactly what is being explored.
- Distil the main points clearly and concisely – use headings and sub-headings and write concisely under these headings rather than in ‘essay’ style; most business documents are not essays and your answers shouldn’t be either.
- If you include tables or diagrams, label them appropriately and explain their relevance to your answer; don’t just include them for the sake of it.
- If a scenario or context is provided as part of the question, make sure you relate your answer to this and it is not just a ‘generic’ download of what you know on a subject.
Write as if you were being paid for what you are writing! Do your best to present your thoughts logically, credibly and professionally at the level of the qualification you are sitting. Planning your answers will definitely help with this. Also, if want to gain marks your work has to be legible – the examiner can’t give you marks for what he/she can’t read!
Time management is crucial. If you have stuck to your time plan, you should have time to read through your work, and make sure any extra pages are labelled, numbered and attached – you want to make sure that the examiner knows that what you have done is yours, so don’t forget this!