What are some tips to do well in exams?

A student asked:

What are some tips to do well in exams?

Here’s my reply:

If your exam is essay-based, then my advice will be the same when it comes to writing term papers: if you aren’t consistently getting As for your essays, go learn from your profs what’s missing in your writing.

From my observations, the common mistakes FASS students typically make are:

(1) Didn’t make a clear argument to prove your point (a lot of students don’t even know how to argue/justify, they just throw points out as if they mean something without actually making the effort to demonstrate how it proves your point). And please, don’t write using the GP writing style that you learnt in JC. Most GP teachers teach students how to score for GP at A levels, not how to write properly.

(2) Didn’t show that you exercised critical thinking in your own writing. You might have done the work behind the scenes, but you need to show it if you want to be graded for it. The key is: you should consider how you might be wrong and demonstrate why that’s not the case. Very few students actually even consider that they could be wrong, so they don’t do that.

(3) Oversimplification of concepts or situations. The key about being an arts and social science major is all about being able to appreciate and identify the different subtle varieties of things. for example, the subtle differences in how different states conceive of democracy. A lot of students fail to see these subtleties and discuss these issues with gross oversimplifications. If you make this mistake, you would have shown the grader that you totally missed the learning objectives of the course completely.

One more comment… In general, students don’t get the grades they want because they neglect tutorial participation. In most modules, that’s like 10-20% of the total grade. That can make a huge difference from a B to an A! And students throw that away by staying silent or not participating fully in the activities, or skipping classes without a valid excuse or bothering to do a make-up class.

Hope that helps!

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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