There are several things that I like to do when preparing for essay-based exams. Here are my tips that have helped me in the past to get good marks on my exam.
Firstly, time management is very important, most essay-based exams are about two hours long and you normally have to answer 2 questions in the exam. Therefore you should split your time in half, one hour for the first question and the second hour for the second question. Don’t spend too much time on one question, they are marked as two individual questions, meaning that even if you score 100% on question one that will still only count for 50% of the overall mark. You have a better chance of scoring a higher mark if you do average on both questions than superb on question one and dismal on question two.
Next, you should try to aim for around 3 to 4 arguments/ points that you will make for each question. Making arguments from individual theorist or different perspectives. Within that, you should also try to remember examples that you can use within each paragraph which either support or counter the argument that you are making within that paragraph.
Now that you know what this essay will generally consist of, 2 questions with 3-4 points for each, you need to revise enough content. Generally, you should try to aim to revise 3 topics for an exam that has 2 questions. This approach might differ per person, and your lecturers might advise otherwise, however, this has always been the technique that I have used and which has often been advised by my own lectures when asked. This means that you can have a clearer focus and it gives you a better chance to remember your revision.
Reading is important, you should read around your topic with about 2 to 3 books/ articles for each area (so around 6 books for each exam). Remember, you are going into an exam, you are not expected to know everything and your markers know that. So try to quickly skim read and see what arguments the book try’s to discuss. Keep it brief: Theorist, argument, example. You are not expected to do extreme, heavy reading, it is simply to refresh your memory and give you a bit more depth into the topic you are revising.
Make PowerPoints, thought bubbles or mind maps. I particularly like to create PowerPoints for my revision, with several slides for each topic. One slide with my lecture/ seminar notes, another with a condensed version of my reading notes (with highlighted theorists, perspectives and examples/ evidence), and finally a slide with all of the theorist/ perspectives on with a few words next to their name telling me what they are arguing. It can literally just be a word as long as I know what that means and so I can remember it. This might not work for everybody, but it has certainly helped me in the past.
You might also be interested in:
- How to prepare for January exams with revision
- Getting back into the uni mindset after Christmas
- How to approach post-Christmas exams
- 5 New Years resolutions that are actually useful
- How do I analyse a primary source?