Preparation for your Personal
Best – Essay type examinations
Student Learning Development
Student Counselling Service
These notes cover
Examinations as events
Answering the question asked
Breaking down the examination task
Planning your time
Rehearsing performance at your personal best.
Control of the examination environment
Developing strategies and rehearsing
techniques for reducing performance anxiety.
Examinations as events
Sporting Performance
Academic Performance
Content – physical skills –
basic to advanced.
Rules of the game
Sports Administration
Fitness – health, strength,
Flexibility/ability to withstand
heavy impacts and shock
Event = Match
Performance rehearsal
Content – knowledge – basic
to advanced,
rules of your discipline,
college administration
Fitness – health, new
knowledge and workload
Tolerance of ambiguity more
than one right answer/no
right answer
Event = exam
Performance rehearsal
One of the most
common reasons for
exam failure
Not Answering the Question!
Demonstrating that you
understand the question
is the first step in producing
an answer.
How you structure your
answer is as important as
what you know
More is not necessarily better
Build in an introductory
• The introduction is about the question –
not the answer
• Restate the question in your own words
• Find and use the key words
• Show that you know what the point of the
question is by defining the key
words/concepts/theories etc (see handout
on key verbs).
Study preparation
• Generate a list of major topics using your
notes and past exam papers.
• Create a chart or summary sheet of the
main topics and any relationship between
• Generate ideas and plan an outline for
each question
• Follow a structure and review your essays
(time spent and quality of your answers)
General Issues:
Problems of
Change in family
Muckraking – Spargo
Settlement House
Growth of Bossism
Muckraking – Baker
LaFollete reform
Standard Oil
Muckraking – Tarbell
Anti-Trust legislation
Structure for essay writing
Main body – divided into
paragraphs (make point,
expand and give evidence)
Adapted from: Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen.
Writing Analytically. 3rd ed. Boston: Heinle/Thompson
Learning. Inc, 2003. Seattle University Writing Centre. For
more information: Hacker, Diana. A Writers Reference. 5th
ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.
Budget your time –
equal time for equal marks
Leave time at beginning (to plan) and end
(to check) paper.
Question 4
Question 1
Question 2
40 minutes
40 minutes
40 minutes
Planning your paper
• Maximum gains for time are
in the early stages of your
• Read all exam questions
• Plan your time and answers
in advance
• Answer your best question
• Rehearse producing quality
work into time available.
Rehearsal techniques for
personal best performance
• Make part of your study
space look like an exam hall.
• Have a routine and stick to it.
Review your progress
• Use photos, sketches, etc to
bring the exam venue into
your study space.
• Mentally place yourself in the
exam when you are
Rehearsal techniques for
personal best performance
Use imagery – every athlete’s personal best
performance is in their mind – so is yours.
Visualisation, movement, sound, smell etc.
Multi modal imagery – combining different senses
(listening, talking, imagining)
Think positive thoughts and manage stress
through breathing and relaxation techniques.
Set goals and review your progress regularly.
What if it all goes wrong on the day?
• Know your potential examination anxiety
• Simulate coping with exam anxiety at
• Practice breathing and relaxation
techniques and other recovery strategies
• Maintain your physical and mental health.
Don’t leave your exam
performance to chance!
• Practice your starting procedures (e.g.
reading over paper and being clear about
what you are asked to do.
• Practice writing full answers using your
introductions as a template
• Practice past exam questions (timed and
un timed)
• Mark your own answers as critically as
Summary –
the keys to your personal best
Approach your preparation strategically
Active revision
Stay focused
Structure and content
Manage your emotional and physical responses
Think positively
Good luck!
from Student Learning Development

Essay type exams - Student Learning Development