Tip 1: EXAMS – Being Prepared

A276 – Learning Latin – Targeting Exam Technique – Tip 01

 

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When it comes to exams there’re all sorts of things to think about, many of which, if you’re used to doing exams, you’ll automatically take in your stride. But if you’ve never sat an exam before, or have done so rarely, or a long time ago, you may have more that you need to consider.

 

That’s all this week is about, really – thinking of as much as you can, in relation to the upcoming exam, that’s specifically and individually relevant to you personally. It’s a brainstorming activity designed to generate a splurge of ideas revolving around you and your exam.

 

Then, in the coming weeks, I’ll attempt to give it all that a bit of structure with some step by step tips that’ll hopefully lead you up and into the exam feeling as confident and well-prepared as you possibly can be.

 

It might seem a bit premature to be thinking about the exam when there’s still quite a bit of the course left to go. However, there are very good reasons for doing so. This’ll become clearer and clearer as the weeks go by and the exam gets closer and closer. For the coming week concentrate on what I outline below and follow it through.

 

This first thing to address is getting hold of any available previous examination papers for A276. You won’t need them yet but they’ll soon prove useful. In my experience they can prove a bit tricky to get hold of, so that’s why I’m flagging this up now. If can get the ball rolling then there’s time to sort out any problems and still ensure that you have them soon enough to get the best use out of them. If you leave it until later and then find there’s a problem getting your hands on them then you mightn’t have them in time to get the most out of them.

 

They should be available online at https://www.oustudentsshop.com/arts/a276—classical-latin-the-language-of-ancient-rome—pdf-download. You may find they are free to download if you are currently signed up on the course; or you may have to pay for them. If you have problems (in the past I have not always found ordering from the online OU student shop straightforward) then you can call the Open University 0300 303 5303 and ask for an adviser’s help or contact them via the OU email online enquiry page http://www.open.ac.uk/contact/new. Alternatively, if you contact your tutor, they may be able to help you.

 

Once you’ve got them then that’s that job done. I’ll refer you to them in the coming weeks on the assumption that by then you’ll have them to hand.

 

The next thing to do is find the 2018 A276 Specimen Examination Paper and Notes (A276/SEP & Notes – I’ll call it just the ‘SEP’ from now on) which you should already have received. It should be available as a pdf along with the assessment materials (i.e. along with your TMA assignment details) which you can access via your OU student home page. Print it off and have it ready.

 

You’ll also have access to the Answers to the Specimen Examination pdf. It is important that you don’t look at that – not yet! To avoid temptation, don’t open the document and don’t print it!

 

Somewhere in the SEP it will probably tell you to keep the paper until you feel ready to have a go at the whole thing and then to do it under exam conditions. It’s certainly true that doing a couple of past papers like that nearer the time of the exam is definitely worthwhile. That’s why I have suggested you get hold of them. We’ll come to them later and make good use of them.

 

But first you need to have a good slow look through a paper and take the time to get to know exactly how the exam works before you launch in an ‘have a go’ at one. So, that’s what I’m going to advise you to do with the SEP this week – have a good long leisurely look at it to get used to how the exam works.

 

The idea, then, over the course of this coming week, is to spend five minutes or so, two or three times a day, every day, reading through the SEP and scribbling all over it. What are you going to be scribbling? Well, to start with, what you’re not going to scribble is anything to do with the actual answers to the questions themselves! What you are going to scribble is anything and everything else that comes to mind. And when you get to the end of the paper, go back to the beginning and do it all again, adding to, amending, crossing out, and clarifying what you’ve already scribbled with anything and everything else that occurs to you.

 

Keep doing that, coming back to the SEP for a few minutes here and there each day, until either you’ve scribbled all you possibly can and you really can’t think of anything else at all, or the week’s up and it’s time for the next tip. And do wander off onto other bits of paper with your scribblings if you need more space to do so. Remember – it’s all about you and what the exam (both this exam in particular, and the exam experience in general) makes you think about.

 

All this might include (among many other things): what you think looks unexpectedly easy; unexpectedly hard; what you already feel confident about; what you know you’ll have to work on; what you think might be totally beyond you; where the ‘quick and easy’ marks are; where it’d be hard to pick up points; where you’ll struggle most; how the marks are spread over the questions; how this means you might have to divide up the time available; what order you might do the questions in; how much time you might set aside for checking; how much time you might set aside for reading through the paper to start with and deciding which questions to choose.

 

Aside from that, you might take note of: the layout of the questions; what sort of answers they require; how many marks each one (or each part of each one) is worth; how you might set out those answers (and each part of each one) on your answer paper; how the presentation and layout of your answers will look to the examiner; how to help the examiner follow your thinking; how to ensure the examiner can read what you’ve written; the speed at which you can write; the neatness of your handwriting; the compromise between neatness and speed.

 

And then there’s what you need to have with you on the day. What do you need to have in your pencil case (make a list and don’t forget about spares in case anything runs out or breaks!)? What about factors affecting your performance? Do you need to take in a bottle of water; a sugar-boost snack; a cushion to sit on? Are your personal educational needs, or health circumstances, such that you will need to take anything else into account?

 

Other than that, you could also write down any questions you have which, if they’re not answered in the course of the next few weeks, you can then ask your tutor about.

 

You might find you’ve thought of little to write about; or you might have penned reams and screeds (lovely words!). It really doesn’t matter which it is, as long you’ve scribbled down all you can think of and it’s specific to you.

 

Just to remind you about the point of all this, here’re the opening three paragraphs above again…

 

When it comes to exams there’re all sorts of things to think about, many of which, if you’re used to doing exams, you’ll automatically take in your stride. But if you’ve never sat an exam before, or have done so rarely, or a long time ago, you may have more that you need to consider.

 

That’s all this week is about, really – thinking of as much as you can, in relation to the upcoming exam, that’s specifically and individually relevant to you personally. It’s a brainstorming activity designed to generate a splurge of ideas revolving around you and your exam.

 

Then, in the coming weeks, I’ll attempt to give it all that a bit of structure with some step by step tips that’ll hopefully lead you up and into the exam feeling as confident and well-prepared as you possibly can be.

 

Steven Havelin (15.04.18)