Tip 6: Time is Ticking!

A276 – Learning Latin – Exam Technique – Tip 06




I always take a little travel clock into the exam with me. It sits on the desk in front of me so that I can see the time, at all times, at a glance. There will always be a clock in the exam room itself. It is supposed to be easily seen by everyone but this isn’t always the case. Better still, I would suggest, is a digital stop-clock which you can start at the beginning of the exam. That way you can follow a plan like the one below, minute-by-minute, without having to stop and work out from clock the precise time at which you are aiming to start and stop each task.


It is very important that you do not aim to follow my suggested time scheme slavishly. Rather, it is a guide as to how you might attempt a practice past paper under timed exam conditions. As you do that you can adjust the timings to what you think will work even better for you in the exam. That’s why it is crucially important that you do past paper practice!


If you followed my advice from a few weeks ago you will by now have got hold of two or three past papers you can do this practice with. If you’ve had problems obtaining them online from the OU then do ask your tutor to find out for you if they can get hold of them from the Classics faculty and forward them to you.


You may be used to exams and feeling fairly confident. Then again, this may be the first exam you’ve had to face in a very long time and you may be feeling fairly daunted. I would strongly advise you to set aside one three-hour slot each week from now on to do a practice past paper under timed exam conditions. This may take a bit of organisation: finding the right time and place so that you’re not disturbed; roping in friends and family to free up some time for you etc.


And don’t baulk at the thought and put it off. It’s entirely natural to feel a bit funny, fearful even, that you might freeze in the face of an exam. Indeed you might! And that’s fine. So long as it happens now in front of a practice paper at home. That gives you plenty time to talk to friends and family, your tutor, or an OU adviser. You’ve still time to follow their advice and have a crack at a couple more practice papers. Then you’ll be fine.


Whatever you do, if you’ve any worries about facing the exam, do make sure you definitely talk to someone straight away and sort things out. I say this because in every OU exam I’ve ever done there have always been some empty desks where people haven’t turned up on the day; and that’s a shame. Even if you’ve not managed to keep up with the course and you’ve missed out chunks of it, you don’t need to get that many marks just to pass it. So don’t give up! J


Remember – the following is only a suggestion. Modify it to suit you depending on how things go with the practice papers.


A suggested time schedule for tackling the A276 exam


00:00 00:05 Read through the whole of the question paper marking it up as you go
Part 1
00:05 00:10 Prepare your answer booklet ready to write in the answers for Part 1 grammar questions.
00:10 00:25 Work through Part 1 grammar questions filling in answers as you go. Do all the ‘easy’ ones first; then the ones that take a bit of thought. Spend any time you have left on the ones you’re really stuck on. Guess what’s left (even if you think it’s silly) at the last moment. Then move on. Do not come back to these questions unless you have time at the very end of the exam.
00:25 00:30 Mark up the Part 1 translation by splitting it into sentences, and part sentences, and number them. Then prepare your answer booklet: cross every other line in the margin; number the intervening lines to match the number of sentences/part sentences you’ve split your translation up into; don’t forget to let this run across double-pages to leave space for notes and corrections.
00:30 01:05 Work through the translation filling in the English for each numbered sentence/part sentence: ‘easy’ bits first; then the ones that take a bit of thought. Spend any time you have left on the ones you’re really stuck on. Guess what’s left ( even if yo think it’s silly) at the last moment. Then move on. Do not come back to the translation unless you have time at the very end of the exam.
    Further Latin       Part 2              Close Reading
01:05 00:06 as for 00:05-00:10 You’ll need to judge on the day how much time to spend writing a rough plan and some notes; and then your essay. If it’s a topic you know well you might be able to start writing quite a long essay quite quickly. If you need time to sort your thoughts out first then you might write a shorter essay more slowly. Practising a few first is important!
01:06 01:15 as for 00:10-00:25
01:15 01:20 as for 00:25-00:30
01:20 02:00 as for 00:30-01:05
Part 3
02:00 02:20 It is important to write out a rough plan with some notes before you launch into writing your essay. You need an introduction and conclusion and a certain number of paragraphs in between.

With a TMA you can just write the ‘in-between paragraphs’ as they come to mind, tidy the whole thing up at the end, and tag on an introduction and conclusion to ‘make’ the whole thing ‘hang together’ and that’s it! But in the exam you have to know before you start what your ‘in-between’ paragraphs are going to be about, and how they will connect, in order, one to the next, so that you can explain to the reader that that’s what’s going to happen when you ‘set out your stall’ in the introduction, at the beginning, which you have to write first!  The conclusion at the end is then a sort of re-worded version of your introduction which summarises what you’ve said (and ‘proves’ you’ve done in the essay what you said at the beginning you were going to)! So YOU NEED A PLAN! 😉

If you aim for 5 ‘in-between’ paragraphs plus an introduction and conclusion that’s 7 paragraphs in total. If you spend 2 minutes thinking/making notes/roughing out a paragraph in the planning stage that means you’ll need 14 minutes’ planning time; plus a few minutes more to choose your title and think first about the structure of the essay as a whole. That’s why I’ve allocated 20 minutes to the planning

02:20 02:55 If you then spend 5 minutes writing up each paragraph, you’ll need 35 minutes to get all 7 down on paper. But do remember that this only a guide. A lot depends on how accustomed you are to doing extended writing by hand under timed conditions like this. If your ‘habit’ is to write short paragraphs then 7 seems reasonable. If, on the other hand, you tend to write more lengthily, then 7 paragraphs might seem a bit daunting. If you know the topic well you might be able to rattle off a whole load of relevant information and so you’ll need to be selective so that you don’t try to get too much down and run out of time. If it’s a topic you don’t know well you might struggle a bit and have to spend more time thinking at the planning stage to drag the information out of the depths of your brain, and find you don’t have so much to say. In that case you might have less time left in which to write fewer paragraphs. Practising a few first is important!
02:55 03:00 You  should have a few minutes to look back over you work and spot any final last-ditch opportunities to have a stab at an answer you’ve missed or correct a mistake you’ve noticed.


Steven Havelin (20.05.18)