Year 7-9: Preparing for Exams

 

REVISION LISTS

Before you can start studying, you have to know what you need to know. This is where revision lists are really helpful. 

Look on KCEE for the revision list for each of your upcoming exams, or ask your teacher. Simply having the list isn’t enough; you need to work out what you know and what you don’t.  

For each of your revision lists, follow these steps: 

 

  1. Read all of the Learning Objectives 

  2. In Green – highlight the ones that you know well 

  3. In Orange – highlight the ones that you have some idea about, but need to brush up on 

  4. In Red – highlight the ones that you have no idea about 

You now have to make a revision schedule – start revising with the ones in red! 

 

Tick sheets in Maths can also be used this way. Now that you have completed the units, go back to the tick sheets (on KCEE) and highlight as above.

REVISION SCHEDULE

Your revision schedule outlines what you will do specifically each week in the lead up to exams. You should think about when you study best, and write these times in 40 min sessions on the side. Aim for 10 sessions a week.  

  1. Identify task​  

  2. Set 40-minute timer​ 

  3. Work for 40 minutes​ 

  4. Take 10-minute break 

  5. Repeat! 

 

 

You should aim to start at least 3 weeks before the exams. 

 

Also consider using the “Pomodoro Technique” – named after the famous Italian tomato-shaped kitchen timer. 

As before, put your weekly commitments in first, then find time around these. 

Download a revision schedule template here.

 

SUMMARISING

In content-heavy subjects like science, there are always learning objectives. These might be at the beginning of each PowerPoint or listed on KCEE. If not, or if you cannot find these, ask your teacher if there are learning objectives on this topic. This will give you some guidance on what you will be tested on.  

 

The content for each subject should be posted on the course page for each subject. This might be in the format of PowerPoint presentations. This is your FIRST stop for information. This is where you can start reading/making notes to guide your study.  

 

Your first step is to create notes on the content that you have highlighted as red or orange. This can be on each topic, each learning objective or each PowerPoint presentation you have covered during the topic/term/semester.  More information on how to write notes is below. 

 

Write notes on things you DO NOT understand, concepts that you find tricky or need more help understanding. Don’t waste time writing lots of information on content you find easy and understand.  The key thing here is to summarise – use headings, dot points and key words.  

Cue Cards 

Cue cards and flashcards are a great way to summarise the information (though be wary of just learning definitions) or you can try mind maps. Here are some general examples. 

​The Cornell two column notetaking method works well. Put Keywords in one column and Notes on these in a second column. At the bottom, summarise the main point of the page. Try to keep it to one page, and use colours and dot points. 

Mind Maps

  • Write the topic heading in the centre of the page 

  • Link this to the sub-sections of each topic 

  • Within each subsection, write any key words / draw any diagrams that relate to it 

  • Use colours / highlight key words and dot points to structure your ideas 

  • Summarise in diagrams where possible 

Subject-Specific Strategies: English

General Strategies

  • Use practice paragraphs and practice essay prompts provided by your teacher to write pieces of sustained writing (whether they are paragraphs, or a whole essay) 

  • Time yourself (Aim for a paragraph in under 20 minutes) 

  • Have a ‘quote bank’ of quotes that relate to the themes of your text 

  • If you are using a quotation template provided by your teacher, make sure you fill every box (per word) available. The more quotes you have, the more you can choose from 

  • Ensure you practice spelling of author’s name & characters' names 

  • Memorise helpful analytical verbs that you can use throughout your writing! (Highlights, demonstrates, showcases, illustrates…) 

Somebody wanted…but...so…

Summarise in one sentence what happens to each of the main characters in a text. Somebody (a character) / wanted / but (there was a problem) / so (what was the outcome). ​

 

Once you have written a one-sentence summary for each of the main characters, expand out what you know by filling in a chart like this: 

Plot Recount Cards

  • List 10–20 important events in a text. Cut these into cards and jumble them. Then order these events into the sequence they occur in the text. 

  • Select 3–5 events that are "turning points" in the text. Provide reasons why these are turning points. 

  • Re-organise the cards into causes and effects. Place causes on one side and the events that are effects on the other. 

  • Identify the most important cause and the most important turning point in the text. Make some notes about why you have made this choice. 

Random Moments

Think of five numbers between 1 and the total number of pages in your text. Write them down. 

 

Next, turn to those five pages of the book and make a summary of what is important on that page in terms of: 

 

  • What do we learn about a character? 

  • What do we learn about the relationships between characters? 

  • What important decisions does a character make? 

  • What ideas or themes are being represented on this page? 

The Point of Themes

Follow these steps to generate a table like the one shown here. 

 

  1. Identify a theme from the text and write it in the top row. 

  2. In the row underneath (divided into two columns), insert 3-4 words to describe positive aspects of this theme (in one column), and opposite negative aspects of the theme (in the other column). 

  3. Underneath this, insert characters you believe engage in positive aspects of the theme and examples of actions and quotes. 

  4. Do the same thing for the negative aspects of the theme. 

Subject-Specific Strategies: Science

Example Summary Sheets* 

Science is a content-heavy subject and using your revision list will help you to write summary notes. Here are some science specific tips: 

 

  • Your summary notes for science need to be organised into topics. It is important that you are summarising the information and not just re-writing it.  

  • It is best to hand-write your notes/information rather than typing it (mind-body connection).  

  • Include diagrams / pictures and tables  

  • Annotate them with all the information you have learnt 

  • Mind maps 

  • Cue cards 

  • Posters for walls/windows/shower walls – try to put all the information on one page 

  • Choose topics that you know you need more time to revise for rather than things you already understand 

  • Highlight and colour coordinate – key terms and important definitions  

*Thanks to Liam Molloy and Georgia Kantzas for these examples.

Subject-Specific Strategies: Mathematics

Tips for making maths summary notes: 

  • Write your own notes (making summary notes is a good form of revision) 

  • Include diagrams and examples of questions 

  • When revising, use your summary notes to see if they are useful and what is missing

 

ANSWERING PRACTICE QUESTIONS

Once you have revised the content, it is important that you answer practice questions. This is essential as it tells you where there are gaps in your knowledge. You should be able to find examples of practice questions on KCEE – ask your teachers if you’re not sure. 

When completing practice questions, use the following strategy: 

 

  • Try the questions closed book, without your notes.  

  • Answer the questions according to the strategy in Tip 15 below (How to answer the question). 

  • Use the solutions to critically mark your work. 

  • Complete the question again if you achieved less than half marks. 

  • Mark any questions that you are still unsure of and ask your teacher. Keeping a list of questions that you need help with is a good idea. 

Subject-Specific Strategies: English

Keywords and Questions

Using past essay topics, complete the following activity. 

 

  • Identify and circle 2–5 key terms in the topic. 

  • Exclude: text titles, author names, generic verbs and instruction words like “Discuss” 

  • Include: concepts, notions, ideas, assertions and themes 

  • Think about or list a set of questions for each of these key words in relation to the text. 

 

Example: Shakespeare’s Macbeth presents the uncomfortable relationship between humans and the natural world. Discuss. 

Uncomfortable 

  • Who is uncomfortable in the play? 

  • How do characters express discomfort? 

  • When are characters most comfortable? 

 

Relationship 

  • What are the key relationships in the play? 

  • How do humans relate to non-human elements like landscapes and settings? 

  • What relationships are presented as good and evil? 

Subject-Specific Strategies: Maths

Tips for answering Maths practise questions: 

  • If you are allowed summary notes, make sure you have completed them to assist with practise questions. 

  • Highlight and identify key information in the question – what is the question asking? 

  • Attempt the questions 

  • Once you have completed as much as you can, use another colour and try and complete the questions using all the notes you have (this will also help identify what information is missing from your summary notes) 

  • Use a third colour to mark your work using the solutions. 

  • Where there are gaps, seek further assistance from your teacher to help clarify any misunderstandings you may have 

  • Go back and practise similar questions, whether it be from the textbook or previous assessments. 

Humans 

  • Who are the key human (and non-human) figures in the play? 

  • What defines a human? 

  • What is the opposite of a human, according to Shakespeare? 

  • What do the human and non-human characters have in common with each other, and how are they distinct? 

 

The natural world 

  • What scenes in the play present the natural world? 

  • What do characters say about the natural world? 

  • Does the natural world change its status during the play? 

  • How does Shakespeare use language to describe the natural world and its relationship to humans? 

Completing this activity ensures that you are noting each of the key ideas you are asked to consider in planning a response. This activity can be completed mentally during reading time. Take this step before generating a contention or essay plan. 

Subject-Specific Strategies: Science

Tips for Answering Science practise questions: 

  • Use the Chapter Review questions at the end of each Chapter in the textbook, as well as Education Perfect and Past tests on KCEE 

  • At first, answer questions according to topic, then try timed tests 

  • Follow the tips in Tip #15 below – How to answer questions 

  • Go through the solutions – be critical with yourself, and underline any key words in your answer 

  • Repeat any questions that you achieved less than half marks in 

  • Ask your teacher for help if you didn’t understand any questions 

 

MEMORY TIPS

In all subjects, you need to be able to remember some information. While there is no substitute to sitting down and learning the information, there are some techniques that can help you out. 

 

Remember – rote learning is not enough to make sure you understand the work. You should aim to use these memory techniques in conjunction with answering practise questions. 

Reviewing content/ information learnt each day is crucial. You cannot expect to remember something you have only seen or looked at once.  

A forgetting curve shows the rate and amount of forgetting over time.  

 

Initially, the rate of forgetting is very rapid – almost half the information is lost in the first 30 minutes! So, how are you expecting to do well on a test that is weeks down the track if you haven’t reviewed the content?

 

The rate then slows to a steady rate of forgetting and very little is retained after 24 hours.  

 

By reviewing content regularly, you are giving yourself the best chance to succeed in your subjects.

Ebbinhaus Forgetting Curve

These graphs show how much your brain can retain when you are reviewing newly learned information on multiple occasions between learning and being assessed. You can try writing cue cards for key facts to remember, and carrying them with you in your pocket to review throughout the day. 

Science and Maths: Mnemonic Devices

It is scientifically proven that we are more likely to remember things that we have ‘given meaning to’ - this means rather than repeating words/phrases to try to rote learn and remember them, try adding important or meaningful information to each term.  

 

For example:

Remembering the particle model and movement of particles by modelling: Vibrating in place – solid, flowing arms and slow movements – liquids, bouncing around everywhere – gas.  

 

Remembering the planets:

English: Quote Cards

Use cue cards to organise a set of key quotes from the text. On one side, transcribe the quote; on the other, write the key idea or theme of the quote and its first word. Use these cards to practice memorising quotes. 

 

As you do so, also consider using a quote within a short piece of writing, ensuring that the quote is embedded properly within your own claim or idea. It is much easier to memorise quotes that you have actively used than quotes that you have simply rote-learned. 

 

Also consider organising the quote cards into different piles or clusters, like: 

 

  • the sequence in which the quotes appear in the text; 

  • the character/s associated with each quote; 

  • the key issue or idea being explored in each quote. 

 

Then shuffle, and play again! 

Making a song, a rhyme or a jingle to help you remember information. 

 

Visualising something funny - pairing a scientific concept with something else so that the item acts as a retrieval cue.  

Other Memory Tips

To remember a lot of information, you can try chunking. This is what we do when learning phone numbers, for example remembering the first 4 digits, then the next 3 and the next 3 (0435  123   765).

 

You can try this when learning the different parts of the cell – group them: 

  1. Cell membrane, cell nucleus, cytoplasm, mitochondria 

  2. Cell wall, vacuole, chloroplasts 

 

Assign numbers. For example, if you need to remember the parts of the digestive system, assign numbers to each part in the order that the food moves through. If you remember that there are 7 parts to remember, you will know if you missed one: 

  1. Mouth

  2. Oesophagus 

  3. Stomach 

  4. Small Intestine 

  5. Large Intestine 

  6. Rectum 

  7. Anus 

Retrieval cues. Highlight key words on your notes in a specific colour, and bring this pen into the exam. Highlight any key words in the question, and it will help you remember. 

Narrative chaining. Come up with a story to link information  

Example: Remember the following words: bird, costume, letterbox, head, river.  

 

A man dressed in a bird costume wore a letterbox on his head as he went into the river.

 

HOW TO USE READING TIME

Reading time is an important part of an assessment task, and should be actively used to: 

 

  • read the paper; 

  • schedule your exam responses; and 

  • think about your answers and ideas

1. Reading the paper 

 

Start by skimming the exam paper, checking the number of sections and questions. 

 

Next, read key sections and questions carefully. For English, use your dictionary to look up key words. 

 

Move on to the next two sections; however, if time permits, you should give the exam a final read-through in advance of writing time. 

2. Scheduling your responses 

 

During reading time, confirm your plan for scheduling your writing time. Determine where you will start, and when you will need to move on from one section of the exam to the next (see Planning Your Time).

 

Set some goals and promises to the near-future you. After all, a key skill for exam-taking is moving through the paper at an appropriate speed. 

3. Thinking about your answers and ideas. 

 

Reading time is also thinking time. Particularly for big questions, allow your mind to begin generating ideas and potential responses. Don’t worry too much about keeping track of your exact thoughts. Instead, orient your brain to engaging with the wording and scope of the tasks you have been given. You have now seen the paper and there will be no more surprises, so allow yourself to start considering (only) this particular examination. 

 

For English, use this time to select the topics you will respond to – and forget about all of the others!  

 
 

PLANNING YOUR TIME

When you have read the exam, you may want to think about which questions you will do first and how long you should spend on each question. 

 

In Maths and Science, you should aim to allocate 1 minute for each mark. Therefore, if it is a 10 mark question, you need to spend 10 minutes on the question. 

 

If there is a multiple choice section, you may choose to do this first. Often it helps settle your nerves, and can provide some answers that help you in the short answer question. If there are 20 MCQ, make sure you only spend a maximum of 20 minutes on this section. Never leave multiple choice questions blank, choose an answer and put an asterisk next to it. You can always come back and change it, but if you leave it blank you will definitely get it wrong! 

 

Have a look at Answering Questions below to give you more ideas about answering multiple choice questions. 

 

The short answer questions do not have to be answered in order. You might want to start with what you are most confident with and can plan the order that you will answer the questions during reading time. One of the most common mistakes in answering questions is that people spend too long on questions if they get stuck. Don’t make that mistake – move on and answer the other questions. 

Exams with Multiple Choice and Short Answer Questions

Exams with Extended Written Responses

English

When writing an extended response, consider using paragraphs as a measure of time. If you plan to write an introduction and three body paragraphs in an hour, you should aim to stick to the following timeline to ensure you complete a response: 

 

5 planning 

10 writing introduction 

10 writing paragraph one 

10 writing paragraph two 

10 writing paragraph three 

10 writing conclusion 

5 proofreading 

Timing Tasks

English

In an English exam with two or more extended writing tasks, always move on to the next task when the time allocated to the first task has been completed. You can always return to the first task if you make up time with the second or third. 

INTERPRETING QUESTIONS

This is an important part of both reading time and writing time.  

  

Ask yourself “what is the question asking me?” 

  

Command terms are the words in the question that tell you specifically how to answer that question.  

Understanding what the question wants from you is key to gaining marks on an exam or test.  

  

Here are three common question types and some specific command terms.  

 At Kilvington you might find that there are some command terms more commonly used in specific subject. Some of these are below, your teacher might go through these with you in study skills sessions. Ensure you know the definitions of each command term.  

Follow the following steps to help you interpret a question: 

 

  1. Read the question and underline any command terms in one colour

  2. Underline any key terms from the topic in another colour 

  3. Underline any terms such as “or” “and” which indicate that there are 2 parts to the question 

  4. Identify the number of marks for the question and match up the command terms with the mark allocation. 

 

For example:

For English essay topics and prompts, conduct a sped-up round of the “key words and questions” activity [see Answering Practice Questions] during reading and/or planning time. This will ensure that you are ready to fully answer the particular topic that you have selected – rather than a topic you have previously completed in class. 

In Science and Maths, it may help to summarise the information, especially if there is a lot of information. Diagrams may help. In Science, if a question is referring to an experiment, try to write the Independent Variable and Dependent Variable next to the information. 

Examples:

HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION

Multiple Choice Questions

Short Answer Questions: Maths

A few clues that might help: 

  • Answer in grey lead pencil 

  • Underline key terms and command terms in the question, and the answers 

  • Work through each option and put a cross next to any that are definitely incorrect 

  • Often absolute words e.g. “never” “always” are incorrect – science deals in generalisations 

  • If there are two options that are opposites, one is usually correct 

  • Anything completely unfamiliar can usually be discounted (as long as you know your stuff!) 

  • Draw a diagram to help put the information into context  

  • Don’t leave any questions blank! 

Steps to answer Maths worded questions: 

 

  1. Read through the questions and highlight important information

  2. Once important information has been identified, define pronumerals to stand for unknown numbers (e.g.: let x = cost of a pen in dollars) 

Or 

Draw a diagram 

  1. Write an equation to describe the problem 

  2. Solve the equation algebraically if possible, or by inspection 

  3. Ensure you answer the original question, and include the correct units (e.g. dollars, years, cm) 

Example:

 

The longest side of a triangle is 5 cm longer than the shortest side and 2 cm longer than the other side. If the perimeter of the triangle is 20cm, use an equation to find the length of the three sides. 

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Example of a Maths multiple choice question:

Short Answer Questions: Science

*1 mark for expand 

*1 mark for simplifying 

Maths strategies when completing a problem solving question: 

  • Do I know a similar problem? 

  • Write an equation 

  • Make a list or table 

  • Draw a picture or graph 

  • Look for a pattern 

  • Work backwards 

  • Break the problem into smaller parts. 

A few clues to help you in Science:

  • Answer in dot points. Make sure that you give as many dot points as there are marks in the question (eg, 2 mark = 2 dot points).  

  • If you have read the question and see that there are 2 parts to the question, make sure that you answer both parts of the question. Underline key words in your answer. 

  • If the words “Explain” or “Why” are in the question, start your dot point with the word because 

  • Don’t repeat yourself 

  • Seriously, don’t repeat yourself 

English: Writing an Essay

Use this template to help you write an essay, using the TEEAL structure. Try it with a few practice questions before the exam. Ask your teacher for some advice for practice questions if you’re not sure. 

 
 
 

MANAGING ANXIETY

If you’re in an exam or assessment, it is common to feel nervous or a bit anxious. Sometimes, this can be a little bit overwhelming, and can actually work against you – if you get too anxious, your brain isn’t able to function as well, and you might find that you struggle to answer questions that you know the answer to! 

 

Managing anxiety is a really important tool to help you conquer exams. You can do this by: 

 

  • Making sure you are as prepared as possible going into the exam – follow the tips above! 

  • Completing practice questions in exam conditions to help you practice your exam technique 

  • Getting a goodnight’s sleep the night before. Don’t work any later than 7pm and try to do something else to switch off before bedtime. 

  • Taking a few seconds to focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out 10 times, noticing your breaths. It may also help to drink some water. 

  • Breaking the paper down into sections that are more manageable. For example, only look at the multiple-choice questions or choose one of the short answer questions. 

  • Trying any questions that you do know the answer to – this might help you get your confidence back. A blank page is the thing most likely to cause test anxiety – try to start with anything! 

  • Looking for the command words again if you’re not sure what the question is asking you to do. 

  • Defining any key terms that are in the question – there’s likely to be some marks for this 

  • Moving on and trying the rest of the paper before coming back to a question if you get stuck. 

  • Not paying attention to what others are doing – they might be scribbling away, but it might all be wrong! 

AND FINALLY, GOOD LUCK!

You will absolutely smash these exams, and hopefully develop some study habits along the way. Please ask your teachers or your Mentor if you would like any further help with any of these tips.