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Tackling 'Seen' Exam Questions

By: Kate Simpson BA, MA - Updated: 2 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Seen Exams Prior-disclosure Exams

You might be tempted to think 'seen' or prior-disclosure exam questions are a walk in the park. Knowing in advance the essay questions you will be required to answer and having time to prepare them is indeed beneficial and can help to reduce exam stress.

However, hard work and careful thought are still vital. You may not need to revise such a broad range of topics as you would for an unseen exam but those hours that would have been devoted to revision should now be spent conducting detailed research, planning your essay and committing your ideas to memory.

Take Time to Consider

If you receive your exam paper of questions far in advance of your exam, set a day or two aside to think about your given task. Carry a notepad with you wherever you go and use every spare moment to think about the way in which you might best answer the question at hand. Look through your class notes, text books and past essays for inspiration.

Giving yourself this period of time to step back and think about the question in a broad manner may well help you to produce an answer that reveals careful consideration and an imaginative connection with the topic.

Planning Your Answer

The importance of thoroughly planning an answer to a 'seen' exam cannot be stressed enough. In creating a clear, logical, argumentative plan, you will ease the task of committing your essay to memory. If your points flow, they will be easier to call to mind when you put pen to paper in the exam hall. It is helpful to plan your answer using a computer. Word processing software will allow you to type out your ideas swiftly, to polish them as you go and to rearrange them as you see fit.

Try dividing your essay into five or six paragraphs, including your introduction and conclusion. Experiment with giving each paragraph a catchy title, just to help you to remember it. Under each title, plan out your points in a series of bullet points. Using bullet points will help you to focus and ensure that you are making the most out of each sentence you write.

Read through each paragraph individually and consider whether any improvements or alterations can be made. Would rearranging any points strengthen your argument? Next, read through your plan as a whole. Are your five or six key paragraphs in the best order possible? Does each one flow on from that which came before it? Have you made use of terminology specific to the topic? Don't be afraid to spend a good amount of time editing and amending your plan, creating impressive phrases and links. Polish it until you are happy with it.

Committing Your Essay to Memory

The best method for remembering your points in the correct order depends upon what sort of learner you are and how you feel you revise most effectively. You might like to write the bullet points for each paragraph on a separate flashcard and carry them with you. You might prefer to write out your essay several times, initially with your plan and later without, checking back afterwards to see what you may have forgotten. Alternatively, you might find it useful to practice delivering your essay as a speech, getting others to test you verbally.

When it comes to exam situations, you are bound to perform better if you are feeling cool, calm and in control. 'Seen' exams can take the fear out of being tested. However, if your essay is not well-planned and if you have not thoroughly revised your points, the benefits of a 'seen' exam disappear. Put in the hours though and the prior-disclosure format can be your key to exam confidence and exam success.

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