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Revision and exam help

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Doing exams

  • When you actually sit an exam, you should already know from practice papers whether you have to do all the questions or if there is a choice, the length of the exam and how many total marks there are. Work out roughly how long you should spend for each mark and bear this in mind when answering questions. Know what data and formulae are provided in the exam.
  • In the first few minutes of an exam scan through the whole paper. This lets you subconsciously prepare for the topics you are about to encounter. Then you may want to start with your best question or just work your way through from the beginning. If you get really stuck on a particular part, move on but remember to come back to it later. Aim to comfortably finish in time and so avoid rushing at the end. Spend any spare few minutes at the end checking through your work carefully.
  • At the start of each question read through it all. It is vital that you take in all the information that you are being given. If reading a question twice helps you to do this, then get into the habit of doing so. Information could be in a block of text, in a diagram or on a graph. Remember that you might need to come back to information given at the start of a question even when you get to the final part.
  • A question is a whole entity. For example the car in part (b) will be the same one with the same mass as in part (a) unless it says otherwise! Be guided by the question, so if it starts by asking for the law of moments, this is probably a clue that the question will require you to use that law later on.
  • Answer the question actually being asked. Marks will only be awarded for the answer set, not for any other information that you give (even if it is correct physics!) Don’t describe if you should explain, or give an example if you should name a principle. If you are asked to explain with the aid of a diagram, you must include a diagram.
  • Be aware of information given in an odd unit. For instance to find the cross-sectional area of a wire you may need to convert the diameter from millimetres to metres. The most common mistakes with units seem to occur when graph scales have multiplying factors in them. As a typical example, stress on a graph might be given in MPa. If you read 4.2 off the axis, you need to use the value 4.2 x 106 Pa in calculations.
  • Always look at how many marks are awarded for each part of a question. If you need to explain something, aim to make as many points as the number of marks available (there will be a mark per point on the mark scheme.) If space is provided for an answer, use it as a guide to the maximum amount you should write.

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