16 Nov 2010
A five-point checklist on the tactics tuition providers can teach their students to employ in the exam hall.
1. Read, read and read again
Encourage your students to read the exam requirements thoroughly and follow the instructions accurately. Students often fail to answer the question set by not interpreting it fully. This means a student submits an answer which cannot be given credit because the examiner did not ask for it. For example, some students are determined to prove how much they've learned by writing everything they know regardless of relevance. Others answer only part of the question, even though the examiner may have required several elements to be done in order to get full marks; finally some answer the question they hoped would be there, rather than the one that actually is. As a tutor, provide feedback on the types of mistakes that are made in the exam to encourage students to plan and edit their answer if necessary.
2. Follow mark allocation
Tutors should make sure their students understand what the examiner is looking for and plan their answer around that. In many papers, there is a balance between the computational requirements and requirements for application, interpretation and analysis that must be written out clearly and in conjunction with the numbers. So writing practice is essential with feedback from tutors. Students should not try to earn a pass mark by mastering the numbers alone; in fact, even when they suspect that their numbers are incomplete due to time pressure, there are marks to be gained by using the right method and interpreting their numbers and demonstrating their ability to apply knowledge.
3. Gain easy marks early
Help your students gain every point possible. Attending to detail can make a huge difference in the outcome of a student's exam experience. For example, in some exams, Parts (c) or (d) ask for advantages or disadvantages. Many students do not complete the whole question. Why not do (c) and (d) first and get easy marks for the advantages and disadvantages. These marks usually only take a few minutes to earn, so they should feature early in the answer plan. Make sure your students get these easy points!
4. Examiners' reports
After every exam session, each examiner writes a report on their paper, identifying where the majority of students found difficulty. This is a good starting point in analysing your students' own exam habits and is essential reading for every student. Use the report to provide a basis for assessment with them. Do any of the points raised in the report sound familiar to them? Does any of it sound similar to what he or she wrote, or in some cases, didn't write? This exercise will help students learn from their mistakes. Indeed, some colleges run post-results exam debrief sessions and this would be recommended.
5. Honing technique and time management
In the examiners' reports there are two reasons for underachievement that seem to come up frequently. The first is not reading the requirements and the second is time management. Discuss these potential pitfalls with your students and practise writing questions under time pressure. Do they spend too long on the first question and leave little time for the remaining questions? If students write an excellent answer for the first one or two questions on an exam paper that has four questions, it would be very difficult for them to achieve a pass if their answers to the third and fourth questions incomplete. Impress on your students the importance of good time management and prioritisation during an exam.
December will be here very soon. Help students avoid the panic by being prepared early to guarantee success.
Karen Yates, head of education - ACCA Europe