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Preparation is the foundation of success in exams

Belinda Leckie —

NCEA students need to begin preparing now for exams.

Our school exams begin on 20 October, with NCEA following less than a month afterwards. 

School exams provide an important learning opportunity for students, may be used to generate a derived grade if a student is unable to sit an NCEA exam and in many subjects, are used to identify which students will be recognised at prizegiving.

The following suggestions are taken from the Education Hub.

Develop effective organisational and work habits

  • Create a good routine - this includes going to bed and getting up at about the same time each day.
  • Find a good study space 
  • Set goals and organise accordingly
  • Get a good night's sleep

Use effective strategies for learning

Cognitive science research has identified six key strategies that students can be taught to use in order to study and learn more effectivelyi.

1. Spaced practice

It is more effective to spread out studying over time rather than doing it all at once. For example, it is better to spend an hour a day studying maths from Monday to Friday than to spend five hours on it on Monday. 

2. Retrieval practice

Retrieval practice involves remembering something you have learnt in the past and bringing it back to mind. This helps to consolidate the memory and makes it easier to remember next time it is needed. Students should use retrieval practice to review past learning before learning something new.

3. Elaboration

Elaboration refers to describing and explaining something you have learnt. It is effective because you need to understand something deeply in order to be able to explain it. 

4. Interleaving

Rather than focusing on learning one idea for a long time, it is better to switch between them. For example, rather than working on one type of maths problem for half an hour, students should do five problems of one type and then five of another. Interleaving is effective because noticing connections and differences between different ideas helps to strengthen students’ understanding of them.

5. Concrete Examples

It is easier to remember concrete examples than abstract information. When trying to learn about an abstract concept, it can help to find several real-life examples. For example, when learning about forces in physics, consider concrete situations like a car accelerating and braking.

6. Dual Coding

Dual coding refers to combining words with pictures or diagrams. It could be as simple as drawing a chart or a doodle in their notes. For example, when trying to learn some key dates for a history exam, it might help to put the events on a timeline. There is also evidence that writing out notes by hand might help students to understand and remember the content better, particularly if they try to put things into their own words and use drawings or diagrams alongside the written text.

Above all, students should keep their communication channels open. Talk to your family and ask your teachers questions. You are not alone.