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3.10 Thinking about the exam

It is worth noting the difference between exam answers and assignments. Inevitably, a much lengthier and more polished answer can be produced in an untimed assignment. In the short time available in the exam, you need to move quickly through your main points, without paying too much attention to your style. Examiners are fully aware of the constraints exams place on the writer. Focus on the question you have chosen, and underline or highlight the process words or instructions in the question.
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3.8.2 Analysing and answering essay-based exam questions

For the following activity, you can use questions from a specimen paper, past papers or even questions you have devised for yourself.

Activity 9

Exam questions for essay-based courses often contain 'process words'. These require you t
Author(s): The Open University

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3.7 Memory and Understanding

Memory and understanding

Exams are rarely tests of memory, but much more to do with the selection, presentation and interpretation of materials. When you have understood what you have read, you can think about it and use it. Nonetheless, you may still be concerned about your ability to remember the info
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3.3 Stage 2: Gathering the course material together

You will need to gather all your course material and lecture notes together, and organise them properly. Your course material or texts should contain an overview of your course. Keep this to hand, as it will prove invaluable in you come to identify the topics you will need to revise.

There are also other sources of information that you can draw on when gathering information for your revision.

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2.1 Finding out your key concerns

Each one of us has a different set of concerns about preparing for and taking exams. It is worth spending a little time reflecting on these concerns and identifying what your individual needs are, in order to set up good support strategies for yourself.

Activity 1


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Learning outcomes

This unit will:

  • help you to manage your time more effectively when you're revising and in the exam itself

  • help you to learn, or brush up on, revision and exam skills

  • offer reassurance to those of you who experience anxiety and stress at exam time.


Author(s): The Open University

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Introduction

Do you feel that sometimes you don't do yourself justice in exams? Perhaps you've never taken an exam and are wondering how to prepare yourself. It may have been a long time since you took an exam, and you feel a need to refresh your technique. You may be looking for reassurance and advice because you've had a bad exam experience in the past.

This unit aims to help you to improve your own revision and exam techniques and reassure others who experience anxiety and stress over exams.


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9.1 Reflection and the four main phases of learning how to learn

If your course encourages this approach to learning, or if you have read other material on learning how to learn, you may have come across the term 'reflection'. Maybe you have been encouraged to reflect on your learning or on your assignments. In this unit, we have deliberately not used the term until now. This is not because we think the term - or the process - is unimportant, but because it can seem vague and not particularly helpful to you as a learner. In fact, all the activities in this
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4.2 Analysing the task

This involves you in analysing both the learning task, (e.g. working through the text, other readings, calculations, experiments) as well as the assessed task (e.g. the assignment). It is important to work out from the start just what this part of the course requires you to do as well as to know.

Activ
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3.1 Introduction to applying your learning

In this part of the unit we invite you to apply some of the ideas we have introduced in a more structured way. One of the easiest ways to really understand learning how to learn as a process, rather than as a series of individual activities, is to apply it to a section of the course you are currently studying. Choose a section that is complete in itself - for example, a block of the course - and that leads to an assignment. We suggest that you read through the whole of this section and
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2.1 Introduction

In encouraging you to think explicitly about how you learn, as well as about what you learn, we are drawing on research about learning which has shown that this approach can actually improve your performance. Certainly it can and will make you a more efficient and effective learner. Before we start to explore the process, let us consider two general points about learning.

  1. There is no single method of learning that guarantees success. How
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1.2 What do we mean by learning how to learn?

Activity 1

This activity will help you to explore what we mean by learning how to learn.

Think back to an example of study you have done in the past, or any fairly structured learning opportunity you remember. Focus on a particular ac
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5.2 Thinking for yourself

These are the kinds of questions you need to ask in order to read critically. As a higher-level student, you don't read simply to ‘find out facts’. It is assumed that you will think for yourself and question what you read and hear. The ‘truth’ is taken to be uncertain, so you weigh up ideas and arguments as you read about them. According to Marton and Saljo (1997, p. 49) research shows that successful students read as if they are constantly asking themselves questions of the kind: ‘
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5.1.3 Does the argument follow logically?

As I was making sense of paragraph 3, I did pause to consider whether it was logically possible to say that on average richer people are happier, yet getting richer has not made us happier. Later, when I read that women in the US were less happy since their incomes had come closer to men's, it occurred to me that they would be unlikely to volunteer to revert to previous levels of inequality. This made me question what happiness really means, if it is not necessarily a state that a person woul
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4.4.1 Engaging with the content

For example, when I read in paragraph 3 of Layard's article that ‘41 per cent of people in the top quarter of incomes are ‘very happy’’ I asked myself:

  • Why is ‘very happy’ in quotation marks?

  • Is 41 per cent about what I'd expect?

  • What is this telling me?

As soon as I thought about it, I realised that ‘very happy’ could be a response that people had ticked on a questionnaire. Perhaps th
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2.3 Coping with difficult parts

Salim and Lewis mentioned that they found some sections of Layard's article difficult. So did I; for example, anyone without a background in economics would have difficulty grasping the arguments in paragraphs 13 and 14.

So what should you do when you can't make sense of what you read? Should you search online to find out about taxation theory? For my own satisfaction I searched for a definition of ‘marginal rate of taxation’ just to get the gist of it. I also tried to write down th
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1 The experience of reading

The best way to develop your understanding of the reading process is to follow the principles of the Kolb learning cycle, by doing some reading and then reflecting on your experience. To this end, Activity 1 asks you to read an extract from an article by Richard Layard (2003) titled ‘The secrets of happiness’ which appeared in the New Statesman. To keep the task manageable I have reduced the article to half its original length and, for ease of reference, paragraph num
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Introduction

Reading is easy, isn't it?

On any ordinary day without even noticing, you read shop signs, newspaper headlines, TV listings, a magazine, or a chapter of a paperback. So why would a message like this one appear in an online student chat room in the early weeks of a course?

Clearly, readi
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References

de Bono, E. (1999) de Bono's Thinking Course. London, BBC Books
Entwistle, N. (1994) quoted in Supporting Open Learners Reader (1996) Milton Keynes, The Open University
Holmes, O. W. quoted in Robbins, A. (1991) Awaken the giant within. New York, Simon & Schuster
Rice, M. (1999) Observer Magazine, 7 November
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10.2 Sources of help

The internet

There is a wealth of useful information on thinking on the internet. Putting key words (such as thinking skills, clear thinking, critical thinking, analysis, argument and so on) into one of the available search engines (e.g. http://www.google.com  [accessed 10 October 2006]) will produce many useful links. American university websites contain some particularly interestin
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