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1 Revision and exams

Most likely, you are reading this unit because you feel unsure about your ability to do yourself justice in exams. You may never have 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 may have had a bad exam experience in the past. Whatever your reason, we hope that this unit will help.

This unit is a practical one, and we w
Author(s): The Open University

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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.


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10.1 Further reading

OU books

  • The Good Study Guide, by Andrew Northedge, published by The Open University, 2005, ISBN 0 7492 59744
  • The Sciences Good Study Guide, by Andrew Northedge, Jeff Thomas, Andrew Lane, Alice Peasgood, published by The Open University, 1997, ISBN 0 7492 341 1 3
  • The Arts Good Study Guide, by Ellie Chambers and Andrew Northedge, published by The Open University, 1997, ISBN 0 7492 8745 4

Other boo
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9.2 What is reflection?

Is reflection different to just thinking about your study? And how do we do it? Can someone teach you how to reflect or is it a matter of practice? Can everyone be reflective or are some students - and some people - more reflective than others?

There is no clear definition of reflection or precise way of describing what we mean by a reflective learner. But we can discuss some characteristics of the process, and encourage you to develop your own preferred ways of developing it.

Ref
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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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7.3 Review the whole process

Before you file away your assignment and return to your current study, spend a little time reviewing the whole process of preparing, exploring, implementing and reviewing your assignment. Review what you did and how you did it in each of the four phases. Trying to identify just one thing that went well and one thing that you could have done differently can help you in your future study. Remember that your review should focus on the process of the preparation
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7.2 Learning from feedback

This is actually quite a difficult thing for any student to do. It is most effective when your assignment is returned, but by then you may have moved on to the next part of the course. Even so, you do need to make time to re-visit your assignment when it is returned and take note of your tutor's comments. It is the one time when your tutor is able to give feedback and advice to you as an individual student so it is well worth taking time to really absorb their comments. Try to separate
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7.1 Reviewing

This phase takes place after a period of study and an assignment have been completed. It is when you focus on reviewing your performance on your assignment as well as the whole cycle of study you have just completed. The two activities of this phase are:

  • learning from feedback
  • reviewing the whole process.

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6.3 Making a self-assessment

The ability to self-assess your work is a critical skill for you to develop if you want to improve your performance. If you can assess your own work accurately and identify the gap between what is required and what you are producing, you are more likely to be able to close the gap. But making an accurate and honest self-assessment is not an easy skill to develop, even though it is crucial in learning how to learn. Some courses do ask you to self-assess your work and submit your comments as pa
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5.3 Monitoring your progress

Of all the components in the learning how to learn process, this is probably the most difficult. As you study, you need to make a conscious effort to monitor your progress while working on the course, always with the main task in view. This is where a flexible plan devised in the preparation phase can be revised, particularly if you meet a difficult patch. Knowing when help is needed and where to go for it is important, especially if you discover that your learning skills need improving. Sour
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5.1 Exploring

This is the phase when you will be studying your course material, using and developing your learning skills. The two activities of this phase are:

  • studying the materials
  • monitoring your progress.

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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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1.1 Examples

Each activity is followed by a discussion and examples of the responses of two students. Both students are studying Open University courses that will eventually count towards a degree. These are nine month distance learning courses.

Course material is delivered to students by post, email or online. Their assignments are submitted by post or email, marked either by a computer or a tutor, and returned. Open University students are provided with a tutor, regular tutorials and guidance on c
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Learning outcomes

The broad aim of this unit is to provide a framework for learning-based activities and reflective exercises. More specifically, it is designed to offer you the opportunity to:

  • think about and understand how you learn;

  • apply the ideas and activities in this unit to your own learning experiences;

  • learn how to become a reflective learner.


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Introduction

Learning how to learn is a process in which we all engage throughout our lives, although often we do not realise that we are, in fact, learning how to learn. Most of the time we concentrate on what we are learning rather than how we are learning it. In this unit, we aim to make the process of learning much more explicit by inviting you to apply the various ideas and activities to your own current or recent study as a way of increasing your awareness of your own learning.
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Acknowledgements

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material:

The following material is Proprietary, used under licence (see terms and conditions) This content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence

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References

Entwistle, N. (1997) ‘Contrasting perspectives on learning’ in Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N. (eds) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in Higher Education, Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press Limited.
Marton, F. and R. Saljo (1997) ‘Approaches to learning’ in Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N. (eds) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teachi
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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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5.1.4 What evidence is offered?

Layard frequently offers evidence for his main points. I had the impression that this was just a sample from a wide range of relevant evidence that he had reviewed. Because of the prestigious context, I tended to assume that the evidence would be reliable and that Layard's interpretations would be pretty watertight. Nothing in the evidence seemed to conflict with my existing knowledge. However, if I were studying the subject more thoroughly, I would go back to the lectures from which his arti
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