Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Exam Tips, #3

Know your audience.

It's easy to think of exams as these soulless things that exist to take away precious hours of your life, but it can pay to remember that all exams are read by someone - after all, someone has to mark the exam, and that someone is likely to be one of your lecturers or tutors.

You've probably seen your lecturers a couple of times this semester. Assuming you've attended a lecture, listened to one of their podcasts or read any of their emails, you've had some chance of observing the people who will be marking your exams.

Even if you've done your best to ignore them and avoid all possible contact, you would have read their notes for each class and noticed what readings they have selected. At least, I would hope you've done this. If not you may as well stop reading now because nothing will help you.

For those of you who have paid attention to their lecturers at some point, I ask a simple question: what do they like?

What sort of theories do they favour? What sort of arguments and writers do they bring to your attention? What really impresses them? Have they ever seemed really excited about a certain topic?

On the other side of the coin, have they ever given you the impression that there is a certain writer or school of thought that they have little time or respect for?

Do they love Piaget and barely mention Vygostky? Are they fond of Jung but think Freud needed to see a shrink? Do they spend two months talking about feminist theory and barely two minutes discussing Marxism?

Now, big question: what are they like? Have you got a stubborn old coot who is thoroughly set in his or her ways and refuses to entertain alternatives? Is your lecturer an excitable academic who loves debating ideas?

Now that you've had a bit of a think about what your lecturers like and the kinds of people they are, here's another question: what do you think would impress them?

Have a few quotes from their favourite writers up your sleeve (you only have to remember one or two to really knock their socks off - most people don't have quotes in an exam answer). Read up a little as part of your study - make sure you know more about their favourite subjects than just what they've told you in class.

Most importantly, remember that your exam is a great chance to show your lecturer that you know your stuff. Remember that you will have an audience, and think about them as you write your answers.

Taken from Information Literacy and Other Research Techniques

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