Preparing for Exams: Useful Study And Exam Tips (For Language and Humanities Subjects)


1. Know when to start studying.

START NOW. And it is not about studying hard, but studying SMART. Set up a study calendar and stick to it (barring unforeseen circumstances of course). You know your school and tuition schedule, then just fill in the blanks. Don’t forget to build in travel time, “me” time, dinner time and bedtime. It becomes easier when you establish a routine and you will learn more effectively.

2. Know when to stop studying.

Just as important as knowing when to start, you need to know when to STOP. You won’t remember (if it is even possible) whatever little incremental knowledge you crammed at the last minute. Spend that time to rest instead. And if you INSIST on studying, read the operating manual of your mom’s vacuum cleaner. That should put you to sleep.

3. Denial doesn’t help.

We all have a subject we just “can’t get it” no matter how hard we try, and therefore we want to give up. Unless you choose to be beaten, you need to face up to the demons and conquer it! And this tip applies to the many more “subjects” like this that lay ahead in life.

Your HH teachers are very experienced and they have taught thousands of students, each with different learning obstacles. Speak with them and ask about alternative learning techniques. There will be one that works for you.

4. Elvish or English? Practice writing legibly.

If you have very bad handwriting, and your teachers have told you so, please take note. You are not born with bad handwriting, IT CAN BE IMPROVED.

Unless you are taking the Elvish as Second Language paper, WRITE LEGIBLY for all your scripts. Many Cambridge GCE markers are retired teachers who have to grade your paper wearing reading glasses during the dark dreary English winters. Elvish handwriting will most certainly tick them off.

It doesn’t matter how much you know or how strong your answers are. If the examiner cannot decipher it, you are not going to get the marks. You write big? Leave a line between each line! You write small? Write bigger! While you may kill an extra tree using more paper, for something as important as your GCE papers, you will be forgiven and you can further redeem yourself with a donation to charities devoted to environmental causes.

5. Stay healthy.

Olympian Michael Phelps trained at least 6 hours a day (including Christmas) for 12 years. And although you are not going to the Olympics, you didn’t put in any less effort on years of school, tuition, enrichment classes or homework. Do you think he can perform to the best of his abilities if he has migraine from staying up every night to solve mathematics problems? So do take care of yourself, both body and mind. Sleep. Take Vitamin C. De-stress. Not just the day before your exams, but EVERYDAY.

6. Practise NOT Memorise.

Don’t just read and memorise. Actually practise writing. If you are merely memorising someone else’s answer, even if it is a piece of work deserving the Nobel award, you will not be able to express it to the same effect.

Do lots of practice questions from previous years and other schools. With more practise, you will gain confidence as you master the art of interpreting questions and writing effectively, and reinforce your understanding of the content.

Remember, in language and the humanities, there are right answers but THERE IS NO MODEL ANSWER.

7. Read Widely.

It is very important that in order for any student to do well in Language and the Humanities, you need to spend some time everyday to read widely.

Both language and logical thinking (important for critical analysis like in Social Studies) is not something you can master overnight but it is a skill you can build which will benefit you for life. Engage in discussions and friendly debates with your friends, teachers and family. Read the Editorial pages in newspapers. And the one that you probably already do often, watch TV. But do process what you see/read/hear, otherwise you are not learning. Keep an OPEN MIND. Hear others’ perspective because it might be something you haven’t thought of. It is okay to agree to disagree. Your ego will not be bruised in the long term.


8. Plan before You Write.

Dissect the question. Understand fully what they are asking you about. Don't just dive into answering the question immediately. Wrongly interpretation of the question will cost you dearly.

While you may think it is a waste of time, spending the first 5 minutes to plan an outline will be crucial to how well you do.

Any essay needs a good introduction as well as an impactful conclusion. How will you summarise your argument? What will your concluding paragraph be like? This focus will help formulate your response and strengthen your arguments.

Describe. Analyse. Evaluate. With reference to. Support. Account for. Discuss. Examine. These are just some of the key words that will appear in your exam questions. Do you know what they mean and how you should respond? If you still don’t, please learn it NOW. It is better late than never.

Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Don’t use acronyms or jargon. This is not a vocabulary quiz.

9. Get to the Point. Don't Waffle. Watch Your Time.

Write succinctly. You are not in a literary writing competition (with the exception of English composition). Writing many paragraphs or pages does not mean the marker will award you high marks, especially if you are just writing round and round the circle. If you can answer the question directly, why waste precious time thinking of using big words to impress?

Remember, you have only a limited amount of time to answer all questions. Have a watch with you and take note of the time you spend on each question. If you cannot finish one question within the specified time you set for yourself, move on and return to it if you have extra time later.

Which student do you think will score better?

Student A: Answers all questions, short but to the point.

Student B: Answers only 3 out of 4 questions, all 3 answers are very long and well written and likely to score high marks.

The correct answer? Student A, of course.

10. Stay Positive.

According to research, 77% of our thoughts are negative. So staying positive is requires effort since we are all predisposed to be negative.

A positive mind will yield happiness, joy, health, and favourable results. Be positive and good things will come your way.

Pray (whatever your beliefs are), use your lucky pen, bring your Beanie Baby (keep in your school bag of course) ... if it helps you feel positive and confident before you enter the exam hall, it is a good thing.


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