Friday, 29 November 2013

Study seminar and exam preparation session

This article is about the study seminar the Society organised in week 12.
For exam-related practical information, please read that article.

Extra help and advice for students with dyslexia and dyspraxia here 

On Thursday 28th November 2013, the UCD Archaeology Society organised a study seminar and exam preparation session. Prof. Tadhg O'Keefe kindly accepted to give the students attending the seminar a little speech with advice on how to tackle an exam paper and how to write the answer that will give you an A.

Prof. Tadhg O'Keefe

For those who could not make it to the seminar, here is a summary of what was said, as well as the handout that was given to the students present. Past exam papers can be found via SIS web. (More information here)

Tips on how to do well in your exam:

  • Revise all the topics: there is no "pattern" in the questions coming up each year. Or in the words of Prof. O'Keefe "we just forget what we asked last year and we just write new questions. So if something came up for the past five years, it is very probable that it will come up this year too!"

  • Always answer all the questions. If the paper says "answer 2 questions" from a choice of, e.g., 8, you need to answer two. No matter how good your first answer is, it will only count 50% of the final mark. 

  • Never come with a prepared answer. The marker will just sniff it after barely 2-3 sentences and will know you did not pay attention to what is actually asked, you just have a prepared answer on the general theme. 

  • There is a time limit to how much you can write so be clever in terms of the amount of information you want to include in your essay. 

  • STRUCTURE  is everything. Spend at least 5 minutes reading the paper thoroughly , give each question 30seconds to figure out exactly what is asked. This will save you a lot of trouble and give you extra marks. Avoid word-spotting. If a question contains the words "megalithic tombs", do not just jump to it and recite all you know about megalithic tombs. Analyse each and every word in the question (see handout). Make a PLAN on the rough work: list the points you are going to address in the right order, list case-studies you are going to use, prepare a sequence of analysis. ... And stick to it ! A written plan or outline of what your essay will be about will prevent you from panicking and just throwing in about everything you can think of on the topic. 

  •  Be extra careful of the wording of the sentence. These words are chosen carefully and each of them is important so you need to think about each word and definite it before starting answering the question. 

 - "outline" : asks you to sketch the principle points on a topic. A discussion of these points is also presumed but the importance is on sketching: the lecturer wants you to be able to present a general picture in a short time and word count.

- "compare and contrast" : make an evaluation after weighing what the two things have in common and what is different.

- "review": Present what you know and then compare and contrast, critically evaluate.

- "describe" also implies "discuss"

  • Don't be afraid to say "I": it is your essay, so just say it! When announced the plan for your answer for instance, you can say "in this essay, I will analyse the role of megalithic tombs in prehistoric Ireland bla bla bla".

  • What makes the difference in the end? Writing quality. Knowledge is one thing, delivering it is another. What will make an exam essay stand out is the quality of the writing: don't be afraid to be a bit poetic, make it something nice to read. 

For those who missed the seminar (or lost the handout), here is a scan of it ! Click on the image to have it in full scale and save it. 

By Alexandra Guglielmi
Social Media Coordinator

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