With HSC exams less than a month away, the heat is on and now is the time to organise your notes, revise, write practice papers and make sure you understand the concepts and texts you’ve learnt over the past year.
But even the most prepared students aren't immune to a blank mind when they sit the exam. How can you prepare for that question you’ve never seen before? These options might be useful when you’re staring down at the exam page.
1. Answer the question (the one actually on the page)
You have 10 minutes reading time - make sure you carefully read the actual question. It is an incredibly common mistake for students to misread the question due to excitement or anxiety, but this wastes all that hard work spent writing. Even if it looks the same as a question you studied or practiced, concentrate on the keywords and directions in front of you. Answering the question correctly and using the keywords can make a huge difference to your mark.
2. Get off to a good start, with a good introduction
Not only can this capture the interest of the examiner who has to read your work, a good introduction can often make your essay easier and faster to write because it makes you stick to a plan. An introduction should always show how you’re interpreting the question, provide a map to your essay and clearly indicate the focus of your writing and point of view. (It can also act like a quick reminder if you have a mental block during the exam.)
3. Paragraph structure: “Give me a SEC!”
“Just give me a SEC!” This is how some students remember paragraph structure: Statement, Explain, Critique. The ‘statement’ gives an answer to the question, this might offer a perspective. Next, the ‘explain’ part provides evidence. This is a chance to show off some quotes, a comparison, character development, or perhaps text analysis. The ‘critique’ is a chance for real thinking, time to show your learning. This might mean stepping back to look at the argument you made: How strong is it? Are there any weaknesses or alternative arguments that could be raised? Why is your ‘statement’ strong?
4. Construct a strong conclusion
Teachers will often tell you the conclusion isn’t a space for ‘re-telling’, but instead for talking about the overall perspectives presented, and why. For example, what perspectives and evidence did you use to answer the original question? What's the strongest argument, the weakest, why? Would someone else have answered a different way? You might emphasise why your arguments are strong against any alternatives.
5. "How many pages should I write??"
Don’t worry. Answer the question, make your points, give evidence, state your conclusions. The pages will take care of themselves. Remember, talk to your teacher if you have any concerns.
English exams can be tiring. Keep an eye on the time and make sure yourself 5 minutes at the end to give your work a quick once-over.
By remembering these simple tips, the pressure of the exam will seem a little less stressful and your mind more focused.
Keep calm and write on! ✍️✍️✍️
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