Posts Tagged mind mapping

Exam warfare

 

P-00 (((Peonidas Preparing For War)))

Image by pikahsso via Flickr

 

When you sit an exam, you’re going to war: it’s a war to win marks and glory – well, you want the marks anyway. So get a determined attitude, then become a canny general and marshal your resources to win the war. Here’s a piece of advice from Sun Tzu, the famous ancient military strategist and author of “The Art of War”:

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”

What does it mean? If you want to win – prepare! You’ve probably been told this before (many times). “Use your time before the exam well; because you won’t get it back again”. “Time will be one thing you’ll wish you have more of in the exam” etc. It’s all true, but what can you do to prepare effectively – and how can you maximise the return on your time?

Preparing for war

Build up an inventory of resources in your mind so that you have a range of content to draw upon during the exam. Importantly, this will also decrease your nerves on the day and increase your confidence.

There are two categories of resources that you can store up in your mind:

  1. Firstly, know what literary techniques you can write about; be able to discuss key sections of the text, know some good examples of important devices that develop the text. For essays in subjects other than English Literature, know some good examples of studies, facts etc. that prove important points.
  2. Secondly, understand the themes of set texts – have a firm grasp of these themes; you need to be able to write fluently about them. Know multiple themes, or interpretations, if possible. Be well-equipped to respond to a range of essay questions. For other subjects, this translates to understanding theories, models, philosophies and schools of thought.

Note: you don’t need to memorise these inputs for your essay word-for-word, you just need to be able to call them to memory on the day. If you can remember the gist of them and then string them into an eloquent essay body paragraph under pressure, then that is enough. These are the bulk of the essay that you wrap around the quotations – you memorised these, remember).

    • If you have to memorise key words, try adapting the Quote Sheet technique to learn these.
    • Also try mind mapping to quickly get an overview of how the concepts link together – you can also depict models and theories in diagrams. Discover what works for you.

Train yourself too, General. (Guess what that means…*)

Preparation of resources and your knowledge, plus preparation of yourself  will make you a formidable force in the essay war.

“Go get ‘em”.

*see previous posts on becoming an essay ninja and writing under pressure if you’re not sure.

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How to study without writing too many essays

You’re a student – you have a life (sort of!). Writing practice essays is the best form of study but you don’t have a lot of time.

How do you learn the content, understand the concepts, and be able to prove it to the marker; while studying for three other exams and spending long periods staring out the window?

Just write the plan.

Take one of the topics that you have worked out could come up, and write an essay question for it. Look at previous exam papers for the general format of the questions that may come up. Then plan how you would answer it. You can use a pretty mind map if you like.

Introduction: The most important part of the essay, it is a good idea to write this out in full (or close to it).

Body paragraphs: Write the topics sentences for the first and last lines of your paragraphs. Fill up the middle with bullet points of what you are going to cover, and refer to the evidence that you will reference to back up your points.

Conclusion: You can either write this in full or follow the same format as for the body paragraphs. Practice writing clear concise sentences that sum up your arguments.

Next week I’ll post an example essay plan.

This method allows you to formulate arguments quickly for possible essay questions; but make sure you write a few timed essays too. It is always good to have a dress rehearsal before the big performance.

Study hard!

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Starting is the hardest part

This is our first blog. We have been meaning to write one for ages, but like that essay you aren’t really sure how to start, we haven’t got around to it… until now.

How do you start writing an essay when you can list 101 things you would rather do (like staring out the window to check the tree that has been there for the last 50 years is in fact still there)?

  1. Take the essay question you have been thoughtfully given and write it in the middle of your page
  2. Around it in a nice pretty mind map write out the 101 (give or take 80 or so) things you do know about the topic

Congratulations, you’ve now started your essay and we have started this blog…

We look forward to your thoughts and comments on this necessary evil and feel free to send us topics you would like to see us discuss.

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