Practique Exam Tips
5 tips and tricks for Imperial’s Practique exams – endorsed by brand new F1 Zarius!
- Keep time yourself – set an alarm! The paper doesn’t ‘kick you out’ when the time is up, but any answers submitted after the time limit won’t be considered.
- Use the flagging system to your advantage, but ensure you fill your answers as you go along to avoid risking missing out questions!
- The questions you complete will highlight blue so you can easily tell which ones you have left blank.
- Ensure you have a stable internet connection, and ensure the emergency FEO contact numbers are accessible in case something goes wrong.
- Faculty are recommending NOT to use Safari, but to use Chrome or Firefox instead.
Preparing for exams can be quite confusing. It’s made even worse when a pandemic changes your exam format. But nonetheless, the principles of preparing for exams remain the same. Having just finished medical school, I’ve done my share of exams (including two remote exams for my finals), so I thought I’d list some pragmatic tips that I have learnt over the years. Hopefully it will be useful to some of you.
My Experience of Open Book Exams
I know that being ‘open book’ makes them sound easy, but Imperial are incredibly good at writing questions that test understanding rather than rote-learned, Googleable bits of knowledge. Our finals showed a similar marks distribution to our 3rd year written exam, suggesting that the online delivery made little or no difference to the outcomes. Hardly any of the 300 questions that came up in our finals were easy to google and, more often than not, you end up digging yourself a rabbit hole where you waste time typing various combinations of the same words into Google to affirm something that you already knew. Time is critical, and having the internet and your notes on hand does NOT mean that you necessarily have to use them. There are some fairly straight-forward things you can do to make the online exams more efficient (e.g. having your notes tabs open), but exam preparation really shouldn’t have to change that much.
Tips for Exam Season (online or not)
- Know your strengths and tailor your revision accordingly: everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and everyone fatigues throughout the day. Match the difficulty of the topic with the capacity of your brain to deal with it at the time. If you’re most productive in the mornings, use that time to tackle things that you find more difficult.
- Do NOT compare yourself to others: isolation is a blessing in disguise for revision period. Don’t track your progress based on the apparent progress of others. Set your goals and stick to them.
- Keep a List: this is fairly obvious and I imagine a lot of you do this already, but make sure you have a neatly laid out list of all the lectures/tutorials so that you know exactly how far along you are.
- Practice Questions – do them, write them, then do them again and then again: Medicine is all about repetition, and the most engaging form of repetition is questions. I love to make questions on brainscape based on whatever I’m studying and then going through them regularly. At the very least, I’d advice writing some questions (and answers) on the things you find difficult whenever you go through a lecture. Then, spare an hour at the end of every day to go through all the questions you’ve written down.
Good luck with exams and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Ali Ludley’s Tips:
Top 10 Tips to Success: Quarantine and Open Book Exams
- Make a revision timetable and make sure you plan to do a little bit of work each day. You can ramp it up towards exams, but the important thing is to give your day structure with achievable tasks.
- Make sure you are still exercising and moving around and try to avoid working in the same room you sleep in. If you have to, make sure you take breaks to leave the room and have a walk!
- Make sure you sleep enough. You would think quarantine makes that easy but if you are combining snacking food with mental strain in revision with a lack of exercise, insomnia becomes all more likely.
- Often, you will know how long you can effectively work for. But, if you are not sure, try working for 40 minutes followed by a 10-minute break and repeat twice more before taking a longer break.
- Concise notes are the key to open-book exams – do not just rely on Google searches. Make sure you have a set of notes that you have read over at least once. Even if you don’t remember the content itself, as long as you know where that information is, it will be easily accessible in the exam.
- If you don’t have any of your own concise notes, take a trip to the ICSM note-bank and download some recent notes there! Make sure you compile these before the exam so you can CTRL+F to search them. And, make sure you have some practice in quickly searching your notes.
- Just to reiterate, make sure you have gone over your notes at least once. And in that first pass, try to revise as much of the information as you can but, do not worry about rote learning details (like vitamin names or something) because you can quickly find this online in the exam itself if needed.
- The 20-per-page method: again, people tend to know what works for them when it comes to revision technique. However, if you want to try something else, I’ve found the 20-per-page technique to be really good. This involves reading a side of (concise) notes a few times, covering the page, and re-writing out as much as you can from memory in shorthand. This whole process should take around 20 minutes per side. This forces your brain to memorise content so is much better than just reading pages.
- Get a revision buddy. Not only do they keep you sane in a time of social distancing, but you can ask each other questions to reinforce knowledge you have already revised. Re-accessing information you revised previously helps to keep it in your brain for longer!
- Pick up a new hobby! The truth is, you do have more time on your hands than usual, so take that excess time to try and learn something new like an instrument or a language.