Exams – how to pass without (much) stress (3 / 4)


3.   Decide on theories to learn

Having assembled all the information about the exam and gathered a group of like-minded people to revise with, you now need to work out what you need to learn. I recommend starting off by reading a general text about the topic. Go for something manageable in size – so probably not an entire book on the subject. Of course, there will be material that your lecturer points you towards and this might be sufficient. But if this is too bulky or perhaps isn’t written in a way you find accessible, you can search the electronic journals database for a recent paper in the subject. Ideally if you can, find a review so the current thinking will be in one place. But often you will find that even quite advanced papers have a neat literature review that you could find helpful. I would counsel against searching the web though. You will tend to find descriptions of most theories used in business for example BUT you could well be reading something that isn’t accurate. Remember that academic study demands that you have your evidence base completely correct so make sure you are using proper sources.

Having read about the subject generally, revisit all your notes and readings. These days lectures are often recorded so you can go back to those and review the parts that are relevant. But keep it general at this point – you can jot down some theories that seem to be important.

Next you need to focus. You need to end up with a list of theories that you know off by heart. That you can reproduce fully and confidently. Examiners sometimes say they are less interested in the date of a theory and more interested in your showing that you understand it. My view is that if you show understanding AND have the full details about the name and date right, this is always better. This is the rote learning phase and there isnt a short cut. The key is to find different ways of testing yourself and this brings us to my last point…


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