Study Skills – What affects exam success?

What affects exam success?

There are various factors that affect success in an exam. This includes subject knowledge, exam preparation, exam practice, writing skills, use of time and attitudes towards the exam.

Subject knowledge

The better students know their subject the easier it is to succeed. Knowing the subject will help them:

  • Have self-confidence and reduce stress.
  • Manage time effectively.
  • Recognize what is significant. Therefore, They will understand what must be included and what can be left out
  • Identify links and connections between different aspects of the subject. These associations will help students have a global view of the subject.
  • Recognize which points of the curriculum  are relevant to which exam questions
  • Find the starting point to answer questions and solve problems

Exam preparation

Exam preparation is of paramount importance. Students may be very hard-working during the courses, but if they don’t prepare enough for the exam they may experience a disastrous situation. When sitting for exams students must not only understand information but also remember and present particular aspects of the course at a certain speed.

Exam practice

As the saying goes: “practice makes progress.” It is undoubtedly very important for learners to practice a lot in order to do well. Students have to practice in conditions as near to the real exam as possible. They have to:

  • Set up their own mock exam conditions
  • Practice old exam questions.
  • Work under time pressure.
  • Check their answers after they finish.
  • Learn to work quickly in planning, writing and checking answers.

Writing skills

For all written exams, exam success is affected by:

  • Style
    clear, easy to read writing style
  • Vocabulary
    students have to show their knowledge of subject specific vocabulary in their answers
  • Organization
    Well structured answers  have an introduction, body (with possibly many paragraphs) and a conclusion
  • Evidence
    Support your points with definitions, examples, theory and quotes

Use of time

Students must be aware of good timing before and during the exam.

  • Before the exam they must timetable their preparation.
  • During the exam they must allot enough time for each question.


Our cognitive activity to think clearly and logically, is affected by factors such as:

  • how calm we are feeling
  • level of interest in material
  • Distractions
  • Self understanding

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