5 Survival skills for tackling Physics exams

By Tim Mok

(Math and Physics tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

 1. Memory and Learning 

Students usually retain the large amount of content at the end of a lesson, as shown in Figure A. The amount of recall of the knowledge gradually reduces with time. This reduction is most likely due to the function of the brain in that the short-term memory can only temporarily store the information. In order to strengthen the memory, we need to review what we have learnt so that the amount of information recalled can be held for a longer time and also clarify some points that making recall higher than before  (Figure B). However, the amount of highest recall can be obtained with constant in time  by strategic revision (Figure C). Thus, short-term memory transitions into long-term memory, which can store the information permanently in the brain. This movement to long-term memory storage is the ideal outcome of learning for students.


2. Effective Study

  • study-scheduleSet goals for your study
  • Plan realistically
  • Keep a day-by-day chart and stick to it – but allow flexibility in an emergency
  • Take breaks during your study
  • Use what you know about how the brain works to enhance your learning
  • Develop good study skills suitable for yourself but do not expect to get everything overnight
  • Study the subject syllabus
  • Work on past exam questions early in your revision schedule (but take it slowly at first)
  • Analyse past exam papers so that you know what examiners want from you and how they assess students knowledge

3. Knowledge with understanding

  • Application of knowledge and understanding, synthesis and evaluation
  • Experiment and investigation
  • How examination board test students knowledge
  • Types of questions Structured and Multiple choice

4. Strategies for answering questions

  • Develop a systematic procedure to practicing questions such as (Time ➔ Read ➔ Rehearse ➔Review ➔ File). Estimate the time you should spend for the question assuming that you spend approximately 1-minute to score 1 mark. Start to read the question and circle the trigger word and the number of marks available for the question. Take every attempt as a rehearsal of examination. Review the work you have done and keep track as a file for improvement.
  • For each part of question, the word that instructs you to answer is usually called the trigger word. The number of points you must answer together with the marks distribution for the question.
  • Some Trigger Words

Physics Trigger words

5. Reminders during the examination

  • Do the easiest questions first or the ones you are most familiar with which could help you to settle down. The exception to this rule is the multiple choice section. Skip and come back for the ones you get stuck on.
  • Questions are usually set in syllabus order but with a random degree of difficulty.