Exam Tips and Techniques

Following these guidelines will make a real difference to your exam results:

Anne Penman, APA Procurement and Supply Training, 03 July 2017


  • Read the question carefully, and answer only what you are asked to do, however tempting it is to write generally what you know about a topic.
  • In ‘discuss’ questions, state your own opinions, give reasons for those opinions; and then go on to talk about alternatives, using phrases like; ‘on the other hand’, ‘however’, ‘it could be argued that’, ‘alternatively’, etc. There are no “right” or “wrong” conclusions to be reached; the question is seeking only that you can demonstrate your understanding of each method you discuss. Give well-founded reasons for your opinions. This should produce a well-rounded debate within the response, showing reasons both “for” and “against”.’  

  • Look carefully at both instruction keywords (discuss, describe, explain etc) and topic keywords to get to the point of the question.
  • Tailor the amount you write to the marks given. If a question asks for 5 criteria, for example, there will be no extra marks for a sixth or subsequent suggestion; writing additional suggestions will just waste precious examination time that could be productively spent answering another question. 
  • Time management is key to gaining high marks. A three-hour paper with 4 questions gives you just over 40 minutes per 25 mark question, taking into account 15 - 20 minutes to read the questions initially and then check your answers at the end. Make sure you write sufficient content to justify the time and earn the marks… Short answers with insufficient detail and a lack of breadth in the response are the most common cause of low marks in exams.
  • To avoid wandering off the point, as you are answering the question keep going back to the question, read it again and ask yourself – am I still answering the question? 
  • Read through what you have written at the end and make any necessary changes to make sure it makes sense. Is there anything else you could add to gain a few extra marks?

Good luck!