Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 April 2015

Case study: Exam technique - Emily Campbell

St Killian’s College pupil Emily Campbell, who was ranked first in GCSE English Language, 2nd in English Literature and 3rd in History.
St Killian’s College pupil Emily Campbell, who was ranked first in GCSE English Language, 2nd in English Literature and 3rd in History.

Emily is currently studying for 5 AS levels in English Literature, French, Spanish, History and Religion, with a view to studying Law with French at university.

“The English Language is nobody’s special property. It is the property of the imagination.” We all possess this property; we all possess an imagination; we all possess words. Mastering our own language is undoubtedly a craft that is developed, perfected and moulded with time. Developing a clear and elegant style is no mean feat, but rather, in the words of Orwell- “It is a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence.”

For us exam- beleaguered youngsters, it takes a great deal of will-power to endure the endless flow of essays; to survive the study-inflicted hand-cramp; or to overcome the “I -can’t- be –bothered” attitude. Whilst we dread the looming stresses and strains posed by exams- they needn’t be a monotonous morale-sapping chore. “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

Some top tips for a successful exam technique:

  • Answer the whole question and nothing but the question! The question provides a writing frame, around which to base your answer
  • Employ subject- specific language throughout your writing. Write what the examiner wants to read! Don’t merely identify the writer’s technique, but also comment on how it elicits a response from the reader
  • Don’t be afraid to include humour, as it adds character to your writing, and allow your interest in the subject to shine through: write with personality! For example, I was confronted with the rather bland statement, “School is fun”. I incorporated my interests in philosophy and politics into my answer and articulated an embittered critique of the educational system!
  • Be conscious of time constraints. If you wax too lyrical in one question, the stark fact is that you will forfeit the marks in another question. As my English teacher adroitly phrased it –“Resist the urge to include the kitchen sink!”
  • Past paper and timed essay practice is crucial! The cliché- “Practice makes perfect” is indeed true. GCSEs are truly a case of “You snooze, you lose.” Harsh but true.

Good Luck!

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