The time of the year which must not be named fast is approaching, exam season (oops, I named it!). If you’re like me, you’ll be pleased to know that there are not many timed exams. I’m approaching the end of my second year and have completed just one so far. I’ll have my second in a month or so.
There is a lot of support made available by the Department of Education and across the University of York throughout the exam period, so there’s very little to worry about. In fact, there is a huge amount of support right from the beginning of your first year in relation to assessments. While the assessments start off as rather short and simple in nature, they gradually get harder, meaning that you gradually get better at them as you go along. This means that it doesn’t really feel like they’re getting harder at all! In addition to this, there are lots of opportunities to hand in formative assignments (these don’t count towards your overall grade), meaning that you can receive detailed feedback, helping you to see what you’re doing well, where you’re going wrong, and what you need to improve on. Also, the Department shares previous work online so that you can read it and get a feel for what constitutes good practice.
I have picked up some useful tips in my time here; I’ll share two. Dr Poppy Nash has recently made some recommendations that I have found really helpful in relation to preparing for an essay. She recommended that, after doing plenty of reading, you sit down and create a mind map of all the different ideas that you have floating around in your mind. You note the essay question in a bubble in the centre of the piece of paper, and jot your ideas down around it. This allows you to visibly link ideas together, locating ways in which different points interrelate, contradict, or back one another up. If you’re a visual person, then this should suit you perfectly. Once you have all of your ideas down on the first sheet, you should take another sheet and start transferring the ideas from the mind map into a logical order onto the second sheet. I have found this helpful in ensuring that I have a clear sense of what I’m doing and in what direction I’m heading when writing essays. The key to a good essay, some might say, is all in the planning.
If however you’re preparing to write a timed exam – which is usually people’s least favourite kind of assessment – then something that Dr Kerry Knox taught us about in our Educating and Lifelong Learning module last year can also come in incredibly helpful. It was explained to us that the best way to prepare for a timed exam, research evidence has shown, is often to sit down and do it in practice, placing yourself under timed exam conditions. Of course, just as with essays, you’ll need to do the reading first. But what is clear is that sitting down and practising rather than reading more and more (unless you haven’t read enough) makes a significant difference to your performance!
Above all, the staff at the Department of Education are kind, caring, and supportive. There is plenty of help available; staff respond to emails quickly and will often be willing to see you. While you’re at the University of York, you’ll also have a supervisor who will meet with you each term to make sure that everything is OK, and help you out whenever you need it. So, while the upcoming time of year isn’t necessarily the most pleasant one, here in York there is very little to worry about, because you’re as well supported as you can be.