Exam : Current Students : The University of Western Australia

Current Students


There are many things you can do before and during this exam to help ensure you are writing to the best of your ability.

Consult before any exam

Preparing for the exam

Plan how much time you are going to spending answering each question, based on how many marks each question is worth and how much time you have.

For example, a two hour exam with three questions all worth the same amount of marks should be broken down like this:

120 minutes minus 15 minutes (reading the questions and planning your answers) = 105 minutes

105 minutes divided by 3 questions = 31 minutes per question plus 10 minutes to read through your answers.

Practice planning out your answer. This can be a powerful tool in the exam.

Answer maps can help you to avoid repeating of the same case studies over and over. An answer map can be something as simple as this:

One sentence which answers the question directly.
Reason 1
Example →
Reason 2
Example →
Reason 3
Example →

Record yourself going over important information, examples and case studies.

Listen to these recordings as you ride the bus, go for a walk, cook dinner, etc.

Practice writing introductions in 5 sentences.

Start by answering the question at hand in 1 sentence, so you know you are answering the question directly. In the next 2-3 sentences, use two or three concepts from your readings to explain why your answer is a good one. A strong introduction might need one more sentence that sums up your arguments and leads in to your first paragraph. If you become familiar with this process you will save plenty of time and energy when writing your exam.  By the way, this paragraph is approximately the desired length. 

Remember some of the examples used in lectures, tutorials or the textbook that helped you understand the subject matter.

These are the examples that are likely come to mind during the exam. Become really familiar with these and other examples or case studies and write out how they relate to different theories discussed in class. It is good to have examples and the accompanying citation readily available for the exam. 

Take breaks.

Eventually you will stop absorbing information and your time studying will be wasted. Everybody is different, but one technique you could try is taking a 10 minute study break after every 45 minutes spent studying.

Practice writing in exam-like environments.

Draw on questions from your text book and past exams and sit in a quiet room, for a specific amount of time, writing out answers in full.  You will get used to writing answers within a constrained timeframe and in a quiet environment. It is useful to practice handwriting answers, because it takes longer to write than type.

Talk about what you are studying!

Find a study group, a friend or a family member whom you can bounce ideas off, and quiz yourself out loud. Use Facebook and LMS to ask your peers questions or to get a discussion going.

Eat properly and get enough sleep.

The best way to fight exam stress is to take care of your health. It is easier to think clearly during an exam if you are well fed and rested. Make sure that your body clock is set so that you can work effectively at the time of day the exam will take place. There is little point repeatedly revising into the night and waking up late if you are going to have to get to Uni and be alert at 9am. 

During the exam

Make sure to read and reread the questions being asked. It is very common to answer a question based on what you want it to ask, rather than what it is asking.Double space your answers.  This gives you serious brownie points with the person marking your work and it also leaves you room to fix any mistakes when you are proofreading. Stick to the time limit you made for yourself.    Make answer maps before writing out your answers in full. This is important for four reasons:

  • An outline can help you to organise your thoughts so you know exactly what you are going to say before you start to write
  • If you do get confused or off topic, your outline can help keep you on track and bring you back to answering the question at hand
  • You can avoid repeatedly using the same examples and case studies.
  • If you run out of time, or if your answer isn't written clearly, the person marking your exam may know what you were trying to say and will have some idea of how well you know the subject matter
 Bring a bottle of water with you.  If you start to get stressed, take a sip of water and try to keep calm.


The following is a response from a past Crime and Society exam. It answers the question “what causes state crime?” You will notice the answer is written three times – each rewrite incorporates common mistakes often made on exams.

This is what makes the first answer very good:

  • Arguments are developed logically and flow together
  • Each paragraph contains only one idea, referencing at least one scholar or case study as supporting evidence
  • Arguments draw on concepts from different parts of the unit, applying several different theories to one argument
  • The answer utilises proper citation
  • Arguments are explained thoroughly, in basic English

Exam example 1Exam example 1

The following response answers the question “explain why men are violent EITHER in the home or in the street. Again, you will see three responses, demonstrating similar common mistakes.

This is what makes the first answer very good:

  • the introduction takes the time to define the topic
  • the conclusion sumarises the arguments and relates them to the bigger picture
  • the answer flows nicely, with joining sentences between each paragraph
  • when explaining three different theories, the answer explains how they are similar and how they differ

Exam example 2Exam example 2


Study apps you may want to try:
Smartr App
Makes smart flashcards to help you study.
Evernote Peek App
Has a similar flashcard-type study technique.
ATH Exam
An app that allows students to share notes, and course materials easily.

Listen to an explanation by Vic Nithy on why we procrastinate


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Last updated:
Wednesday, 20 August, 2014 1:16 PM