Half a century ago I learned about exam techniques. At that time I was snowed under with study, and my headmaster said that I had as much chance as the Man in the Moon of passing three Ordinary level GCE subjects.
He was right at that time! It didn’t matter how much study I did, term exam questions were always about stuff I hadn’t studied.
Then I learned that you perform best in an exam if you know more about exams rather than about the subject of the exam.
I liked that.
Using Exam Techniques
So I studied exam techniques. What were the results? I passed eleven GCE ordinary level subjects.
When artistic talent was handed out, my brother got it all, and there was none left for me. I panic every time I am asked to do a stick-drawing.
However in the GCE exam, my brother set out to do good art, and I used exam techniques to get good marks. To my great glee I got a better pass mark than my brother did. I was sure that proved that exams are unfair, but remained very smug.
My wife had a multiple-choice paper on a subject about which I knew nothing. I tried the exam techniques in my book. My wife assured me that I would have passed – without knowing anything about it.
Then came a time that I studied maths again, and I was hopelessly at sea. I learned maths where the best methods were those that worked – fast. New maths had been introduced since I was at college. Now the explanations were just nonsense to me. However when the exam came around, it was another multiple choice test, and I passed!
We’ve learned nothing
My daughter’s final exams were coming. I searched libraries for the most modern examination techniques, and received a great shock. All the books still advised lots of hard work. There was no mention of exam techniques at all.
They mentioned mnemonic techniques to help me remember, but I’d been using them since the middle of last century and knew how they could let me down.
The day before a university exam I decided that I would probably get a question about the life cycle of Fasciola hepatica. So I used a mnemonic technique to memorize every number in the complicated life cycle.
Next day the expected question appeared, and I remembered every number – BUT – I had forgotten the units. It was no use remembering the number 3 if I didn’t know if it was three hours, or three days, or three weeks, or three months, or three years. So I couldn’t answer the question. Fortunately examination techniques got me through the exam.