May 2018 – Revision and Exams


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Word from our Head of School…

Welcome to another edition of our School of Management blog. This month we’re looking at the very timely subject of exams, which I know if you’re one of our current students you may have already started. The word ‘exam’ can be a frightening one, causing stress and anxiety both in the run up to the exam and then during the assessment itself. What I hope is that by reading some of the advice on offer here you’ll gain something that will help you rise to the challenges of this period with confidence and faith in your own abilities. We’ve got pieces submitted from Management staff as well as from our colleagues in CeDAS, offering you a variety of tips and tricks to make use of.

And whether you’re one of our current students, a prospective student or anyone else with an exam just ahead of them, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you the very best of luck.

Best wishes,

Professor Gloria Agyemang


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My Term

by MSc International Management student, Michelle Sharples

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Dr Lucy Gill-Simmen

Five Questions with…

Dr Lucy Gill-Simmen, Lecturer in Marketing

1)  What’s your favourite thing about the subject you teach?

Marketing’s cool, it’s so tangible, it’s so relevant and it’s so everywhere which makes it very easy to teach.

2) Who would be your dream dinner party guests?

Bob Marley & Carly Fiorina, actually no, scratch Carly, I’d want to give Bob my full attention.

3) If you could travel backwards or forwards in time, where would you go and why?

I’d go back in time to when there were no smartphones so I wouldn’t have to converse with my children through Emojis and inanities such as LOL, OMW, IKR & NGL.

4) If you could give your twenty year old self any advice, what would it be?

This is the best time of your life, stop planning and live in the moment and oh by the way don’t break the speed limit!

5) What do you love most about working here in the School of Management at Royal Holloway?

No brainer, The McCrea Building! Oh and the soup at The Boilerhouse Café. In no particular order.

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Getting the mix right…

By Dr Tom Wainwright

Dr Tom Wainwright

Like them or loathe them it’s exam time. You may get a rush from smashing an exam in one go, or like me,  just the idea of sitting down and trying to memorise all the theories and frameworks brings you out in a cold sweat, forcing you to swipe straight onto social media. I’ve tried all the common revision approaches – full commitment to no commitment.

You can guess which one yielded the poorer results. Cramming only works well if you already know the materials in depth, having attended lectures and completed the extra reading. Total saturation of trying to learn everything – while thorough – can overload your brain with facts and stats leaving you tired and stressed. Everyone is unique and some approaches are more useful than others.

Personally for me it was a mix. I made sure I had all the materials to hand, understood them, then I wrote them out again and again, then really focussed on the key theories and frameworks intensively and repeatedly just before the exam.  Describing what McDonald’s did won’t get you the killer marks you need for that graduate scheme post, but applying Porter’s 5 Forces to MaccyD’s maybe will.

“Describing what McDonald’s did won’t get you the killer marks you need for that graduate scheme post, but applying Porter’s 5 Forces to MaccyD’s maybe will.”

Memorising lists of key theories and theorists is a useful way to make sure you don’t forget the big names on the big day. If you know the theories, frameworks and definitions, you can easily rework them to address any form of question. You’ve likely undertaken exams prior to getting to university, so you know what works for you. What applies to everyone though is to start early. Revision is like exercise – do it often and keep it up.

Just because lectures have finished doesn’t mean we’re not here for you. If there are theories or concepts you don’t understand, drop an email to your lecturer, or if you would like to discuss different ways of revising, or to check you are on track, contact your personal tutor or CEDAS. There’s plenty of help available, just make sure you start early.

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Revise Smart…

By Dr Adrian Wallbank, Teaching Fellow in CeDAS

Now that the better weather is finally arriving and the challenge of getting to lectures without becoming either soaked to the skin or turning into an iceberg has passed, your thoughts may be wandering towards sun-kissed beaches, festivals or catching up with family and friends.  Unfortunately you may have to get through a substantial set of exams before you can get some well-earned rest and relaxation.

Effective revision is key to exam success, but have you really given much thought to what revision techniques you use and how effective they may be? In the video accompanying this blog you’ll find out more about what revision techniques to use to suit your learning preferences and how to use some advanced techniques to create ‘hooks’ and associations to drag what you have learnt out of your memory and onto the page. For now, though, I want to leave you with some thoughts about what’s known as the primacy and recency effect.

Research has shown that the mind learns and absorbs information most effectively during the first and final stages of each learning event or activity (in others words, what happened in the primary part of the session and what happened most recently). During the middle part of any revision session, your mind is much less receptive and retentive, and even though this is probably the longest part of your study period, less information is actually making it into your long-term memory than during the relatively short primacy and recency periods. This may sound a little disheartening at first, but you can actually use this technique to enhance your revision sessions and be more efficient.

“Research has shown that the mind learns and absorbs information most effectively during the first and final stages of each learning event or activity.”

Firstly, rather than revising for hours at a time, have lots of short breaks (aim not to exceed 20mins of revision at a time). This increases the number of times that you start and stop, thus increasing opportunities for the brain to learn through primacy and recency. Secondly, prioritise topics so that you revise these at the start and end of your sessions. So, if there are particular topics you are struggling with, subjects which you really think will come up in the exam, or issues which your lecturers have suggested you focus on, revise these at the beginning and at the end of each revision session. Use the less productive middle section of each session for topics which are either less important, less challenging or more familiar to you. And thirdly, use the primacy and recency periods to repeat, review, re-emphasise and summarise key information so as to ‘fix’ it in the long-term memory more effectively. Revise smart and success will be yours. Good luck!

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Express Yourself…

By Dr Niran Subramaniam, Senior Lecturer,  Accounting & Information Systems

RHUL, Event

Exams are here. As a student who sat for more exams in my life than most people, I thought I’d share a few things to help in your preparation for the exams.

Exams are not necessarily the best means to test your knowledge, but they are one of the many ways in which you can express what you know. However, you can benefit from learning how to answer questions under the time pressures in exam conditions. Some techniques that should help are:

  1. Spend 5 minutes reading the instructions and skimming the questions, and 5 minutes closely reading all the questions on the exam. This helps calm your nerves, and to be comfortable with the exam – at least a good start!
  2. Plan how much time to spend on each of the questions, and stick to the plan. This way you have the best chance of answering all the questions, and scoring marks out of the full 100% for your efforts.
  3. Answer the question that you are most comfortable with, first. This allows you to not only gain confidence, but also potentially save time for the more difficult questions later.
“Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.”

4. Pay close attention to the question ‘verbs’, such as ‘discuss’, ‘describe’, ‘critically evaluate’, and so on, to write your answers accordingly. A number of marks are usually lost for not answering the question that is asked (but answering the interpretation of your question)!5. Be succinct, and avoid unnecessary jargon and complexities. Though technical terms and academic content are expected, answers that lack clarity are not the best! – Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

I think that captures the essence of what I wanted to share with you  – I hope this is useful, and I wish you all the very best in your exams.

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