Exams: An Idiot’s Guide, by A. Pillock

As way too many of my age group are aware, the dreaded EXAMS will have started, or will be very soon. But someone (no idea who!) said once that “To overcome fear, you must stare it in the face” or something like that. So this is my very helpful guide on how to pass exams, and believe me, it doesn’t have to be as hard, lonely and scary as so many of us think it is.

Exams at all levels in the UK are simply memory tests. I mean this by remembering certain terminology, or “buzz words”, and using them relating to context. This leads me to my first point: Always Read The Question Carefully. By taking the time to look at what the examiners want from you, it’ll take some time out from frantically scribbling, just to relax and bring your head into the right place. Also, it’ll help you to identify which “buzz words” to remember and to write in your answer, gaining much-needed marks in your quest for a good grade.

Secondly, the work before exams is very important. Not necessarily revision right now, but coursework. The better grade you strive for and hopefully achieve in your coursework, it’ll take some of the pressure off in the exam hall. Put simply, the better you do before, the less marks you need to get what you want.

Now for possibly the most hated word for any teenager: REVISION. It sends chills through many spines, but by god it is helpful, and I can guarantee that you won’t even realise it. There are 6 P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents P*ss Poor Performance. And no collection of P’s could ever be more true. But if you’re like me and say “I don’t know how to revise!”, you’re not the only one. But there are lots of different ways to overcome this problem, although everyone has their own way of doing it that works for them.

First of all is the most popular revision technique: Flash Cards. Simple small pieces of paper which detail different aspects of subject matter and terminology, all nicely highlighted and quick and easy to go over. Highlighting is preferred for many as it makes colours stand out on the page, making things easier to remember.

Secondly is my personal preference of revision method: The Revision Book. Essentially flash cards, but all kept nicely together in a little notebook, to save all the fumbling around trying to find your most important ones. Keeping separate topics and subjects sectioned off from each other helps memory as keeping topics consistent in your revision will help your mindset stay in the same place, retaining information longer.

The final revision technique is by far the messiest, but perhaps the one best suited to retention: Repeated Writing. Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Writing out the same thing over and over again helps brain patterns with retaining the information that you want to put across. An excellent choice if you want to learn definitions, but bear in mind the piles of paper left in your room in the aftermath of the exams.

In terms of Past Papers, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea but they are by far the best way to prepare for exams, coupled with revision! Past Papers give you the perfect practice for exams, because it allows you the opportunity to see how questions are worded, as well as the layout of the paper, and what’s actually been in the exams in years gone by. My best advice for pre-exams is to get through as many Past Papers as possible to acclimatise yourself with the specification, and looking at the mark schemes will always help too. So revise everything that the specification says in the official textbook for the exam board. They provide the textbooks to spell out exactly what they could ask you, so they are essential reading for any student.

Now for the exam hall itself. An ominous location to say the least. The paper is layed out for you, your candidate number sitting in the corner. Firstly, a bottle of water is an absolute must. Research has proven that concentration levels are increased by 30% with a good swig every so often. Having a break to sit back and have a drink can also take the edge off and is a good chance to read what you have done so far. Secondly, don’t even bother taking your phone into the exam room, even if it gets taken away in a tray. It’s best left with any other potential distractions safely in your bag or left at home. Thirdly, and most importantly, just flick through the paper when the exam starts, to save any nasty surprises that may follow and might stump you. Look at the questions that you can do immediately without even thinking, and do them first, no matter how long or short they are. Safe marks first are the cornerstone of a good grade, so get them in the bag as soon as you can. Allow the questions to get progressively harder as you go along, but always pick the “easier” questions out of them. Otherwise, trying to do hard questions first can throw you off and stick in your mind for the rest of the exam.

I hope that this has helped if you were worried before, but all I can say now is good luck in your exams. And remember, if you are struggling for anything, your teachers are paid to help you with whatever you need, so definitely don’t be afraid to ask for help!

With love, Yours Truly,

A. Pillock


Are we seeing Snooker reborn? – Part Two

As we’re now approaching the climax of the World Championships at the Crucible, it seems that my comment about Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fall from grace was ever so slightly misguided. The Rocket has somehow been sparked into life in this Championship, with a scintillating run of form taking him to a semi final against Matthew Stevens that he won comfortably in the end 17-10. In the final, he faces qualified pilot Ali “The Captain” Carter, who triumphed 17-12 against in-form Scot Stephen Maguire; whom forced the great Stephen Hendry into retirement with a crushing 13-2 victory in the Quarter Finals.

Many snookering anoraks, whatever the amount of knowledge that they possess, would never have even contemplated the Final line up that has become as a result of the preceding matches. I think I would be right in saying that many predictions for the big finale would have included young gun Judd Trump and/or Aussie Neil Robertson in them. But such has been the quality of competition so far that this isn’t the case.

Barry Hearn has definitely been the driving force behind the new wave of snooker popularity, but I do think that he probably shouldn’t be so dismissive of talk of a 50-week season causing “burnout” from the players on the tour. Sometimes, Player Power can be helpful to the progression of the game, which Hearn hasn’t really seemed to get the grasp of quite yet. But I don’t really see any die-hard fans complaining! Since the quarter final stages at The Crucible, there hasn’t been a spare seat going. Although some Championships have seen the numbers of frames played “neutered” slightly recently, the length of the World Championship matches has (thankfully!) stayed the same. This means that we can all watch the drama unfold over the course of two days, just like it has always been! Change has certainly been necessary in some aspects of the game, but some parts should be left well enough alone.

Snooker has gone through a big transition in the last couple of years, and the retirement of Stephen Hendry is most likely the signal of a new era in snooker, and the sport is looking like it’ll come out the other side all the better for it.