The Certificate exams
In the previous post, I focused on general revision techniques and gave tips on revision. This post is about how to tackle the exams themselves.
The first thing to realise about the certificate exams is that they test a breath of knowledge across the syllabus without going into too much depth. The material in your course books will therefore be more than enough to enable you to pass well; failures usually arise through poor preparation and poor exam technique.
Let’s start with the basics. The exams are both two hours long. You must answer all 11 questions on each paper. Question 1 is worth 20 marks; the remaining 10 questions are worth 8 marks each. You should spend no more than 30 minutes on question 1, leaving ninety minutes for the 8 markers. If you allow some time for reading the questions and some time to read through your answers, it works out to around 8 minutes per 8 mark question – one mark per minute. Time management is therefore critical.
During the exam, use your watch to keep an eye on the time; spend no more than the allotted amount of time on any given question. If you spend, say, 10 minutes on an 8 mark question then you will have less time to answer another question later on. This will all add up and may result in you running out of time and still have questions to answer – a bad idea.
It is natural to feel anxious before the exam. To help you to cope, when you practice your answers try to put yourself under pressure by reducing the amount of time available. For instance if you are trying to answer an 8 marker, give yourself seven minutes to answer it instead of eight – that will simulate the panic that you will feel in the exam so you should be able to cope better on the day.
As with any exam, make sure that you know the venue address and that you arrive early. There are strict rules for admitting candidates and if you’re late you may find that you will not be allowed to sit the exam. If you finish writing before the end of the exam (which is usually a sign that you haven’t done enough to pass) then you should read through your paper again and always try to think what else you might have written. You will not be penalised for writing too much, but if you write nothing at all then it is impossible for an examiner to award marks!
You won’t lose marks if you write something that is just plain wrong. This is not the green light to adopt a scattergun approach (i.e. write everything you know about the subject), but it should reassure you that we’re not trying to take marks away.
Ultimately, success comes down to thorough preparation and good exam technique. You will get out what you put in, so if you do not revise and then find yourself panicking in the exam due to a lack of preparation, then you will only have yourself to blame.
Andrew Ashford BSc (Hons), GDL, Cert Ed., CMIOSH
Long-standing RRC Associate Tutor, NEBOSH Principal Examiner (Unit A), Barrister (non-practising) and Safety Practitioner http://www.linkedin.com/pub/andrew-ashford/33/722/304