Tips to survive your assessment

We know how hard it is to actually commit to booking your assessment.

Fear, insecurity and comparison can all eat away at you, giving you endless reasons not to follow through on your goals.

So we’ve talked to the experts – tutors Jerome Li (JL) and Gill Myers (GM) give us their top tips for preparing for and getting through your assessment.

When should you begin revising?

JL: “Especially for larger and more complex units of study, rather than scheduling your revision nearer your assessment, carry out the revision process at the end of each topic of study.

By doing so, the final revision period will be less formalised and shorter in duration.”

GM: “Everyone’s different, but I would try and revise as you go.

Make notes and ensure you have understood one topic before you go onto the next, that way you are in the habit of studying and revision is just a natural continuation.”

What is the best way to revise?

JL: “The best way to revise is to go through your notes and your tutor notes, self-made revision cards (or for example, Osborne’s Wise Guide handy booklets) and to practise as many paper and online mock tests that you can.

You can also team up with a study buddy for peer revision and as a way to test each other.”

GM: “Step by steps are my favourite. Break tasks, including calculations, down into bite-size chunks describing for yourself what you need to do.”

What should you do the week of your assessment?

JL: “The best form of revision would be to practise some online mock tests to gauge your assessment readiness and to familiarise yourself with the assessment format.

If all’s good, your confidence will grow, but if you need extra work, you’ll still have time to plug any gaps in knowledge or understanding. Seek out any help or support from your tutor or peers, if need be.

Also, remember to maintain a healthy diet, have adequate sleep and rest to maintain a good physical and mental balance.”

GM: “Little and often is best, using a variety of resources and methods to focus on the things you can’t do, rather than the things you can do. Do not just repeat the sample assessment.”

How you can stay calm on the day of your assessment?

JL: “By trusting in your ability to perform, knowing that you have put in the hard graft. A calm and clear mind will aid memory recollection and logical thinking.”

GM: “Being well prepared is the best way to help yourself stay calm. Make sure you know where you are going, how you are going to get there, what the assessment room will look like etc. If you’ve not been before, do a dummy run and give yourself plenty of time on the day.”

How to manage your time during their assessment?

JL: “Nearly all the current assessments have a generous and fair time allowance to complete. However, students would be wise to do a time allocation based on the marks per task.

For example, a task carrying 10 marks in a two-hour exam with total marks of 100 will be allocated 12 minutes.

Examiners often feedback that students fail to complete assessments due to poor time management. They also comment that the easier marks in a task are earned in the first third to half of the task. Therefore, there is an overriding need to at least attempt all the assessment tasks to maximise the resulting outcome.”

What should you expect in the assessment?

JL: “Students should expect no surprises in the assessment if they have adequately prepared themselves. They will have had a good idea of the likely format and criteria content being tested for the unit when they did the AAT online practice assessments.

Examiners can use various ways or alternative phraseology to test a principle and a well-prepared student should not be caught out.

Those students who do get caught out have likely been rote learning and not developed a full understanding of the subject matter.”

GM: ” Do not expect it to be the same as the practice! Make sure you know what the unit covers and what will be assessed in each task as the content is set but the presentation of questions will vary.”

What to do the night before your assessment?

JL: “My advice is to ensure that they have a relaxing evening, doing whatever will take their mind off their impending exam.

There is a tendency for students to be revising late into the evening before and sometimes, in the morning of the exam. I would not advise it!”

GM: “Do a short revision session so you’re confident, make final practical preparations like making sure you have your own calculator and you know where you are going. Eat sensibly and get a good night’s sleep.”

What to do if you’re losing confidence mid-assessment?

JL: “They could ask the exam invigilator to pause their exam while they have a five-minute break. In most instances, this will not be seen as an unreasonable request.

Taking the break can help to short-circuit the negative feelings that were building up to the point of panic. A bit of fresh air will clear their mind and help them to refocus on the task at hand.

They will then need to remind themselves that they are in control of the situation and trust in their ability to see it through the assessment.”

GM: ” Breathe! Sit back, close your eyes and breathe. Visualise yourself somewhere else for a minute or see your revision notes in your mind’s eye.

Think about what is assessed in the task you are stuck on and then re-read the question looking for what you know should be there.

The chances are you know it but it’s being asked in a different way, so the presentation has thrown you.”

What are the most common mistakes that students make in their assessments?

JL: “The main culprits are not reading the task requirements properly, skimming over the information provided in the task and not reading the full sections of a task before jumping into answering the first task section.

Often, task sections would be linked and it’s a good idea to read all the sections required to gain an overall overview first. My mantra to my students is ‘Read the question properly and slowly, and again, and again if needs be’.

Other mistakes can be careless errors while using calculators or spending too much time on a challenging task, to the detriment of missing out on some perhaps more easily attainable marks.

GM: “Not reading the question properly so answering what they think is there rather than what is actually being asked.”

If there was one thing you could tell your students about assessments, what would it be?

JL: “Only take your assessment once you feel really ready and confident within yourself to do so.

Assessment readiness is the last hurdle that students have to negotiate to achieve their learning goal. Once ready, the assessment process itself just becomes a motion.”

GM: “Know and understand the theory as well as how to do calculations.  That way you’ll be able to work out what to do regardless of how the questions are asked.”

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Dale Rolfe is AAT's Content Manager.

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