Tag Archives: read

Your Exam Game Plan


Getting It Right, the First Time!

It’s that time of the semester where you may find yourself sitting at your desk, doing an assessment for the second time because you didn’t pass it the first time. Nothing is more frustrating especially when you have other assessments to work on, and you feel like you have taken a step back instead of a step forward. There is nothing worse than looking back at your first assessment and seeing silly mistakes that resulted in unnecessary marks being deducted.


Here are Claire Jackson-Barnardo’s (BMH, Sandton PR lecturer) Top Tips on how to get your assessment right, the first time!

  • First impressions count – Ensure your cover page has the subject and lecturer’s name spelt correctly. Imagine you have submitted work to a client and you have misspelt their or the company’s name…
  • Understand the assessment brief – Read through the assessment brief thoroughly before you start the assessment. Make sure you understand exactly what is being asked for. (See also: Understanding Assessment Briefs)
  • Topic and textbooks are key – Make sure you understand and have read the textbook chapters that covers the section your assessment is based on. Use a highlighter and mark the key points in your textbook that you may want to include in your assessment. Keep referring back to the assessment topic to ensure that you have covered everything.
  • Number your answers correctly – Ensure that all your answers are numbered correctly as per the assessment brief. Also, make sure that you answer the questions in the order they have been given in the assessment brief, and double-check that you are answering the question that has been asked. Don’t waste time by including unnecessary or irrelevant information in an attempt to “pad” your answer.
  • “Copy and Paste” is not okay – You aren’t studying for a BBA / Diploma in “cut and paste”, you are at BMH to learn about media. Assessments are there to show that you understand the content and concepts. In the world of work we are interested in what YOU know, not what your textbook or Google says. Cutting and pasting large sections from other sources doesn’t demonstrate any skill or understanding.
  • We don’t steal the work of others – If you are going to draw from or refer to a source / idea that is not your own, make sure you reference it properly. Both in-text citations and a reference list are required at the end of assessments. Educators are trained to detect plagiarism and, believe it or not, we are actually interested in what you have to say. (See also: Referencing and Plagiarism).
  • Word – Is a computer programme designed to help you write properly, so use it. It will tell you if your sentences are too long or if you have spelt something wrong – just remember to change the spell-check option to UK English.
  • Loud and proud – Read your assessment out loud to yourself, a friend, or family member before printing the final version. When you read something out aloud you find all sorts of mistakes in terms of spelling, grammar and flow.
  • Lastminute.com – If you leave an assessment to the last minute, you are not going to pass. Give yourself enough time to complete your assessments properly. (See also: Assessment Due Dates).
  • Ask for help – As an educator, I like nothing better than marking a good assessment. Nothing is more frustrating than marking an assessment where you can see the student did not understand the assessment brief. BMH educators are available to help, each educator has dedicated “consultation times”. Bring your notes, rough drafts, questions and meet with your educator. Those 5 or even 20 minutes of consulting with your educator may be exactly what you need to ensure that you pass…and pass well! (See also: Student-Lecturer Meetings).

Good luck and remember:

You aren’t at BMH to become an accountant! We are in an amazing industry and your assessments are aimed at helping you become a professional member of the South African media industry!


For many, having to learn from a textbook or college issued study manual can be a daunting experience. Today we look at a study skill specifically aimed at textbook reading / studying.

SQ3R are the initials of the five pivotal steps in this study method:



The purpose of surveying is to gain a quick overview of a chapter as a whole, it’s orderly development, and the relationship of main ideas in relation to each other, before reading. To survey properly, you will need to spend 1 – 2 minutes surveying in the following manner:

  • Fix the name of the chapter in your mind – it is in essence the main idea you are trying to get from the chapter.
  • Quickly read the introduction, outline and objectives of the chapter – they supply background information needed to recognise the purpose of the chapter; secondly they may provide the mode of development that the author intends to follow. Both are important for faster reading speed and greater understanding of how ideas fit together.
  • Pay attention to the headings and sub-headings – well-written textbooks and course manuals are divided into sections: each headed by large, bold print. The title names of the major topics to be presented and indicates that the author thinks this ideas is very important. There may be several sub-headings under a main heading, these signal the important details in the chapter.
  • Look at other clues to important ideas – authors indicate which points are important for you, frequently by the use of bold print, italics, numbered items, colour coded passages, marginal notes, glossaries, outlines, questions, lists, charts etc.
  • Read the chapter summary – to see which ideas the author restates for special emphasis or what conclusions are drawn. A summary contains only the main ideas in a chapter.
  • Look over the words in the list of important terms – at the beginning or end of chapters. These are key ideas that you must understand in order to learn the material in the chapter.


Make questions out of headings and sub-headings. For example, if the first heading in a chapter is “The Judiciary and the Constitutional Court”:

  • Skim the details as a guide to the kinds of questions you can make.
  • If the details include words that can be defined, use them in a question – “What is the Judiciary?” “What is the Constitutional Court?
  • If the details explain characteristics of a relationship, use them in a question – “What are the characteristics of the relationship between the Judicial and the Constitutional Courts?

Remember: Details always dictate the format of a question.


With the question in mind, read the details in the chapter in order to answer the question. By doing this you create a clearly defined purpose for reading namely, to answer the question.

Reading with a purpose helps increase concentration and reduces “blank mind syndrome”, which happens when you cannot recall what it is you have read. Making up questions and reading for the answers increases memory at exam time.


Reciting correctly is an important part of not forgetting:

  • Look at the question you have come up with.
  • Without looking, recite the answer aloud. Answer fully, as if you were lecturing a class. The key is to recite the answer out loud or alternatively writing it out. Another way of increasing learning and recall is to write the answer down in the form of an outlines, short paragraph, chart, diagram, mind map etc.
  • Check your answer by referring to your notes or the textbook.

Reciting is a good way of finding out whether an answer has been learned. Many students “feel” that they understand an answer but never test the state of their actual learning. Thus, many students enter an exam “feeling” they know their work but don’t know for sure until they are faced with a question they thought they could answer.

Recitation involves mental activity rather than the mindless reading and re-reading of words without necessarily taking in any of the information. Reciting promotes and speeds up learning whereas passive reading slows down learning.


There are very few people who are able to remember the entire content of a chapter by only reading it once. By using the Question – Read – Recite method, a chapter is divided into sections that can be assimilated individually, piece by piece. This allows the student to move at a pace that is best for them. Regular review allows the student to put the chapter back together again. By reviewing you are answering the question that was made up from the chapter’s title e.g. “What is the Judiciary and how does it work?”

Reviewing refers to regular recitation of the material that needs to be learned. It is an excellent way of checking for learning and understanding and will eliminate the “feeling” of knowing the material.

A common complaint about the SQ3R method is that it is slow…and it is! But it is the answer to the often heard student complaints: “I can’t remember what I just read!” and “I thought I knew that!”


Worcester Polytechnic Institute. (n.d.). Academic Resources: SQ3R Textbook Study System. Retrieved from:  http://www.wpi.edu/Images/CMS/ARC/SQ3R_Textbook_Study_System.pdf [Accessed on: 23 October 2014].