In your university degree, you will be assessed by various methods. These are likely to include written examinations. If you are an international student, these may be quite different to the examination or other assessment methods you are used to. For instance, we do not usually have oral exams (except on language courses), and many exams require you to write essays rather than short answers.
This page outlines some of the differences you may find, and includes some exercises to help you feel better prepared.
Read through the other pages in this guide on Preparing for exams for more information on the best way to prepare for exams in the UK, including links to our video tutorials.
Most written exams in UK higher education have some common features. Depending on the academic culture you have previously studied in, these may be different to what you are used to. It will be helpful to know what may be different, so you can see which practices you may need to work on and develop.
It is really important to know that exams are not all the same - even within the same subject, you may have some exams where you are expected to write essays and others where you are expected to answer multiple choice questions. So make sure you know what to expect by checking:
It is also a good idea to make sure you know where you need to go for each exam well in advance: some of them may be in parts of the university campus you have not yet visited.
If you are studying at the University of Reading, all the important information (including what to bring, how the timings work and where to find out what your seat number is) is in the Examination Office's What You Need To Know guide.
To get the best result in your examinations, you need to do more than just revise your subject knowledge. UK higher education exams are not a test of how much you can remember and recount from your lectures or your textbooks. Instead you will need to put your knowledge to use to say something interesting and meaningful about your subject. You also need to get used to doing this within the allowed time.
The most effective way to do this is to practise making answer plans and writing timed answers (by hand) for questions for your module on past exam papers.
You will be able to find past exam papers for your subject on the Exams Office webpage. These will not be the same questions that you are asked in your exam, but they will give you experience of how exam questions are worded. If you are taking a new module or course which does not have past papers available, ask your tutor if there are any practice questions.
These tipsheets and exercises may also be helpful. Do try the exercises before you look at the answers!
Some students get extremely anxious whilst doing exams. It will help to feel prepared – the strategies in this and our other guides and video tutorials aim to help you to do that. If you are still anxious, and are worried that this will affect your performance, do discuss this with someone: your academic tutor, a Study Adviser or a university counsellor. The Chaplaincy also offer sessions at exam time to teach relaxation techniques - these are open to all students.