EAsy revision: How to revise for a partly seen exam

A lot of the revision methods discussed so far in this series have been mainly aimed at exams where you just need to learn a lot of content but don’t really know what types of questions will come up. However, for other exams you might know what questions will come up in advance and so the way you prepare for this type of exam will be slightly different. I have a partly seen exam for my degree in the summer and have just started revising properly for it so it seemed suitable to write this post now. Basically we have to learn lots of key words and examples etc. of them and will get asked to write about a few of them. There are also six essay questions we have to prepare and we will be asked a couple of them. In case any of you have a similar exam coming up I thought it would be useful to discuss the different ways you can revise for this type of exam.

Know what it is you need to learn

It sounds obvious but a big advantage of a partly seen exam over an unseen exam is that you know in advance what you might be asked. Because of this make sure that you are really clear on exactly what it is you need to learn so instead of just revising everything you can just focus on the specific areas/ questions you need to know.

Start preparing early

As soon as the questions etc. are released, print them out and stick them up somewhere you will be able to see them easily (mine are on a notice board above my desk). This way, when you are studying you can look at them and think if what you are learning about is relevant to any of them. If it is make a note of it somewhere (I use a brainstorming method for each essay title and just write things down when they come up – along with a page number so I can find it again in the future- your future self will thank you a lot for doing this…).

This is helpful because when you get to the stage I am at now where you need to start making actual essay plans you have at least some rough ideas of what you want to write.

For the key words I have to learn I have been writing little index cards when I finish each chapter for each of the key words I need to know from that chapter. Although I haven’t been looking back at these a lot yet it is helpful to do this to save time when you start properly revising.

Revise in specific ways for each part of the exam

Focus your revision on the specific things you need to know. For example, for the key words and examples I need to know I have made index cards for these but am also using Quizlet which is a website which helps you to revise key words etc. (I wrote about this in more detail in my post last week on revision websites). There are also games to help with this on the website which are a bit more fun than just sitting a reciting definitions to yourself. I also plan on writing a paragraph for each key word as if I was writing it up in the exam and will read these often along with writing it out from memory and checking it.

For the essays I need to write I plan on writing a detailed essay plan for each of them just as I would if I was writing it for an assignment. The process I use to do this is to brainstorm ideas which I have already started and then to use post-it notes to divide the information into paragraphs. I will then write all of this out on a piece of paper with detail of what I want to go into each chapter (theories, dates, studies etc.). Once this is done I will type up a copy of the essay as a model for myself.

To revise these plans I will practice writing them by hand from memory and then compare them to my typed up version. I will also make index cards with a bullet point for each paragraph which I will use to test myself. Getting someone else to test you on these would also be helpful. It might also be helpful to write a bullet point/ first sentence of each paragraph on a separate little piece of paper and then mix them up and try and put them back in order. This will help you to remember the order you want to write the essay in so that it has a logical argument which examiners always like.

If you are someone who learns well by hearing things you could also record yourself reading the ideal answers out loud and then listen back to them.

Nearer the exam I plan on giving myself ‘mock exams’ where I will pick several questions at random and write them under exam conditions which will give me a good idea of how to manage the timing in the actual exam.

Basically, you just need to focus really specifically on what you will be asked and practice the answers you will use often enough that you feel confident that you can recreate them in the exam.


I hope this post has helped you – leave a comment to let me know if you have a partly seen exam coming up and how you are planning on preparing for it 🙂

Ellen Allsop

Hello! I'm Ellen Allsop, the creator of EAsy :)

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