Understanding Psychology at A level and GCSE 7

Understanding Psychology at A level and GCSE 7: Surviving your Psychology exam

Here is the 7th in our new series of Psychology blogs – useful for anyone revising for exams or thinking about taking up Psychology as a new subject at A level or GCSE.

Surviving your Psychology Exam

Exams are a stressful time for most people, but here are some tips to help when sitting your exam.

  • Sitting an exam is a stressful event, so if you feel yourself getting panicked or wound up, mentally talk to yourself. Say calming things, such as “Calm down”, “You can do this,” “This won’t be so bad,” and so on. This might sound silly, but consciously trying to calm down can help.
  • If you feel your breathing getting fast or your heart racing, start to breathe slowly for a few minutes. This can also be very calming.
  • When you first open the paper, briefly read through all of it.
  • If you have an option on some questions, e.g. ‘Answer A or B’, quickly look through and think which one you think would be easiest. The choice is not always obvious. You might be more interested in option B, but you might actually know more about research evidence and theory for option A, so consider how much you KNOW about the topic, not how interested you are in it.
  • When you’ve skimmed through the paper, if there are any questions you’re not sure of, leave those until the end. It is better to answer the questions that you can write something down on and get potential marks, than to sit there for ages trying to work out the answer to something that you don’t know and potentially losing marks on questions you COULD answer.
  • Use the marks as a guide. The more marks attached to a question, the more detail is required. So if there are ten marks for a question, one or two sentences are not going to be enough. This is an IMPORTANT thing to bear in mind. I sometimes have students who write a couple of sentences for a ten-mark TMA question and need to remind them of this.
  • The same goes the other way: if a question is worth 1 mark, don’t write an essay. You won’t get more marks.
  • Use an approximate time limit for yourself of one minute per mark.
  • Ensure you answer the question. That sounds really obvious, but make sure that what you have written does answer the question.
  • If there are two parts to a question, e.g. ‘Describe and evaluate’ … make sure you answer both parts.
  • If you are asked to use research and theory to answer the question, then use research and theories and experiments to explain your answer.
  • Remember the examiner is trying to find out what you know about psychology. They do not want to know your personal opinion on something. So if you spend ages talking about how you feel about stereotyping, for example, you won’t get any marks for it.
  • So make sure everything you say is backed up by evidence from research and theory.
  • When you have answered all the questions you feel more confident on, go back to the ones you’re not sure of. Read through them again. Some might start to make more sense to you, so answer them.
  • If you are still not sure, TRY an answer. What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll get no marks. Well, you’ll get no marks for writing nothing anyway, so if you have time, try and put something down, even if you are not sure. You won’t LOSE marks if you get it wrong. What’s the best that could happen – you could get it RIGHT and get some marks.
  • A simple tip – make sure you have the equipment you need – pens that work, rulers, rubbers, etc. Whatever you are allowed to take to the exam with you.

Tracey Jones

Psychology tutor

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