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Good luck with the February exams
by Janet Prescott - Sunday, 4 February 2018, 9:58 AM

Some of you will be taking the RHS exams next week  - we all wish you the best of luck, and that the questions which come up on the day are the ones you revised for!

 Final revision - if you read through the past papers (remember parts of the syllabus changed in 2013/2015 so some questions aren't relevant) but do not be disheartened by the examiners' comments: they are 'comments' on answers given to that particular paper by that particular group of students. Some of the answers may not have reflected what the question setter had expected, but are valid if unusual points, so were given marks. These tend to get mentioned in the 'examiner's comments' and can be confusing!  Also, remember  'suitable answers included...' doesn't imply that ALL those points needed to be made for the marks.

Look in the 'RHS Examinations' section on the front page for Jenny's definitions of exam terms and for some hints on reading exam questions.

On the day -

Allow for traffic, parking etc.  - no-one thinks clearly when they arrive stressed with minutes to spare. Take a spare pen.

Read each question twice to get the  proper sense of it.  Imagine that  'RHS - speak'  is a foreign language, not English, and you've got to translate it in your mind into something clear and familiar.

Don't just focus on the word that leaps out at you - 'photosynthesis' or 'raspberry crop'  - look at the rest of the question closely to see WHAT exactly you need to say about  photosynthesis or raspberries. Underline the verb if it helps - is it  just 'List' or 'State' or is it 'Describe'  which needs more information.

Look at the mark scheme and let it help you to allocate your time - if there are four marks for a section try to put down enough information to gain those marks. 

If the question asks for NAMED examples, botanical names are generally a full mark by themselves; you may also be asked to NAME something (e.g. a material for walls) because without the name the rest of your answer can't be judged. 

But don't waste time giving more than is asked for.  If the question says 'four examples ' give four. If you aren't sure if your examples are right so you put down six, only the first four are marked.

Don't freeze on a question if your mind goes blank. Move on, do all the others that you can, come back again if there is time  - your brain may have got over the hiccup and remembered. If it doesn't  - you can pass the paper even if you miss out some questions (pass mark is 50%).

If it is your first exam for years, and you aren't used to pacing yourself against the clock, one technique that might help is read the questions (twice) then jot down bullet points for every question you can answer. Go back through and expand them into proper answers, crossing through the drafts, but at least you've got something down on paper..... the examiners can't read what's still just in your mind!