This week’s blog is written by NEC team member Carly, who recently sat a GCSE exam and learned a valuable lesson.
Our NEC tutors tell us often that managing your time is the key to success when studying an online, distance learning course. You’re responsible for your own timetable, so giving yourself enough time to fit your study in around other commitments is essential. Because you can start at any time, you also need to think about the bigger picture: is there enough time to complete the course between now and when you plan to sit the exam? If you need to spend 10 hours a week studying, do you have that time available? Have you factored in time off when you go on holiday?
Managing your time is an essential life skill that learning at a distance can help you to develop and it really comes into its own when you have an exam. I learned first hand recently that time management can make or break your exam success.
I decided, after many years, that I would retake English GCSE which I didn’t get a great mark in the first time round. I’ve been embarrassed by this for years and finally took the plunge after seeing so many NEC students do it. Like Victoria, who re-took GCSE Maths and told us after she successfully completed the course, ‘At last, I have put to rest the distress that had been with me for so many years of my failure to pass O level maths.’
Going into the exam room I was confident, I knew my subject matter like the back of my hand and there was no reason that I shouldn’t get a good grade this time round. No reason, that is, until I failed to manage my time properly during the exam.
Two hours seems like a long time when when the invigilator says ‘you can start now’, but it flies by. Particularly when you know the subject and have a lot to say. I made the mistake of getting distracted by the first question, it was a really nice piece of writing and I found a lot to comment on, but before I knew it most of my time had elapsed. I’m confident that I did really well on that question, but the remaining three were left with very little of my time.
My advice is to really take notice of the time that the question paper says to allow for each question, even note down the time that you should have finished next to the question. Don’t fall into the same trap: if you have until 11am to finish Question One, keep an eye on the clock and be realistic about what you can achieve in that time. You may have a lot to say, but will it gain you extra marks?
There are several practice papers available, use them and make sure you stick to the time limits, giving yourself an extra five minutes is not helpful in the long-run. Practicing for exam day will give you a good sense of what to expect and what is possible in the time allowed.
I managed my time much better in the second paper, finishing on time and giving each question a fair chance. I could have written much more for each of the questions, but I concentrated on the main points and did not let myself get distracted. I finished with just enough time to read through my answers and correct a rogue spelling mistake.
Whether better time management in the second paper will be enough for me to get a decent mark overall remains to be seen, but I did learn two valuable lessons which I hope will help you. Firstly, you can be an expert on a subject and still fail the exam, practice makes perfect and the exam paper even suggests how long you should spend on a question. The second lesson I learned was listen to your tutor. After all, they are experts who are on your side and really want to see you succeed.
If you want to study for a GCSE with NEC, remember you can enrol before the end of February for a 10% discount off your course fees for any GCSE subject. Visit our Special Offers page for full details.
You can also find out how we can help you take your exams, including guaranteeing an exam place at one of our partner centres and entering you for non-exam assessment (NEA), by reading our Exam Information page.