I have never professed to being an expert at revision. Whilst I was pretty studious at school, at University I discovered a whole world of distractions – mostly sporting and involving alcohol – that meant that I was not the most conscientious of students, and I managed to get through my final exams with only a serious amount of last minute cramming. It remains a supreme irony to me that I now sit on the other side of the fence as a lecturer; strongly advising students to work diligently throughout the term and not leave revision to the last minute!
With this health warning in mind here are my tips to help you prepare for January’s MOP exams:
1. It’s never too early or too late to start
What do I mean by this – Well you cannot change the past, only the future and no matter whether you have attended all lectures, done the course reading and kept on top of your coursework, or whether you have been more of a “last minute charlie”, relying on your wits and the adrenalin rush produced by an imminent deadline to focus your studies – Start preparing for the exams now. Make sure that before the end of week 12 you have downloaded all the lecture notes, all course reading (e.g. the module handbook) and have access to at least some of the books from the course reading list. Get these materials organised either in paper files or electronically so that once you start revising you have everything you need to hand and you can begin work productively.
Most units will hold a revision lecture – make sure you attend this and understand the format of the exam paper that you will have to sit. In mace 60023 project finance this year I have changed the exam, so there is little point accessing past exam papers – but for other MOP units download copies of past exam papers from Blackboard.
Now you are ready to start your revision.
2. Have a plan
The exam period this year is 13th January 2014 to 24th January 2014 and in that time you will have 3 or 4 papers to sit, hopefully spread out reasonably well. You need a revision plan to help organise how much time you devote to revising each subject, and when you will actually revise. I am sure we have all come across students who spend hours producing a fabulous and extensive colour-coded revision plan – but then neglect to actually do much revision. Do not fall into this trap! However having access to a daily chart of what and when you will revise can help calm any sense of panic, and also act as reassurance that there is ample time to revise. A plan also allows you to tick off topics successfully revised, thereby allowing you to treat yourself – to a walk, a break, a quick look on facebook when you have achieved your latest revision target.
Please, please make sure that your plan includes time to rest, eat, sleep and exercise. It is utterly futile and exhausting to approach your exams sleep deprived so make sure you try to get sufficient sleep ( although i do appreciate that sleep is often difficult when you are a bit anxious). Vary your revision tasks between learning material, and practising questions to make sure that you are embedding your learning. Get into study groups to test each other if you find this helpful, although some people are solitary revisers and this is fine too.
3. Do not be too strategic
There is a lot of material to learn in project finance – and students can be notoriously strategic – limiting their revision to only some of the topics covered. This is a highly risky strategy and not one that I would advise – particularly in project finance where all questions are compulsory. Make sure that you have a reasonable grasp of all areas of the course. Yes, focus in-depth on cash flows – as you know there will be a question on this – but don’t neglect the other parts of the course as you could be asked a Multiple choice question on any aspect of project finance that we have studied. At a minimum familiarise yourselves with the lecture notes and read the module handbook. Know the basic details of each of the case studies we have studied in class. If you are wishing to excel in the exam you must also demonstrate to me that you have read beyond the materials that I have provided to you and that you have accessed some of the textbooks in the reading list. In my view Project Finance in Theory and Practice, by Stefano Gatti is the most comprehensive book and is available as an e book in the library.
4. Learn the concepts in the lecture notes, but make sure you can apply them to real life project too.
At Masters level you are required to do more than simply repeat or regurgitate what I have taught you. You need to show that you understand the principles of project finance and the lecture materials but you also need to be able to apply that knowledge to the specific exam question, or a specific project situation. If you are asked a question about project structure, don’t just tell me everything you know about project structure but tailor your answer to the exact requirements of the question. Draw on several different arguments and concepts to underpin the statements that you are making and use examples to help demonstrate your points if appropriate. Remember, especially in the essay style question, that there is no right or wrong answer – it is more the depth of argument and your level of understanding of project finance that I am testing.
Lastly, I do wish you all the very best of luck in the exam – Remember try to stay calm, read the questions carefully and divide your time equally between the different sections of the exam paper. Although exams can seem horrendous at the time, they do pass, life does go on and most people do generally get through them okay.