Well, if you read this title and ask yourself, “what’s a resit?”, then consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Not everyone will experience an exam resit during their education years, but for those who do, they can add an entire extra level of stress to what is an already-arduous process. Here, we do what we can to help you manage the experience, and if possible, to avoid it altogther.

When do resits happen?

A resit is essentially an opportunity, whether it is desired or not, to rewrite an exam. Resits can happen for a number of reasons. There are many programs that set a requirement for core courses in which they must be passed at a specific level if a student wishes to advance within that program. This is often logical. If someone is going to be a doctor for example, it might not be a good idea for them to graduate having learned nothing more than 50% +1 of the things they need to know! Many programs set higher standards. If you don’t pass the first time, you may be given a second chance.

In other cases, an entire class may be forced to rewrite an exam when evidence of possible cheating surfaces after the fact. This can be frustrating, especially if you are a student who worked honestly, and got a good grade, only to have it disqualified because of someone else’s lack of integrity. Regardless, you may have to breathe through that frustration, and take your exam again.

Logistics: what do I have to do?

When we are preparing for an exam at the end of a course, the traditional approach is often to take all your course material and try to memorize every part. Often, this is impossible, and in the case of a rewrite, especially one assigned for not meeting the pass level, it may not be wise either. Think about it. When you write an exam, depending on the nature of your program, it is very rare that you are tested on every aspect of the course.

Exams are built on theory that there will be certain elements of a given domain that, if a student can demonstrate mastery, indicates a level of mastery overall. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to study, because you do. You can’t demonstrate mastery otherwise. However, pay attention to things that get said by the professor or teaching assistant regarding the most important aspects of the course. Don’t worry about knowing every little detail as much as you should focus on mastering the major ones.

Concepts rule

As a good general approach, particularly for exams with essay-style questions, is to make sure that you really understand the big concepts from your domain, and how they fit together. When you write an exam reply it is important to answer the question directly, but it is more important to demonstrate that you have your information down, and correct. If a question is about tax incentives, for example, and you talk a little bit about that and then a bunch more about ‘tax compliance’, if they’re from the same course and your info is correct, chances are you will get some more marks for that. Learn what you can very well, and then find an excuse to put it on the page; chances are you will be rewarded.

Most of all, breath deep, and remind yourself that lots of people no smarter than you are have already accomplished this. You can do it.