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The external examiner’s best exam advice

What does the censor look for at exams? And how do you best prepare so the exam room won’t scare you off. Hear the answer from an experienced censor!

Little steps during the semester can make a huge difference when you find yourself in the exam room.

We have therefore asked Niels Dengsøe, who is a senior lecturer at Dania Academy and external examiner on the thesis and for microeconomics, to give his best advice for the exam.

Being nervous is completely natural. Niels Densøe has never experienced any student receiving a lower mark after a somewhat rocky start. Photo: Martin Dam Kristensen
Dedicate yourself to learning, and ask the stupid questions during your studies

Use the time when you are studying. The best thing you can do to prepare for an exam is to attend class. Here you can ask as many silly questions as you please.

That’s perhaps the best advice I can give. You will make it many times more difficult for yourself if you take exams without being prepared.

Write about something exciting

It is crucial that you choose a subject that you are passionate about for the thesis. Something that can keep you going for a long time.

You will no doubt be fed up with it down the line, but it will help you keep up the good spirits. And narrow the scope of your thesis; it will allow you to go into more detail. You can ensure this by making your research questions as precise as possible. Discuss the wording with your counsellor and why.

Use the real world

I once had a student who wrote about a specific section of the Danish VAT Act. Can it get any nerdier?

But what this student came to learn during the internship was that this particular section was of great importance to the place of the internship. And that’s sharp! You can ask your place of internship about what concerns them the most.

Score popularity points with punctuation

Sometimes, it will be written into the description of an assignment that correct language will be weighted by a certain percentage.

Have someone read your assignment, preferably someone who is not familiar with the topic. Someone who knows how to place commas and correcting apostrophes, etc. This is an easy way to score popularity points.

Use your counsellor

I sometimes find that students lack something to write about when it comes to the bigger assignments. In this case, my advice is to use your counsellor to help you make a good assignment.

Practice a 2-minute presentation about the most important aspects

Usually, students are given time in the beginning of an oral exam to present the assignment and any thoughts they have had subsequently. You will not have time to go through 30 slides. So, prepare yourself properly, so you know what to say and how long it takes to say it. Make it short and simple. There is no mention of charm and good looks in your programme’s academic regulation, and with good cause as it does not mean a whole lot. 

Know your programme’s academic regulation and use the applicable professional terms

Although it might be quite boring to read, you will do well to read the description of each subject.
It will tell you about the concepts you will be required to understand once you have completed the subject. We want to hear you use these concepts and professional terms at the exam.

When we ask you a question, use the expressions that you have learnt during your studies. You will score many points by using professional terms and using them right. And it makes me relax in my role as external examiner.

Rise and shine

Try to be the best possible version of yourself. Be fully rested, and show up for the exam in good time. And show us all that you are passionate about it. If you enter the room signalling that you find the topic exciting, then you will win some points compared to those entering and giving up before even starting.

Being nervous is completely natural

If you start off by crying or shaking at an exam, it will not work against you. I want to make that absolutely clear. We will give you a couple of minutes to breathe before we will start the exam.
Everyone knows that it is difficult taking your final exam, and that someone might be waiting for you outside. It simply becomes too much for some. I have never experienced giving a student a lower mark after a somewhat rocky start.

It has to make sense

It sometimes works to start the exam with suggestions for what you could have done differently. But we have to believe in what you say.

If you say it just for the sake of saying it, that does not work. We might ask: “So why didn’t you make that questionnaire?”.

Leaving questions unanswered is absolutely no go

In written exams, do not leave any questions unanswered. Having said that, you can still score points by submitting a calculation with an incorrect result if we can tell that you were on the right track. It may rub off on your mark.

So, this is my advice: Organise your time so you can answer all questions and use all of the available time. We do see students leave early, but my advice is for students to stay and read the whole thing through and not leave before time.