Instructions to Candidates

Exam technique is essential to performing well in the theory paper. Put simply, this means reading the question carefully and structuring your answer so that it ‘maps onto’ the marking scheme.




These ‘Instructions to Candidates’ appear on the front cover of the exam paper. Let’s take a closer look at them:

(a) this means you must attempt question 1 and any four other questions - five in total. If you do not attempt question 1 you will only be marked out of 4 questions (i.e. max. 80%)

(b) this means that each question is worth 60 marks

(c) this means you should write your answers with a blue or black pen - it’s okay to write the labels to drawing questions (i.e. Q.1 & Q.7) in pencil

(d) this means that all drawings and sketches should be done in pencil - use a H or 2H pencil for drawings (i.e. Q.1 & Q.7) and a HB or B pencil for sketches - also, use colouring pencils to add colour to your sketches where appropriate*

(e) this means that the question number and part number should appear in the left margin beside the answer (e.g. Q.5. (b))

(f) this means that sometimes a sketch is expected even 􏰏if􏰐 t􏰑h􏰒e 􏰓􏰔􏰓q􏰕u􏰖􏰓e􏰗􏰓stion doesn’t actually ask for one; so, the golden rule is, if you know a sketch that goes with the topic you’re writing about - put it on the page - it won’t do any harm and it might pick you up some marks

(g) this means that you should label the parts of every sketch - this is another area where you can easily lose marks - again, if you know it put it on the page!


* be careful in the use of colour - use colours where they have a meaning - for example, use red for damp proof layers, blue for airtight layers and yellow for insulation layers. Colour is often used very poorly in the SEC solutions - do not copy this approach... less is more.

The Construction Studies teachers who mark the exam appreciate neat, accurate, well presented work - presentation is important. So, write neatly and make sure your sketches are neat, proportional and large - paper is cheap and recyclable - use it up.


Before the exam

Make sure you have everything you’ll need: 􏰵􏰂 

  • pens, pencils & colouring pencils
  • eraser & sharpener
  • tape/ drawing clips 
  • t-square, set squares & compass.

When you’re in the exam hall waiting for the paper to be given out, the invigilators will give out the drawing sheets for question one - as soon as you given a sheet, fix it to your drawing board/desk and get your drawing equipment ready so you can start drawing as soon as you are ready.

Layout of the exam paper (higher level)

There are eleven questions on the paper - you must answer question one and any four other questions - five in total.

Q.1. is an architectural drawing question,
􏰵􏰂Q.5 is the ‘heat energy/ U-values calculation’ question,
􏰵􏰂Q.7 is usually the second architectural drawing question
􏰵􏰂Q.10 is actually two questions - you can answer either - the second option requires an essay type answer.

If you study the papers over the past ten years you will notice that the examiner tends to explore certain themes for a few years before moving on. For example, Q.2. looked at wheelchair accessibility from 2003 to 2005 and then again in 2010 and 2012. However, it is really important to know that the State Examinations Commission works deliberately to avoid exam papers becoming predictable. So, it is not a good idea to try to predict the paper.


Layout of the exam paper (ordinary level)

There are nine questions on the paper - you must answer question one and any three other questions - four in total.

There are usually two architectural drawing questions (i.e. Q.1. and Q.5.).

Question 8 is usually a ‘terms’ question where you have to explain the terms given using a note and sketch.

Timing (higher level)

Try to stick to this timing:

  • 5 minutes to choose which questions to answer,
  • 34 minutes to answer each question,
  • 5 minutes to read over, check your answers and add any last minute details.

so, for the higher level paper, it’s... 

  • 2:00p.m. choose questions
  • 2:10p.m. begin Q.1.
  • 2:42p.m. next question (recommend Q.5.)
  • 3:14p.m. next question (recommend Q.3.)
  • 3:46p.m. next question (recommend Q.6.)
  • 4:18p.m. next question (recommend Q.10.)
  • 4:50p.m. look over
  • 5:00p.m. finish

Timing (ordinary level)

Try to stick to this timing:

  • 5 minutes to choose which questions to answer,
  • 35 minutes to answer each question,
  • 5 minutes to read over, check your answers and add any last minute details.

so, for the ordinary level paper, it’s... 

  • 2:00p.m. choose questions
  • 2:05p.m. begin Q.1.
  • 2:40p.m. next question
  • 3:25p.m. next question
  • 4:50p.m. next question
  • 4:25p.m. look over
  • 4:30p.m. finish

Choosing which questions to answer

Taking time at the beginning of the exam to choose is very important.

Start by having a look through the paper and get a sense of what’s there. Pick your 3 (ordinary level) or 4 (higher level) questions (plus Q.1.), then carefully read through these questions to make sure you can answer all parts of the question - don’t just choose a question because you can see at a glance that it’s about a topic you like - actually read the full question and make sure you can answer EVERY part of it in full. 

Avoid questions that have new material you have not covered in class - the exam is no place to be pondering ideas!


Answering questions in the best order

Begin with question one (remember, it’s compulsory). Then, if you are going to do the other drawing question, do it next while you have all of your drawing equipment out.

Higher level: if you are doing Q.5. (U values) do that next because it will probably take less than 34 minutes to do it and having some extra time will take some of the pressure off.

After that, do the remaining questions in order of strength - that is, do the question you think you’ll do best next and so on, leaving your weakest question until last - doing it this way will give you confidence and keep you in a positive frame of mind. Be careful not to spend longer than the allocated time (34 or 35 minutes) on each question!


Structuring your answers

Once you have selected your questions, get out your highlighter marker and highlight the key parts of each question. 

It is really important to identify how many notes and sketches are required for part of each question. It is a good idea to make a note beside the question to remind yourself how many notes and sketches are needed - you can check your answers against this when you are looking back over at the end. One of the main reasons students under-perform is they are missing notes or sketches.

Take Q.7. from the 2014 ordinary level paper as an example: 



Part a) of this question asks for “notes AND freehand sketches” - so, your answer must include a minimum of one separate note and one freehand sketch. If you check the marking scheme, you can see that the examiners are looking for three valid details in the note (6 marks x3) with a further 8 marks for sketching.

Part (b) of the question is asking about two separate areas:

  • two advantages of storing rainwater, and
  • two ways stored rainwater can be used

So, your answer must have FOUR separate notes!

Part (c) asks for one advantage and one disadvantage - so, your answer must have TWO separate notes!

In summary, your answer should have:

  • part (a): one note and one sketch,
  • part (b): four notes,
  • part (c): two notes.

It is really important that you get used to carefully checking every question to make sure how many parts your answers should have if you are going to do your best in the exam.


Note, in the higher level paper the marking scheme is actually more straight forward; when a note and sketch are required they are usually equally weighted: