Picture a circle. Let’s call it Circle A. Circle A contains everything that you need in order to be good at your subject.
Picture another circle. Let’s call it Circle B. Circle B contains everything that you need in order to be good at exams on your subject. In a perfect world, Circle A and Circle B would be exactly the same.
We do not live in a perfect world.
You can only be examined on those parts of your subject which are easily examinable. But much of what makes you good at your subject cannot feasibly be assessed in an exam. It may even act against you.
For example, exams are generally designed in a way that punishes students whose answers do not conform to a very specific set of requirements. Ironically, this very nonconformity is often the result of a flair for creativity and original thought which makes those students very good at their subject.
Furthermore, your exam performance also depends on many factors that have absolutely nothing to do with your subject. This collection of factors is commonly known as exam technique. Great exam technique is essential for great exam scores.
What does all of this mean?
It means that Circle A and Circle B are different circles. Being good at your subject does not automatically mean that you are good at exams on your subject. Exams are merely a crude approximation, which means that your exam performance can never truly reflect your knowledge or abilities.
If your primary aim is to become really good at your subject, you’ll need to focus on Circle A. If your primary aim is to maximise your exam scores, you’ll need to focus on Circle B. The two are far from being completely separate but it’s important that you recognise the difference.
Our focus will be on Circle B.