Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Exam Ready

"Giving students the information they need to pass exams is the beginning of the process"
Christine Ward

In preparing our students for exam we  tend to focus a lot of attention on preparing students with the content  but often pay little heed to how they feel and how we can help alleviate the stress.

Where will they be sitting the exam?
Will they be in a familiar classroom, the hall, gymnasium at another school?
How do our students practice for the feeling of sitting in the space they will be sitting the exam in?
How do we prepare them for the unfamiliar?

Reading time
Once upon a time exams began with 10 minutes of reading time where pens had to be left on the desk.
My observations of students beginning exams these days is that almost all pick up their pens and begin answering question one as soon as the supervisor says they can start.

Taking time to read the entire paper before starting to write can give students the time they need to become calm and clear their heads. It gives them time to think about the questions.

And remember to check the Formula Sheet for clues

I know we all tell our students to read the paper before they start but how often do we actually practice this with them.
The most common response from students is "i don't have time", after practicing they might be surprised.

Where to start?
Question 1 is not always the best place for everyone.
Students should find the question they feel most confident with and begin here.
This could be decided during a second reading time - again students need to practice doing this
How many times have your students practiced making a plan for an exam paper then followed through on their plan? and then made a plan and followed through in the allocated time?

Should I show all my working?  YES
While reading they should also check for any specific instructions, e.g. 1.6 is likely to have instructions like “All working for calculations must be shown”,"give reasons".

What about short answer questions?
Chance and Data (1.12)  could have short answer questions. Sometimes a structure is a useful guide to keep the thinking going and avoid going blank".

They  could try SSA to help structure their answers
Statement, answer the question
Support your statement with evidence.  this is because..... 
Apply, provide an example. For example ....

or WWW
What do I see (statement)
Where do i see it (give specific evidence)
What does it mean or why might it be the case ( apply)

What if I go blank? 
Distract yourself  (only for a moment), drink some water 
Relax, take 3 deep breaths 
Doodle - make notes in margins or a blank piece of paper
Use a structure 
if none of these work move on to your next question & come back to this one later
The worst thing you can do is start to panic, because as they say ‘stress makes you stupid’. You won’t be able to think clearly.

What if I get writer’s cramp?
Practice writing before the exam
Try gripping your pen loosely
Put your pen down & have a rest for a few minutes (there is time to do this) Flex your hand in between questions.
Sometimes a fatter pen can help

Share your best tips in the comments

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