• Abigail Spruce

How to Make Time for Exam Questions

Every time my students sit exams or tests, I'm always a little taken aback by how much they have seemingly forgotten! I'm (almost) sure there were exam questions in their lessons - but now it's a cold January Tuesday morning in the Sports Hall and those lovely four markers are but a distant memory.

Two days later a student asked "why can't we do more exam papers in class?". Initially my thought was "because we have 21 units to cover in 3 years, plus revision, plus drop-down days, plus assemblies so we just don't have time!" - but that's such a terrible excuse. Surely I could find ten minutes in my four hours of lessons for some exam practice.

I took a practice exam paper and split it into chunks (which should take around eight minutes to complete), to make ten "do now" tasks. By doing this, the paper becomes a little less threatening to my students and also makes it easier to fit into the busy scheme of work.

The initial aim is to ensure my students complete one section per week. By doing this, each learner can see up to four practice papers in a year - which is way more than they would have seen otherwise!

I'm currently running these with my year 9 and year 10 classes, as my year 11 class already get plenty of exam practice. So far the response has been positive! Students are enjoying the opportunity to practice their exam technique, it exposes them to new topics or styles of questions, and serves as revision for older topics. Altogether a win!

In addition to this, I borrowed an idea from a colleague to help students reflect on each session. This is such a good idea that I think it needs its own post (hopefully February?). Very briefly: if/when students lose marks, they must consider why by asking themselves:

  • Did I misread the question?

  • Do I not know this topic?

  • Did I not show sufficient working?

  • Did I not understand what the question was asking?

  • Did I make a numerical/simplifying mistake?

The aim of this is to make students understand their reason for losing marks and hopefully help them claw some back on the next session. Hopefully by the next round of exams I will see a little less exam anxiety and a few more marks gained 🤞

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