A parent s guide to understanding exam techniques

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1 A parent s guide to understanding exam techniques As you may recall from your own experience sitting an exam can be nerve wracking. With good preparation, revision and understanding of exam technique students can reduce fear and stress. This guide is an aid to provide you with insight into exam techniques and revision. Understanding the way in which exam questions are put together can help your child provide the best answer and tailor revision to match. On the following pages you will find tips on: 1. Understanding exam techniques 2. Understand how Assessment Objectives are used in setting exam questions 3. Command words what they are and how to use them 4. Techniques to keep going if your child has a memory block. The section on Supporting your child at exam revision time contains useful hints and tips on revision

2 What are exam techniques? 1. Exam technique is not about what your child knows, but how it s applied under exam conditions. Whilst revision is a vital part to getting good exam results, examination technique is also important. Skills relating to exam technique include: following instructions and responding appropriately to command words (see next page) writing using academic language suitable to the task using knowledge from different parts of the syllabus to answer specific questions. Exams test both your child s knowledge of the subject and the skills that they ve obtained in demonstrating this knowledge. 2. Common assessment objectives are: Recall, select and communicate The meaning of this objective is straightforward: it tests the information and learning your child has acquired and how well they can comprehend meanings and interpret information in written or graphic form. Apply knowledge, understanding and skills This objective requires your child to be able to recognise when and where the knowledge they have might be useful in real life. Application is the skill of being able to apply their knowledge to different contexts and circumstances in order to understand why problems and issues arise. Analyse and evaluate Analysis covers a range of areas. It can involve: v looking at a piece of data, a table, chart or diagram and interpreting it v identifying trends v identifying the elements that make up the problem, issue or case that you are considering. Evaluation involves judgement and opinion. When your child evaluates they will make some comment about how important, significant or valuable something is. To be successful, your child will need to demonstrate that they have the confidence to make judgements based on their knowledge.

3 What are command words? 3. Command words are the guides in the ques6on which iden6fy which Assessment Objec6ve is being targeted by that ques6on. They are used carefully and the word order is chosen to make it clear what the examiner is looking for. All exam ques6ons go through a rigorous process of scru6ny to ensure that they provide your child with the best chance to show their knowledge and understanding. Recall, select and communicate Certain command words are associated with certain Assessment Objec6ves so it pays to have some idea of what these mean to inform your child which skill they should be focusing on in the ques6on. It is important to read the whole ques6on and to understand what the ques6on is geeng at, as the command word on its own may need reinforcing with the remainder of the ques6on. Apply knowledge, understanding and skills A useful hint would be to highlight/ underline the command words in each ques6on. Below is a table with a list of command words associated with the relevant Assessment Objec6ves. Analyse and evaluate Define (give what the word means) Describe (say what you see) Give (recall) Identify (say what you see) Name (recall) Outline (a brief overview) State (recall) What is meant by? (recall) Apply (use knowledge in new situation) Calculate (use some maths skills) Explain (Use knowledge to explain how or why something happens) Graph What would be the benefits/cost of? Using examples (don t forget to use the examples or data provided in the question) Analyse (use knowledge to explain all aspects) Compare and contrast (Give similarities and differences) Discuss (cover all view points) Evaluate (give positives and negatives) Justify (use knowledge to back up an argument) Predict (say what you think might happen and why using knowledge) Suggest (apply knowledge to a new situation i.e. guess and say why you think that)

4 Hints and tips in the exam- advice for your child 4. To support your child in preparing for the exam get them to learn our QUICK Exam technique. Students often panic and go blank if they don t understand the questions the first time. Using the same strategy as they use in class will help calm them down and work out what part of their knowledge they are being tested on. Q uestion Take your time reading the question. U nderline instructions and key words I t never write this. Write the words you mean instead. C K heck the number of marks to see how much to write eep going! If you are stuck leave it and come back to it later. You don t want to run out of time.

5 Supporting your child at exam revision time Helping your child with revision You may recall from your own experience that revising for an exam can be as worrying as the exam itself. Often, your child will be juggling information on several subjects, wondering which topics to revise, and they may sometimes question their own ability so we ve some useful tips on how you can help them prepare well for exams and achieve their very best. On the following pages you will find tips on: a. Preparation b. Revision c. The night before d. The big day

6 a) Preparation Show support early on, by encouraging your child to draw up a revision plan. Help them get organised, and they ll get more from their revision. Always ask your child how their revision is going. Is there anything they re struggling with can you help in any way? Perhaps quiz them? Give them the space, 6me and, most importantly, the peace and quiet they ll need to make the most of their revision. Make sure they have everything they need such as pens, notebooks, textbooks and past exam papers and take gadgets off them while they revise. You can access past papers from exam websites such as the OCR website Some background noise from TV or radio on nearby may help your child to concentrate, but too much can prove to be a distrac6on and affect the amount of informa6on they re actually taking in. Don t forget to build in rewards and treats to keep them mo6vated! b) Some revision tips Short half hour revision sessions with short breaks between each seem to be the most effec6ve. Marathon revision sessions can overload your child and the regular breaks of five or ten minutes will help them relax and digest the informa6on more easily. It s worth revising a few topics at a 6me for each subject, and then going over the main points several 6mes. Revision with friends can oyen be successful if there aren t distrac6ons. They can go over key material together to ensure that they understand it and then test one another. Help your child find the best way of remembering key points, and facts and figures. There are many different revision techniques, some of which are outlined on the next page Test your child by using the notes they ve made, or with past exam papers you could even 6me them, so they become used to exam condi6ons. It sounds obvious, but don t let them leave it to the last minute. Cramming for an exam isn t effec6ve, and doesn t allow your child to do their best. If they ve prepared well and revised the subject steadily over a period of 6me, there s no need for any last-minute panic it can do more harm than good.

7 Students will end up with a lot of resources using these strategies so organise them into topics and keep them in a folder so you can use them again to test yourself. Flashcards For key information and facts. You can carry them around with you and test yourself anywhere. Use it to remind and test yourself on; Spellings Lists, A sequence of simple events Read-Cover-Recall-Check Read the information you want to remember. Cover it up, write out what you remember. Check to see how much you forgot. Use it to test yourself on; Spellings, Lists, A sequence of simple events Online quizzes or revision guide exam questions Answer the questions, note down your score, revise the topic some more, have another go at the questions later. Did you improve? Follow QR code for some sample quiz cards and other revision examples. Use it to test yourself on; Simple scientific facts and processes Make a card sort Make a set of cards that you can cut out, mix up and match. Diagrams are useful. Use them; When you need to remember pieces of information that go together. Key word cards Include definitions on the back. You can test yourself on the definitions, sort them into scientifically relevant categories, put them into a sequence.

8 Students should move on to these revision techniques once they have improved their subject knowledge using the part 1 strategies. Understanding and application are necessary for the higher grades. Describe or explain a process/scenario to someone who does not know it (a classmate or parent) They can ask questions to fill in any gaps you missed and if they are also revising it may help them understand the work better. Use it when; Explaining a series of events or a process that has some detail Graphic organisers Decide if you are describing, analysing parts, comparing, analysing cause and effect, predicting or evaluating and display your arguments in a graphic organiser. Use it to; look at topics in more detail. Mind maps Start with a central theme and organise the information from it, grouped into subtopics. Label the branches with the relationships. To summarise a whole topic after revising it in detail. Only put in the key words, everything else should come to mind when you read it. Past exam questions and analysis Complete some past exam questions. Mark your answers. Fill in the answers you missed. Go through the paper and colour code each topic (Red-need to revise, AmberNeed to go over a few bits again, Green-I ve got it) Use it to test your ability to; recall the information you have revised, to answer the question asked, not just write down everything you know, to follow the command words in an exam.

9 The night before Your child may be a little nervous, so try to help them relax and get a good night s sleep. And reassure them if they ve revised properly, there s nothing to worry about. Avoid last-minute cramming it might even make them forget what they ve already revised. Make sure they ve got everything they need for the exam black pens, pencils, calculators, rulers and any other equipment they ll need. Remind your child that mobile phones or electronic devices are not allowed in the exam room. Double-check where and when the exam will be. Running around in a panic on the morning of the exam won t do your child any favours. Set more than one alarm clock and try to be up and about before your son or daughter. It may seem a minor thing, but you re showing your support. The big day Make sure your child is up in plenty of time before the exam. Your child should have a good breakfast or lunch. Encourage brain foods, such as bananas. A bottle of water will help them stay alert through the exam. Try to ensure that your child leaves the house with plenty of time to get to the exam. Wish them well. When it s done, ask your child how it went, but don t let them dwell on it if they don t think they did well. There s nothing they can do about it now, so help them focus on the next one. And when the last exam is over, maybe reward the time and effort they ve put into revising and doing their best. Your understanding and support is really important during what can be a daunting and stressful time for your child. Being around and reassuring them will help them stay positive and keep working hard and they ll thank you for it one day, even if they don t seem too keen at the time!

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