Exam Musings

E is for Exam Musings

There are quite a number of teaching related ‘E-s’ I could write about, and quite a bit that I can discuss about Exams. In fact, I’m struggling to focus on an aspect to explore in this post; so I’m just going to share some of my immediate thoughts about it. 🙂

I’m in full-gear exam preparation mode at the moment even though I’m on Easter holiday. I have about 10 hours or so of lessons left with three of my external exam groups; thankfully more with the fourth one.

These exams are a very important education rite of passage in the UK. One – GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) – wraps up 5 YEARS of secondary education. The other – A (Advanced) levels – concludes 2 YEARS of post-secondary education. Their outcomes invariably determines their next step: College or Sixth Form, subject choices, job market, government benefit etc; and later on, University, course of study, future job options etc. They even feed into the kind of groups students have access to and their relationships. And these of course impacts the ongoing development of their personality, ambition, hopes and dreams.

The exam period tends to be a time of tension, hurry, intensity, and stress; both for senior and middle leadership, subject teachers, and of course the students being examined. It is also a time when other students (who don’t have exams) are not as prioritized in getting any offerings beyond the minimum expected.

At the start of exam courses, I tell my students about how essential it is for them to take it seriously from the beginning.

I tell them how

… giving their full attention in lessons …

… consistently putting their best effort into their homework …

… revising as they go through the course …

… being organised and structured with their work ..

would help them to avoid running around like a headless chicken nearer the exam. A headless chicken is not a pretty sight, I’ve unfortunately seem it before.The chicken runs aimlessly in a different direction from its head whilst blood gushes out of its neck and splatters everywhere. It was a horrible scene that happened by accident; a result of bad planning, poor workmanship, and inadequate judgement.

Lack of adequate time and good planning for exam preparation over the period of an examined course will most likely result in students feeling very overwhelmed and lost. The desire to pass without giving it what it takes and the awareness of how much needs to be reviewed weeks before an exam is off-putting to an unprepared student.

It also makes teachers feel like a broken record, and it’s hard not to think and say, ‘I told you so’.

I think I get it though, disciplining oneself to achieve good results is hard work; and more so in subjects you don’t care about. Nonetheless, isn’t the potential impact of these exams on ones future prospect a good enough motivator to really try hard?

O well, we all live and learn, hey! All the very best to all my students in all their exams; the teachers who prepare them for it, and the system that keeps it going. 🙂


What comes to your mind when you think of exams?

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23 thoughts on “Exam Musings

  1. I think these kinds of exams are really just getting serious in the U.S. Sure, there is the SAT and the ACT, but only college-minded kids take these. Schools force state testing now that deems whether or not a child will graduate. It’s an interesting time. Sounds like testing has really decided fates a lot more strongly in the U.K. for a long time. I learned about this a bit in Harry Potter with the OWLS 🙂

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    • Interesting times indeed. A lot of revamping is going on over here with the whole exam system; we’ll see what the government comes up with. I suppose our GCSE and A levels are a mix between your SAT, ‘ACT and State high school graduation test’. Thanks for dropping by 🙂

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  2. I’m a tutor now so exams make me think of students who are stressing out, unfortunately! Like you said, it usually results in them feeling overwhelmed and lost. I do feel for them but so much comes down to personal responsibility.

    Hope the A to Z challenge is off to a good start for you!

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    • ‘Exam’ and ‘stress’ oftentimes appear in the same sentence, doesn’t it. 😦 I suppose it does help to accept what the deal is and then work towards achieving the best possible on it. Thanks for your kind comment.

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      • They often do. I know exams are important, but perhaps we over-emphasise their importance sometimes, putting too much pressure on the children.

        After all, education should be about learning, not memorising-and-forgetting. (there’s the cynic in me lol)

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      • You know, I do agree with you. I really think an ideological review of the education system in many countries is well overdue! I look back at secondary school and I can’t remember most of what I learnt in class, partly because I never used them. Was all the exam stress worth it? I’m not sure. 🙂

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  3. My son is in Y11 and facing his GCSEs soon. I feel like a broken record at the minute with him – “have you done some revision?”, “do you want some help planning some revision?”, “have you got any extra lessons today?” “have you got your stuff together for some revision?”. I’m not sure who is more tired of my voice – me or him! He has got great support from school and they have extra revision sessions throughout the Easter holidays but I’m at my wits end trying to motivate him. I just can’t get through to him that hard work now for the next couple of months means his life choices will be so different than if he doesn’t. And this is from a mum who he has seen struggle to study for her degree with the OU at the age of 43…. You’d think he would be inspired by that if nothing else. Grrrr…..boys!

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    • Good on you that you’ve gone for your degree goal despite your age. Sometimesin life, we just have to make our own mistakes. It’s so unfortunate that we don’t always learn from the experiences of those that have gone before us; blessed indeed are those who do. I tell my students that the quicker they see the connection between their present choices and future outcomes, they better off they are. Your son get it, sooner or later. You and many others of course hope it’ll be sooner. At the end of the day, you can only do your best; and it seems you’re doing your best by him. He will see it eventually. Thanks for dropping by, reading and commenting; so sorry that my reply is late.

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  4. I homeschool, so in some ways it’s more stressful for us to do exams and testing, but in others it’s easier for us, because it’s not a full class of students and we can go at our own pace.

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  5. Pingback: Grades: important but | A Teacher Tells

  6. Pingback: My Marking Rant: the futility of marking classwork | A Teacher Tells

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