Do you yet know the dates of your exams?


No?  Well don’t let that fact stop you from getting organised for success.  May and June will very soon be here, and with them the end of term, end of year and public exams!   If you get organised now, things will be much easier in the summer and success much more likely.

Why do we take exams?

That is a question I regularly ask students – their replies vary but can usually be summed up as ‘so that the teachers can see what we have learned’.

That is correct, but there are other aspects which are important.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, learning can be defined as:

  1. The acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught.
  2. Knowledge acquired through study, experience, or being taught.

We accept that examinations are used to check our learning and knowledge.  But, more precisely, we can define exams as being the method used to check:

  1. whether candidates are able to learn.
  2. Whether candidates panic under stress.
  3. how well candidates respond to the pressures of time limits.
  4. How well candidates recall things they have been taught.
  5. How effectively candidates can use and apply the knowledge they have acquired.
  6. Whether candidates simply repeat what they have been taught.
  7. Candidates’ ability to modify information and present it in the way required by the examiners.

Quite an impressive list and, possibly even more importantly, skills that we all need, not just in examinations but throughout our adult lives.  That idea casts a very different light on examinations and why they are important.


Lecture over – practicalities begin!                           What is necessary for success?

That is often a difficult question to answer, but many years ago, in my South London Primary school, my teacher wrote this equation on the board.

Knowledge +   Understanding    +    Memory x  Different approaches + Hard work    =      Success

That statement has lingered in the back of my mind ever since: it has guided many of my actions and certainly a good deal of my teaching over the years.

First thing to do is to find out, in detail, precisely what you are required to do in the examination.

Check with your school, as soon as possible, which examination you will be taking and the date on which you will be taking it.  I say check with your school, because they might have changed the Board for a public exam; up-dated the format of an in-school exam and many of the SATs papers have altered slightly so that you need to work with a really up-to-date version.  Next, get hold of a copy of the paper.

Useful tips for answering and preparing will appear in my next blog.