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Preparing for exams


Preparing students for exams is a significant part of teaching. However, it can be a very stressful time for both teacher and pupil, and getting the most out of the students can be tough. A few considerations can help a lot, though; turning exam preparation into a constructive and worthwhile process.

Awareness of class morale…

The first thing to consider is that as a teacher, you need to be aware of your students’ morale level. The lead-up to an exam can be a stressful situation for everyone involved, so it is important that you spend time with your pupils individually ensuring that they feel supported, valued and motivated. Regularly communicating targets and expectations for the coming weeks is a good way to keep your classes focused, and it instills a sense of independence and responsibility for their own learning. If planned well, exam preparation should challenge the students and help to boost their confidence as they become more adept at tackling the kind of questions they’ll be set in the exam.

Be organised and plan ahead…

One of the main reasons why pupils and teachers start to feel pressure is because of the time factor — not just in the exam itself, but also in the course leading up to it. Having an organised schedule which covers all the course material, with revision sessions equally spaced out, helps to avoid cramming everything into a short space of time immediately before the exam. It also allows for a greater variety of content and activities for your lessons, which not only keeps the students interested, but also helps them to retain more information. Having a clear course structure makes it easier to set goals at different stages for the individual and the class as a whole; which will aid in focusing the students and helps them to work on their weak areas. It also boosts motivation, because students can see their progression as the course continues.

Ensure clarity of exam content…

For some teachers, exam preparation entails endless revision of past papers, which does have its uses; the students will become familiar with the content of the exam, as well how to work with time constraints. In order to do well in exams, students need to have a set of relevant exam techniques that they can use to succeed. Students need to know and understand the meanings of any key command words that they will come across, such as ‘explain’ and ‘evaluate’. Spending time on this can save on a lot of marks lost due to students answering a question in the wrong way. Issuing mock exam questions as homework each week is a good way of assessing learning. Allowing students to mark each other’s papers can help them to understand what the examiner is looking for, whilst giving them time to discuss the questions in groups reinforces this and allows them to pool ideas on how they would approach certain questions.

Give the students study advice…

It is important for the teacher to help pupils make the most of any time they spend revising. Many students won’t know, or will have forgotten, how to study efficiently. Teachers can help by going over some basic advice such as making a study schedule, using flashcards, producing mind maps or taking a ten-minute break every hour. It’s important to stress that everyone’s way of learning is unique – you just need to find the approach that suits the individual!

Don’t panic!

Lastly, perhaps the most important piece of advice is simple: don’t panic! So long as you have established a solid course structure and have a pool of activities and exam techniques to share with the students, you can’t go wrong. If you are ever unsure then seek advice and guidance from your experienced colleagues, who will be more than happy to help you along the way…