With the end of the school year fast approaching, the mind-set of both teachers and students will soon be fully focused on exam season.
Many choose to go their own way when planning and preparing for exams, especially as advice from teachers on how best to approach revising is rarely welcomed by students. But a lot can be said for looking at the evidence behind favourable strategies employed by schools and providing classes with helpful resources on how to succeed.
With this in mind, here’s a few tried and trusted approaches to exam preparation, which should stand both teachers and students in good stead.
Extended school time
Research suggests that students, particularly disadvantaged ones, benefit from playing catch-up through extended school time. Sessions should be well-structured and staffed by specialists in order to be effective.
Unfortunately, this can put extra workload on teachers, as they will typically take place outside of other lessons. Therefore, it may be worth looking at providing CPD for teachers on more evidence-based programs or practices before launching extra lessons.
One approach many schools have adopted is an immersive schedule of cramming sessions, which typically take place in the last few weeks or days before an exam. The theory is that by breaking subject matter and learning content into units with clearly specified objectives, students can improve their fluency and meet lesson objectives quickly.
However, there is evidence that timetabling changes by themselves will not improve student learning. Instead, teachers must alter the way they teach, organise different learning activities and increase the amount of feedback they give to students.
Typically utilised for ‘at risk’ pupils, individual mentoring by a member of the senior leadership team has been found to build character, raise aspirations and improve the motivation of both students and staff.
The problem with individual mentoring is that subject specialism of the mentor limits academic effectiveness. This is somewhat ironic as its often used to positively impact attainment. Mentoring can also be difficult on account of the time it takes and the variable nature of a senior leader’s day.
Revision evenings are an excellent opportunity to provide parents and pupils with practical strategies that support and improve learning at home. After all, schools have often relied upon the knowledge that guardians know how to revise and will establish a framework that allows it to happen.
Good practice includes creating a regular revision routine and encouraging good habits, which can be supported by planners or calendars given out on the evening that help set and meet goals. Teachers should also offer advice on how parents can involve themselves in the revision process, which is best done indirectly through the regulation of learning.
Top tips for revision
- Tell students to identify aspects of a subject they enjoy and exploit them
- Let students explore different methods of revision to find out what works best for them
- Encourage an effective timetable that is coupled with the chunking method of revision
- Recognise the benefits of recall and application over familiarity
- Maintain mental and physical health throughout