Panic

The early bird……gets the Grade!

Facing up to exams early makes all the difference

It’s a busy time for us right now at Mark My Papers. With CAIE exams underway and the main GCSEs and A levels starting next week, we have been busy supporting home educators, direct students and schools in the run up to their exams.

Every year it is the same. Best intentions and all, would suggest it is prudent to plan well ahead and begin revising well in advance of actual exams. We all know that. However, for most students it clearly never quite works that way and the age-old habit of last-minute cramming rears its ugly head every year. With cramming comes stress and for our staff there is a fraught process of students and parents submitting papers, wanting results instantly and then going into a blind panic when they realise that their performance was not quite what they hoped for and time is running out to do something, anything about it.

We really do try to help but we always regret the lost opportunity that students and parents- even some schools- didn’t seek support much earlier in the process.

Plan ahead – it will make all the difference.

There is only one solution…and we say this every year. Plan ahead. Start early. Submitting a hastily written paper just 24 hours before an exam will have no effect whatsoever on the overall outcome.  If anything it will just add to the stress levels as it becomes more apparent that there is little time to put things right.

Revision really needs to start at Christmas and be built upon steadily. We work with many well organised students and parents who follow this model and by Easter much learning is committed to ‘hard drive’ memory. The last academic term is then a more pleasurable cruise up to the actual event.

As a home educator I believed in a zero homework policy for my two sons.  Revision yes, and almost every evening, but no homework.  Not being locked into the school day obviously makes a huge difference but they reached their exams, stress free and fully confident that they knew as much as they possibly could.  Their results (both receiving offers to Cambridge University) –proved the method worked. 

An increasing number of schools are seeing the value in taking a more detailed assessment approach to their Y10 cohorts too. Indeed, many now ask us to become involved at years 7 to 9. Of course, selecting our marking services is an important decision at school. The Assessment Calendar for each year is usually issued in September with the dates of assessments and the dates of data drops planned well in advance to coincide with reports and parents’ evenings etc. If schools or departments have included in their Development Plans external marking and assessment of mock papers then it’s important that they make the time between the exams and the data drop sufficient to allow for this to happen effectively. Choosing to pay for consistent and accurate marking with constructive feedback will be compromised by trying to rush the whole thing through and it’s great to see so many schools planning well ahead in this way- allowing sufficient time for the process to take place and carefully absorbing the Examiner’s feedback as well as reaching for the data.

In the same vein as the home educators, getting a head start at school on exactly what needs to be done well in advance in order to achieve a strong grade makes a noticeable difference.  An official examiner’s perspective can really help to boost a grade.  We do understand that exams are not everything but good grades enhance life chances – that’s a fact.

The two years taken for GCSE and again for A Level pass very quickly indeed and addressing cohort issues in Y10 or even earlier as some forward-thinking schools are now doing, not only improves the chances of better grades but also reduces stress levels if students and teachers know they are on track well before the actual day of exam day.

If you have exams in November then let this be a wake-up call to start preparing now.

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