3 Tips For Developing GCSE Exam Technique

Beth HartwellBeth writes for the Teacher Toolkit site from a secondary perspective. She is currently a Lead Practitioner of Teaching and Learning at a school in York with a specialism of teaching secondary Science. She is currently teaching in a iPad school and is interested sharing… Read more about Beth HartwellHow can you help your pupils with the new 1-9 GCSE exams?For some pupils, however hard they work or revise, they can’t seem to ace an exam. They actively engage in class, they complete their homework to a good standard and they revise correctly. How are they not achieving the top grades? In a lot of these cases, it is due to weak exam technique. I am finding that developing exam technique is the key to success in the new 1-9 GCSE. So, to prepare pupils for these assessments, we must develop their exam technique.Here are 3 ways to help those students who are still struggling with exam technique as the day of their exam creeps ever closer.1. Teach the meaning of command words Do your pupils know the difference between state, describe, explain and suggest?Taking half an hour out of a term to focus on these words will be time well spent. I recommend getting pupils to create a booklet for younger students explaining what each command word means. Using clear examples of each command word allows pupils to understand what the examiner is looking for in a question. Referring back to these definitions and modelling good practice throughout the course will embed these words even further.Examples of command words with “pupil friendly” explanations:State – Give a simple answer such as a correct term or name.Describe – Give detail about what happens, where is happens and when is happens. If it is “describe a graph”, give numbers and data from the graph.Explain – Give detail about how and why it happens. Use specific key terminology within the topic/subject.Suggest – Come up with an idea based on what you have learnt (do not panic you may not know the answer – the examiner just wants you to apply your knowledge).2. Get the pupils to read the question thoroughlyA great strategy suggested by Kate Jones encourages pupils to thoroughly read the exam questions with the acronym of BUG.Box – Firstly, students box the command word. This highlights what type of answer the examiner is looking for.Underline – Then they underline key words, this allows them to jog the pupils memory of the topic.Glance – Finally they glance over the question again to gain any more information thus allowing them to analyse the question thoroughly and depict what they examiner is asking.Kate shows a really clear example in her blog post on revision strategies and she encourages us to get pupils reading questions thoroughly by “BUGging that question”3.  Use acronyms to scaffold long-answer questionsCan you tell that I am a fan of acronyms in the classroom? Acronyms like PEE, PEA, PEEL or even PEAL  have been widely used to help pupils structure essay answers.PETAL is new acronym which is adapted to the 1-9 GCSE. Examiners are now stressing that the use of subject specific vocabulary within answers is important for high marks. PETAL (or PEAL with a T) reminds pupils to include key terminology. It structures pupil’s paragraphs to include the following within their answer:Point – stating the point of the paragraph.Evidence – including key quotes, dates or statistics to strengthen your point.Terminology – including key words about the subject matter.Analysis – explain how your point is proven and link to your knowledge about the subject.Link – Link your ideas back to the original question.How are you developing your pupils exam technique? Leave your comments below.Related

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