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How to prepare students for exams

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

As the summer term begins, we are now into the ‘business end’ of the school year.

Non-Examination Assessment (coursework, in old money) will very soon be done and dusted.

Marks will be submitted, samples bagged up and sent off… and fingers crossed. That leaves you ‘free’ to focus entirely on preparing students for their exams.

Of course, one by-product of the reformed GCSEs is that, in theory, students have essentially been preparing for their final exams since Day 1 of Year 10.

With some subjects having coursework cut completely from their courses, GCSE courses have become exam preparation courses. To some extent, you could argue that if the students ‘don’t know it by now’ then they never will – unless you’ve got ‘Miracle Worker’ next to ‘Teacher’ on your CV.

But, joking aside, never understate the ground that can be made up by students in the weeks before exam season kicks off.

Similarly, you should never underestimate the difference that you can make, and the influence you can have in a few short weeks. So, what is going to make a difference and have the greatest impact? Do things differently One thing to consider is to mix things up and think outside the box when it comes to exam preparation /revision lessons. For a Year 6 class getting ready for the SATs, having the teacher that has been with the pupils since September stay with them to guide the class up to, through (and after) the week of the exams is almost certainly the best option.

However, KS4 pupils often respond well to a ‘change of scenery or a ‘different face’.

Swapping teachers and groups around often gives learning a fresh impetus.

Other options include holding revision workshops away from school or hosting masterclasses led by external visitors. The last thing you want to do is to unsettle pupils or disrupt any momentum you have – so any ideas have to be considered carefully.

However, when all is said and done, just carrying on regardless (unless you are totally confident that it’s working well) is unlikely to have the desired effect. Doing more of the same and expecting the end result to improve in any way is both pointless and doomed to failure. Give pupils the skills and tools they need Again, you’ve really be doing this ever since you started teaching the class, but these last few weeks are all-important in honing pupils’ exam skills.

They will, of course, be well-versed in exam practice by this stage of the course, but there really needs to be no let-up. Pupils need to be doing more than just exam practice questions, of course.

Now, more than ever, teachers need to carefully plan how practice questions will fit into lessons and homework – factoring in when marking and feedback will occur (keeping things manageable for you). Hopefully, pupils will also be confident by this point in preparing themselves for exams.

Effective revision will make all the difference – especially when you consider just how many exams pupils face in such a short space of time.

Ultimately, revision is their responsibility – but teachers need to give pupils the appropriate tools and skills to succeed.


1- Exams- How could they be done differently?

2- 7 Tips to prepare students for exams

3- 5 tips to make the most of mock exams

4- Is our obsession with testing ruining education?

5- How to manage the stress of exam?