Student Alert: Why Didn’t I Pass My Mock Exams?


You revised, you went to revision classes at school, you paid attention in class, you did your homework, yet you still didn’t get the grades you hoped you would. What did you do wrong?  If you are wondering this, then read on.

This week I have had numerous calls from worried parents who have said the same thing to me.  Their child works so hard, yet it doesn’t show, what could be the reason?  They saw their child sitting at their desk with their books open, sometimes even staying up late to get the work done.

Experience tells me that any child can learn, if given the right tools.  It’s all about focus, technique and time.  If one of these three elements is missing from revision, then it won’t work.

FOCUS

The obvious meaning is to avoid distractions, and really really concentrate.  Don’t procrastinate.  One of my students can take up to 10 minutes just getting her books out, another will leave out the tricky topics hoping that they won’t come up.  One student had a super organised study area, where she had a collection of text books, notes, past papers and worksheets, but no real revision had actually taken place.

The other meaning is to cast aside all the stuff you don’t need.  Only revise what is going to come up in the exam.  If you don’t know what will come up, then you need to ask your teacher to print off a syllabus. Then tick off each topic as you revise it.  It will show your progress and will ensure that you don’t miss anything out.  If you missed out questions or revised the wrong topics, then you didn’t FOCUS on the right things.

 

TECHNIQUE

1.  What’s your learning style?

We all learn in different ways.  I am an auditory learner, so I prefer to watch videos or listen to talks and lectures.  Sometimes I like to make notes, and use highlighters to help me remember things.  Find a learning style that suits you and one that comes to you naturally.  If you don’t have a preferred way of learning, then use what works.  This infographic will help you find out your learning style and how you can use it to study better.

what type of learner are you

2.  Test yourself.

There’s lots to revise so break down each topic into smaller chunks.  Revise that chunk, and then test yourself.  So many students will revise without doing past papers and tests.  Worse still, they do the past papers and wait for their teachers to mark them.  How will you know if you got the questions right? It’s like cooking something to eat and not eating it!  Mark the papers yourself, look at the wrong answers, and then figure out how to get the right answer.  Then do another paper and repeat.

TIME

I was watching a TED talk on YouTube called “The First 20 Hours — How To Learn Anything.  The speaker claims that all you need is 20 hours to learn something and is worth watching. Did you devote this much time to your revision?  If you did fail your mock exams, then now is the time to get organised.  Watch the video and then act on it.

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Thought Of The Week


So here’s my thought of the week…
So many year 11’s are under pressure right now.  They have to go to extra classes arranged by the school, even at the weekend, they have to finish off all of their coursework and revise for mock exams.

21014146-hard-work-of-the-student
The pressure is so much that don’t know where to begin.  From experience I know that they struggle with getting organised and don’t realise the seriousness of exams until it’s too late.  They cannot see the bigger picture, that a little bit of work now will make less work in the future.
Parents can only push them to a certain extent but the end result depends on the child.  If the child is not motivated, then you can be paying for the best schooling and extra tuition but it will not make a difference.  Schools can put on booster sessions and revision sessions until 8pm every night.  This will tick all the boxes and show that they care for their students of course but will the child be focussed and make the most of the time?
Until effort is made, and I mean real effort which involves engaging the brain when revising, and putting in the hours, the rewards will not be gained.
My A* students are already at the finishing line, they had their notes organised from day one, they realised that it takes an enormous amount of time, they realised that success only comes with hard graft, not because your mummy and daddy are nagging you to work.
Is this pressure a good motivator?  Are we being too harsh on our kids?  Or is it a necessary life skill to learn?  They are teenagers, and have a right to choose what they do with their time, but when faced with deadlines and work loads, should they ignore them or work on them?

How To Revise 2 – Do Some Mock Exams


There are many aspects to creating good study habits, and the first of these I have already mentioned in a previous post which is to get organised.  Creating a timetable can save many precious hours as we come to exams.

Another component of revision is going through past papers.  In fact this should be included in your revision plan.  Giving yourself mock tests can highlight how you work under pressure and it will show you the gaps in your learning.  Going over your revision notes many times is a pointless exercise if you haven’t  tested your knowledge .

When you are ready to do a mock exam (at least three weeks before the exam), make sure that you do it under exam conditions and that you keep to the time limit.  You may have gone through exam papers in class already, so choose an exam that you know you have not seen before.  Make sure it has a mark scheme so that you can give yourself a grade when you mark it.  Mark yourself strictly, and as you go through the paper analyse what went wrong.  the table below summarises the most common types of mistakes students make and how to fix them.

What went wrong

How to fix it

I couldn’t do the question on a specific topic Go over the mark scheme and make sure you understand the answers.  Go back over your notes and revise this topic again.  Then redo that question.
I didn’t finish on time Why was this? Was it because you spent a lot of time trying to remember your work to answer the questions?  If so, then you need to revise more so that the information is at your fingertips.  You shouldn’t have to rack your brains to remember things.
I made silly mistakes This is the most common reason why students get low marks.  Get into the habit of checking your work at the end.  Aim to finish 10 minutes before the end of the exam so that you have time to do this.
I didn’t read the question Use highlighter pens or underline key words in the question.  Learn to skim read so that you can pick out the important information in the question.  Exam questions are very wordy and you can easily lose yourself in the background information.  Learn how to get to the heart of the question.  A good way of doing this is to imagine you have to tell someone what to do in the question without reading out the whole question.
I left out a lot of questions Never leave a blank answer.  Especially if it’s a multiple choice or a one mark question.  If you skip the question thinking you will come back to it at the end, you might forget.  So make an educated guess and write something down.

A week before their A2 Chemistry exam I taught 2 different students.  The first got a D grade last year and the second got an A grade.  And in my opinion, both seemed to know their subject equally well.  But what differentiated them both significantly was that the A grade student had completed and marked 4 full exam papers and highlighted specific questions for clarification from me whereas the D grade student had attempted 1/2 a question paper, not marked it and not even highlighted the parts that she needed further support on.

Upon marking these papers, the A grade student was getting a C grade and the D grade student was failing.  A day before the exams, the A grade student had completed and marked and read through at least 3 times all past papers since 2002 and the D grade student hadn’t attempted any.  Her excuse being that she had other subjects to revise for.

What actually happened was that getting a bad grade in the initial mock exam seemed to motivate one student and de-motivate the other.  It made her face her fears and her “fight or flight” instinct kicked in.  The D grade student chose”flight”.  But, if she had stuck to her timetable and been more organised, and maybe started going over past papers 3 weeks before the exams, then would the results have been different?  We shall have to wait and see what grades both students get.