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Exam Technique at AS Level

Discussion in 'Science' started by TheMadScientist, Mar 15, 2011.

  1. Hi everyone,

    After reeling from the shock of our AS level results I'm now worring about how my students will manage to pass their Biology in the summer. I'm new at teaching A level and was wondering if anyone had any tips on how I can help my students to their exam technique.
    We all ready do loads of past papers and work with the mark schemes but I still find that they have difficulty in expr4essing themselves properly and workingn out EXACTLY what a question is asking for (though sometimes this isn't even clear to ME). We study the OCR course.
    Yours in anticipation,

  2. Will watch this with interest (still reeling from last week's Chemistry results). I despair.....
  3. I write with many years experience of examining. I must say that on many occasions candidates have lost marks through poor English. It is often the lack of clarity that prevents the award of marks; I simply do not understand what the candidate is writing. The sentences [!] are over long and lack sensible construction and syntax. Rambling and confusing passages reveal candidates who are unsure of the subject of the question and write all they know in order to cover all possibilities. Such blanket coverage is considered as "hedging" and will not be credited! On other occasions candidates simply rewrwite the answer from last year's mark scheme, having failed to realise the subtle difference in emphasis in the current paper. Correct subject matter will always be credited, so candidates should not feel terrorised by the mark scheme. Indeed I seldom give them out, finding them to be demoralising documents which candidates do not understand. I mean, even experienced examining personnel need training in the application of each new mark scheme, and they are used to marking! Candidates who have looked at mark schemes end up believing [wrongly] that only a certain form of words or expression is acceptable. This leads to their trying to write in an unfamilair style and ending up hiding their lights under collective bushells.

    They could, if all else fails, learn the subject material.
  4. The sad truth is that many students "know about" the subject but don't really "know" the subject. Calculations and questions set in unusual contexts can really throw them because they don't fit what they know. I use practice questions a lot but keep on throwing in extra bits like, "Suppose they had asked for....".
    The word "it" can cause lots of problems and, as mentioned above, candidates often write what they want to write rather than anbswer the question being asked (a bit like most politicians!).
    Calculations can cause problems when transferring information to and from a calculator. I suggest to my students that they do each calculation twice. It may not help them to get the right answer but may at least show up that they have made a slip in transferring the data.
    One bit of advice for the student would be the old obvious one about reading the question carefully.

    One bit of advice for OP would be that if s/he doesn't understand the mark scheme, speak to someone who does......maybe even try to become an examiner and get it straight from the horse's mouth.
  5. I have recently done an exercise with my upper and lower 6th formers after their mocks that seemed to be very useful for them. I photo copied 4-6 versions of their answers ranging from the top to the not so good - but not the ones who would be too embarrassed - and gave them the mark scheme. We went through the first ' version' of their answers together. They then had to Mark the other 3 or so 'versions' of the same question. After they had waded through the same question several times, I asked them for +/- and interesting points about what makes a good answers and what pitfalls to avoid. They came up with some good ideas and could really appreciate things like why it is important to lay out their work carefully themselves! For example. Just wish we had time to do all the questions on the paper like that.
  6. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Occasional commenter

    One of the things I have done this year is to get the pupils to write their own questions and markschemes. I was finding that they were having difficulty in answering the long answer questions. They had to write a question which has 6 marks. They had to have at least 10 marking points for 5 of the marks with the final mark available for using three technical terms from a list of 7+ that they chose. They swapped questions and answered each others, marked the answers and then provided feedback. This definitely got them thinking about how to structure their answers as well as ensuring that used sufficient detail in their work.

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