The recent dreadful problems with exams and assessments have reminded me of my own school exams. Looking back on my careers, I got to where I did through getting enough O levels to enable me to get onto the next rung of education and into employment. However, I have never been sure if I merited my O level successes or not. I owe it pretty much to my physics teacher, Tommo, (nickname). who explained to us how to sit the exam. His comments were mainly for the physics papers but the techniques worked for most of my other exams. In those days there were not multiple choice, or printed exam question and answer papers. Our answers were written on blank paper separate from the question sheet. I remember there were five questions to answer out of, I think, seven or eight. And this is the bit I would not have been able to work out for myself, although it sounds so obvious now and apologies for walking you through it like Tommo did with us. Five questions, so divide the exam time into six segments, probably about 15 minutes each bit. After each 15 mins no matter where you are with the answer, go on to the next question. Always leave space under the question to enable returning in the final 15 mins and add anything that may have come to mind. Tommo went on however, to reveal how the marking scheme worked. The start of each question would supply easy marks, but as the question progressed it became harder to answer, and hence take more valuable time up for less reward. Don't waste time struggling with an answer but get on to the next one for the next batch of easy marks. The 15 mins at the end, and the spaces left would allow going back to the questions and dash down anything that came to mind. Nothing ventured nothing gained in the last 15 minutes. Then the psychological part. The pass mark would be about 40% and this is just two questions worth out of five. If a reasonable (small?) amount of revision was done, then we would have pretty much a full answer for at least two questions. Go for those questions first. Nothing says they have to be done in order, again something I wouldn't have figured out for myself. So after the first two questions, we could feel confident that we had passed the exam and could relax and look upon everything we wrote down as plus marks for a good result. This indeed is what happened in my exams and I actually started enjoying them! AAA+ results, or some such, were not needed in those days by the way unless you had psychotic parents! The smaller bits. Place your wristwatch at the top of your desk so you don't loose concentration having to raise your wrist or look up to see the wall clock every time you wanted to check the time. Have a cardigan that is easy to slip on and off. Have some sweets but not anything which could pull fillings out or take the roof of the mouth off or require a kerfuffle and noise to open. If you found yourself sitting in the direct Sun, asked to be moved or have the curtains closed. There might have been other things but I can not remember anymore at the moment. The thing is though that throughout my secondary education, and for reasons that are irrelevant here, I was extremely angry at my schooling so I intentionally did little work. Always in detention for not doing homework, or getting to school late or talking. I got the cane for talking in assembly would you believe! Thankfully we didn't have assessed coursework or I really would have been in the whatever. However, I'm reasonably bright enough to take an interest in life and things going on around me, so I had quite a broad range of knowledge gained from outside my secondary schooling. Using Tommo's exam techniques and my general knowledge I was able to gain the required number of O levels to allow me to leave school (couldn't wait) and take a student apprenticeship and go onto greater qualification success. I know this would never have happened if Tommo had not shown me how to play the exam game. None of my other subject teachers did anything like Tommo. Over the years I have passed on Tommo's tricks (taking account of changing exam formats of course) to my students and quizzed them if anybody else was giving them exam techniques. It is a lot more common nowadays or even, I hope, perhaps, universal but it was not always so. With the exception of public school? So what will have happened to all the students who were cleverer than me and worked harder who didn't have a Tommo to show them the way? Why didn't all the teachers inform their students that the early parts of questions supplied the easiest marks? What value does that put upon the use of school exams to allow employers to select the ones they think are the cleverest or the most hardworking? Is it fair?