Monday, 16 April 2012

A 'Never Too Late' Approach to the Summer Exams

With the countdown to the summer exams well under way I take the view that while there is time there is hope and it is always very helpful to keep a positive mind about the exams that lie ahead; in the final analysis, all we can do is to do our best and ask our students to do their best too.

A colleague recently gave me the essence of a Tony Campello assembly he gave last year in which a daughter is writing home to her parents after her first few weeks at University. She writes “Dear Mum and Dad, now that I have settled into University life I thought I would write and let you know how I was getting on. I crashed my car recently but I am OK. However the house I was staying in caught fire and I was rescued by a boy in the nearby room. I am now pregnant by him…..none of this is true but I did get a grade D in my latest assignment. I just wanted you to have a sense of perspective about the situation I am in”.

In the run up to the June exams, the ‘never too late’ approach is often vital to help as many students as possible to achieve their target grade. The following strategies have been especially helpful in the run in to the final maths module exam:

(1) Giving students a sheet of A3 paper divided down the middle. The left hand side lists the exact formulae given on the inside cover. The right hand side is completed in an exam revision lesson with the heading ‘Lightbulb Formulae and facts’ – these are formulae that are not given in the exam are essential to memorise and to have at your fingertips throughout the exam as key pieces of armoury. The area of a circle and circumference of a circle are first on this list. Other key formula include the sum of the angles in any polygon = 180 times (n – 2) where n is the number of sides and the formula used to find the exterior and interior angles in a regular polygon (exterior angle = 360 degrees divided by the number of sides interior angle = 180 degrees subtract the exterior angle). Lightbulb formulae and facts will also include the important links between metric and imperial measures such as 8 km is approximately 5 miles and that 1 litre is approximately 1.75 pints.

(2) Giving out a small A5 size revision booklet six weeks before the exam for students to write down key facts in the lessons leading up to the module exam. This has proved very useful in terms of having all the revision cards together in a concise booklet.

(3) Running a “just one topic just ten minutes” series of quick tests on key topics such as Bearings, Polygons, Pythagoras, Area and Volume.

(4) Requesting students work in small groups with a goal to achieve 100% on a past exam paper working backwards from the last question to the first. This has been especially successful in helping students to tackle target grade questions from the outset.

Keeping lessons fun in the last few weeks with regular revisits of algebraic topics is a key ingredient for success in mathematics exams. Above all my last message for my two year 11 groups just before their June module is already in my mind “Just do your best – nobody can ask for more” and “Never forget how far you have come already”.

Chris Curtis, Head of Mathematics

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