4 November 2020

How to ensure exam success

Senior School
How to ensure exam success
How to ensure exam success
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Year 12 IB students’ final examination session commenced on 26 October and their VCE peers will join them for the start of their examination season on 10 November. We wish our Year 12 students all the best for their examinations.

Our internal end-of-year examinations season starts with Year 11 IB students on 9 November. IB students will take part in some key core elements of the Diploma. In addition to their end-of-year examinations, IB students will engage in Extended Essay work, Theory of Knowledge oral exams and the opportunity to write CAS (Creativity Activity Service) reflections. IB students will also complete their Group 4 project. This activity will encourage students to work collaboratively: all science subjects will work together on scientific or technological topics, allowing concepts and perceptions to be shared. It is also a real chance to develop skills of research.

Year 10 and 11 exams
Our internal end-of-year examinations period for Year 10 and 11 students start on 16 November through to 27 November. We sometimes hear students doubt the value of the end-of-year examinations. However, we can assure them that they are important as they will not only help them understand what they have mastered as a result of this year’s learning, but also enable them to identify gaps in their learning or examination skills they need to improve. As a result, they will be able to plan and put in place a series of targets for future learning. Internal end-of-year examinations are also a very good way to practise all the administrative and logistical features students will eventually have to face at the end of Year 12 in either VCE or IB. Research shows that students benefit from practising revision strategies. Examinations prompt students to study and prepare. So, the examination itself isn’t as important as the learning that they will do in preparation. Examinations prompt students to identify what’s important, how to think critically, and to adopt tools for effective revision. Examinations will also give students the opportunity to apply learnt concepts and skills under pressure. It takes practice to refine examination preparation and to master exam nerves! Many Carey graduates tell us that having those practice examinations is an invaluable preparation for the real final Year 12 exams.

I would like to especially reassure Year 10 students, as they will experience this period of exams onsite for the first time. My message is to approach the examinations with positivity, knowing that there is evidence that both studying for and sitting examinations deepens learning. Examinations don’t just provide a targeted, fit-for-purpose opportunity for students to demonstrate what they know: they also have the power to enhance what students know.

Top tips for exam success
All students have had the opportunity to view an examination briefing video which focusses on how best to prepare in order to maximise academic outcomes and lower examination nerves. Key points and some general tips are highlighted about preparation and revision, study plan, time management, setting realistic and manageable goals, examination techniques, examination rules and COVID-19 safe measures.

The brain is like a muscle and, with regular exercise, you can improve its performance. With application, all students have the potential to improve their ability to understand, connect, recall and explain information. These of course are key skills required by examinations. All students have the capacity to improve their academic achievements. There is a direct link between attitudes, routines and academic outcomes. So, reviewing information, note taking and summarising are strengthening exercises in preparation for examinations. Brain capacity and intelligence are not fixed. How students approach their studies will influence outcomes. Increasing familiarity with information, reviewing, revisiting, summarising all help consolidate understanding and recall.

For best revision, it is important to set goals, being realistic about what can be achieved. Good advice is to divide revision into chunks and keep on track. Ticking off each chunk will make students feel good about their revision! Being able to see progress and work to a plan will undoubtedly improve motivation and performance. In turn, it will reduce stress as students will feel more in control and increase students’ ability to focus on the work, to make connections between ideas and information, understand and memorise it. Revision must be active not just passive. It is not enough to just read notes and textbooks, but it is essential to summarise, identify areas for discussion with someone else, rewrite, analyse, etc. Research shows that when learning is relevant, we are able to connect what we’re revising to what we already know and build new neural connections and long-term memory storage. When looking at past and sample examinations, students should practice writing answers (with notes initially) and then later without referring to notes and under time conditions. Engaging in a family conversation about a topic will help strengthen students’ understanding and reinforce their ability to recall topic information and concepts.

It is important to construct a revision schedule, including time for family, exercise, and relaxation.

I would suggest making a start now, dividing subjects into topics and working in short rather than extended periods of time: say initially 20 to 30 minutes per subject or activity. There are resources on CareyLink which can be downloaded and used to create a schedule, including a revision scheduler spreadsheet which can be readily configured by using drop-down boxes. Students will want to modify the schedule once they are on exam leave as they may have a couple of days with no exams and no strict school routine – that’s when it will be more difficult to be disciplined with time.

Also, let’s not forget that sleep is needed to consolidate memory. So too is healthy ‘brain food’: eggs, yogurt, anchovies/sardines/salmon, blueberries, bananas, whole grain brown bread, broccoli and nuts all help brain function. Mens sana in corpore sano!

Students’ personalised exam schedule is accessible on CareyLink (via my Exam timetable link on your dashboard) and via the Carey App by clicking on the Exams tab.

Of course, we ask students to follow the recommended health and safety measures during the examination period such as wearing masks, keeping social 1.5m distancing and hand sanitising. We have modified the examination venue capacity (one person per four square metres) and desk arrangements (1.5m apart) to reduce any risk.

It is worth noting that there are some similarities between hay fever symptoms and those of COVID-19, so students who have a known history of hay fever are advised to see their treating medical practitioner to get preventative medication. If students are sick on the day of the examination, we ask that you inform SS Curriculum.

Our Chief Exam supervisor, John Batterham, and his experienced team of supervisors will ensure examinations are administered just like the final examinations and they ensure that all the rules are followed. Those rules and other reminders can be found on the landing page of the Exam section on CareyLink.

At the conclusion of the examination period, there will be an opportunity to get feedback in class on Monday 30 November. Students will also have the opportunity to engage in some reflections with their mentor during their leaner conversations on Tuesday 1 or Wednesday 2 December. Should students need to revise their 2021 subject or pathway selection, they will be able to do so during the course review day on 2 December.

Finally, on Thursday 3 and Friday 4 December, students will follow a couple of periods of their chosen 2021 subjects as well as take part in final House assemblies and celebrations after what has been a really unusual and challenging year.

Frédérique Petithory
Acting Deputy Head of Senior School – Student Learning


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