Friday, April 5, 2013

Learning From The Past: How Did I Teach Exam Procedure In The 1960s?

by Richard D Boyce

I've been retired from full time teaching for a dozen years now. Therefore, over that time, I have gradually given away or trashed much of my teaching resources.

Recently, I have found some material I put together for my classes during the late 1960s on how best to attack a formal examination.

Back then in high school, all assessment was in the form of two to three hour examinations at the end of each term. Then, at the end of the second and fourth (final) years, formal externally run examinations were taken by students.

Exam 'nerves' were a big thing then so teachers spent time teaching an exam procedure and giving lots of practice examinations.

During this period, I taught several different subjects including English, Science, Maths and Geography. In my youthful enthusiasm, I produced my own generic version of exam procedure to give to my students.

In re-reading it initially, it reminded me of ideas that, in my later years in the classroom, I did not stress as much as perhaps I ought to have.

Below is that document. Does it add any new ideas or emphasis to what you do with your classes?

Exam Procedure
  1. In the last ten minutes before you begin writing, read through the exam carefully and quickly. Mark off each question you know you can answer easily.

  2. Plan how much time you can spend on each question. Try to leave ten minutes at the end for checking your answers. If you have two hours to work on the exam, with ten questions of equal value, spend ten minutes on each question.

  3. As you do each question, read it carefully, at least, twice. Where necessary, underline exactly what you must answer.

  4. Answer all the easy questions first. These are marks you can get, so make sure you do by doing the easy ones first.

  5. Don't waste time on difficult questions. Do all the questions you can do before spending extra time on the harder ones.

  6. Do the questions in any order - easy ones first, then the more difficult. As you complete each question, cross it off on your exam paper. Make sure you number each question correctly.

  7. Attempt to answer all questions. Try and keep trying right up until the end of your time. Write down all the facts you know about the question; even include diagrams.

  8. Checking is very important. Check to see you have tried every question. Check to see you have the answer required. Keep checking until your time is up.

  9. Write neatly; print and draw diagrams, maps and so on, carefully. Make them large. Use coloured pencils, where necessary, and rule all lines.

  10. Have a good night's rest before the exam and eat a good breakfast. Stop your pre-exam study ten to fifteen minutes before the exam starts to settle your mind.

Obviously, with my experience now, I would modify parts of these instructions. However, what I wrote back then is still great generic advice teachers could give their students in a wide range of subjects. What do you think?

Our author grew up in the era of external examination and began his teaching career in high schools preparing his classes for external examinations. He has, throughout his career, spent time preparing students for a variety of assessment tasks.

You'll find more information about how he worked with his classes on all aspects of examinations and other forms of assessment in his eBook, "The Examination and Assessment Book". You can find it on the website

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