Preparing students for exams

Ruchira Ghosh

Preparing students for exams takes time and dedication on a teacher’s part. Helping your students to feel confident will give them the best chance of success.

Below are a few tips to ensure that your students are up to the challenge of writing an exam.

  1. Plan forward
    Check the most up-to-date syllabus for every subject and prepare a revision timetable for your students.
  2. Make exam formats 100% clear
    Brief students completely on the examination format and make sure they have clarity on the number of papers and questions, and the duration of each paper.
  3. Encourage strategic and analytical thinking
    Remind students that it’s important to demonstrate independent thinking. For example, when answering direct writing questions, they should use a relevant, original idea of their own, as well as the themes and ideas already present in the text. Ensuring that students understand keywords such as ‘describe’, ‘discuss’, ‘compare’ and ‘summarise’ is also essential.
  4. Use technology as an additional resource
    See computers as an additional revision resource, not a distraction. Do a bit of research to find relevant sites so you can guide students in the right direction to prepare for an exam.
  5. Simulate examination conditions in the classroom
    Try doing two or three practice exams at school before students take their actual exams, to help them with anxiety and timing issues. Use past papers and examiner reports to help your students understand what is expected of them, and the standard they need to aim to achieve a particular grade. Encourage them to do this at home as well.
  6. Take regular time-out breaks
    The brain needs time to recover – some more than others! If students start lagging in a lesson, give them a breather.
  7. Make sure students master the topics they like most
    While it is obviously important to cover the entire exam syllabus when revising, make sure students do their revision in their favourite topics also.
  8. Address issues
    Discuss any unpleasant past exam experiences students may have had. Analysing these experiences can stop them having a damaging effect on students’ motivation.
  9. Teacher, trainer and coach all in one!
    The teachers who get the best results often do more than teach. During exam time, you almost need to become their personal trainer; making sure they’re eating and sleeping well, and encouraging them when they get a bit down or stressed.
  10. Parents need preparation too
    You might need to counsel parents too! Make sure parents are aware that exams are coming up. If you send a letter out make sure none of your students “forget” to tell their parents, why not include some tips on creating a good environment for revision at home?

The author is Regional Director, South Asia, Cambridge International Examinations.