Exam Literacy – Whole School Strategies to Maximise Success at KS4 and KS5

pic of A level students celebrating

What follows is a whole school CPD session which I led recently with our post-16 staff. However, the principles could equally be applied to maximising success at GCSE. The catalyst (this is mentioned on one of the ppt slides) was a visit by my HT to another school which had focussed on what might be termed ‘exam literacy’ as a way of improving results.

What this involved was a whole school approach to ‘exam literacy’. In a nutshell, this means that subjects employ common strategies and common exam-related language within and across subjects. The purpose (and result at the school seen) was to ensure that students’ experienced consistently high quality preparation for mock and real exams by setting standard expectations about what might happen in all subjects. Of course, different subjects might place more emphasis on some aspects of preparation than others, so this is designed in no way to limit what subject areas might do by way of preparing students, but to ensure a consistently high quality exam preparation diet.

First of all, a preparation discussion took place during which subject areas exchanged ideas about what works best in their subject area, and from this a set of ‘expectations’ was developed. We also discussed what studying for A levels and taking exams in those subjects might ‘look like at its best’, as a way of encouraging best practice and paving the way forward.

Here’s a copy of the presentation:

A Level Mock Exams 2013 presentation

Below is a new page in our teaching and learning handbook, which will become school policy.

TandL book page exam literacy

The statements from the teaching and learning handbook were used as a ranking activity. This really asked those taking part to consider in a nuanced way which were their strongest and weakest areas of exam prep and we held out our own ‘speed date’ clinic as a result of the analysis. The statement ranking activity can be found here: Ranking activity exam literacy expectations

Lastly, everyone taking part carried out a reflection to identify next steps and these will be subject to discussion with our Assistant Head in charge of 6th Form, Teresa Huntley, who collaborated with me on the development of the policy. That can be found here: 6th Form Forum reflection

The ‘at its best’ statements on the policy document are designed to be considered as a line of continuum – so a discussion about ‘to what extent are we achieving these now?’ is designed to challenge limiting beliefs and consider just how we might move forward even further.

I hope the workshop session will be successful in helping us to learn from each other and emulate best practice. I hope you find it useful.

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4 thoughts on “Exam Literacy – Whole School Strategies to Maximise Success at KS4 and KS5

  1. Pingback: ORRsome blog posts from the week that was. Week 10 | high heels and high notes

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