Updated: Sep 4, 2021
The past year has been really difficult for school aged teens. Last March teaching was thrown suddenly online, with little time for teachers or students to reflect on how to make the best of the tools at their disposal. After all the problems with last year’s GCSE and A-Level results, the UK Government has decided that this year it would be best for grades to be determined by a teacher assessment. Preparing GCSE students for their assessments this year might therefore seem like a daunting task; all the tried and tested revision strategies may now not be very relevant. This post should shine some light on what we currently know about these teacher assessments. It will then go through a few tips for making the best you can of preparation for GCSE assessments in such a difficult time.
What Do We Know So Far?
The government has given a broad outline of how the GCSE teacher assessments will work this year. Grades will be based on teachers’ opinion of the level of knowledge and ability that their students are working at. They’ll make this judgement between the end of May and the start of June this year. These grades will be ratified by the usual exam boards and teachers will need to justify them using a range of evidence of each student's work.
It has been made clear that each exam board will give teachers both guidance and resources which will help them make their judgement about students’ performances. In particular, the exam boards will provide schools with a set of exam style papers which students can take to show their abilities.
The idea is that these papers would be completed in school, perhaps even in exam conditions, though they may be taken outside of school when required. They will be in the normal exam style and format and may even draw from past papers.
These papers will likely be split up into smaller sections which means teachers can choose to avoid topics and modules that they’ve not been able to teach. The government has specified, however, that teachers can’t test their students on a too narrow range of topics. Teacher grades will also be based on substantial work, such as coursework, and formal tests, such as mock exams.
What is definitely clear is that this year’s system is designed to be as flexible as possible to allow each school, college, and exam board to choose for themselves the best way to fairly assess students.
Traditional Revision Techniques are Still Relevant.
While this year’s exam season is going to be very different from normal, it is clear that efforts are being made to keep assessments as closely aligned with a normal year as possible. In particular, the mock exams and the exam board papers that can be used shouldn’t be too different from ordinary exam papers. As such, some of the exam techniques that you would use any other year can still be valuable. Here are a few.
Firstly, revising from past papers is a great opportunity not only to test a student’s knowledge, but also to become familiar with the kinds of questions that they’ll meet in the final assessment. Seeing as the government have said that the exam board papers used to test students may draw a lot from past papers, they are an invaluable resource this year.
You can find a whole host of GCSE Maths and Science past papers, from a range of exam boards, over at studysquare.co.uk:
Secondly, a great way to revise is a repeated system of learning and testing. Repetition is a good way to learn any knew knowledge or skill; by simply reading through notes over and over, however, a student can easily ignore the gaps in their knowledge and focus too much on the things they are already comfortable with. As such, it is important for students to regularly test themselves after going through a section of content. These little tests can help them identify where their knowledge is the strongest, and where it is the weakest, giving them an idea of what to focus on for next time.
There are some useful resources for these kinds in a format of small tests on StudySquare’s Tests page:
Focus More on Concepts and Explanations.
Of course, this year’s assessments are different from a normal year. There are a few ways in which students can tailor their studies to make the most of teacher assessments in general.
Firstly, while there may be some attempt to make students take tests in exam conditions, this will definitely not be possible for everyone. This means that it is likely that assessment material, such as the exam board papers, will be designed specifically for a non-exam setting. It has already been announced that papers will be split up into discrete topics to help teachers test students on what they have been taught in particular. It is also likely that the papers themselves will focus more on a deeper understanding of concepts, than on simply remembering information, as this kind of recall can only really be tested in exams.
As such, it seems that revision for teacher assessments should focus, firstly, on the material that teachers have nominated to test students on, and secondly, on gaining a deeper understanding of key concepts instead of simply learning facts and figures off by heart. For example, in studying the sciences it is important to gain a strong understanding about how the theories and equations in the syllabus can be used, and how students may be asked to implement them in a test. Practically, this means focusing more on higher mark mathematical and explanatory questions when doing past papers, rather than lower mark factual questions.
Keep up to Date!
As you can probably tell, there is still a bit of uncertainty around how exactly the GCSE teacher assessments will work this summer. This is partly due to ongoing disputes about what the right thing to do is, and partly due to the flexibility of the system as it has been outlined so far.
An important way, then, for students to prepare for GCSEs this summer is to stay informed and keep up to date with all news and information relevant to their assessment. There are three sources to keep an eye on in particular.
The government. New government updates from the department of education can provide key information about how teacher assessments will work in the most general way.
The exam boards. Each exam board will implement teacher assessments in a slightly different way. As such, its important for students to find out which boards each of their subjects are on, and to look into what their plans are.
School or college that the student attends. This year’s system gives teachers a lot of room to choose what kind of evidence they use to grade their students. Students should find out from their teachers the data they intend to use to assess, and to target their revision accordingly.
While the GCSE exam period grows ever closer, it can be very unnerving to know that this year students are going to assessed in a whole new way. By staying informed, however, and planning carefully, it is possible develop a clear idea of what kind of preparation needs to be done. In this way, you can make the most of this year’s GCSE teacher assessments, despite the difficult times that we all live in.
Get hold of our Exam Revision Guide and let’s turn your exam experience into a success story 😀 → https://www.studysquare.co.uk/pdf
Logic Enthusiast is an independent writer and is studying for an MA in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He is particularly interested in Logic and the Philosophy of Science.