I am, of course joking. We all appreciate that this is a very stressful time for our students as the grades they achieve in these examinations will be used to support applications later this year. This does raise the question of why would we put our students through this level of stress? The simple answer to this is to prepare them for the real examinations they will undertake in the summer. However, there are other reasons behind the process linked to exam preparation, post-exam analysis, time management and stress management.
A week after the exams have been completed the students will all receive feedback and grades based on their performance in each exam; this feedback will form the foundation of improvement work each student will undertake to improve future outcomes. With this in mind, each student will be set bespoke Christmas holiday homework for each of their subjects with a clear focus on developing one or more areas in each subject. This knowledge will then be re-tested after the holiday to understand progress.
Time management is another facet of life which our students need to develop if they are to achieve highly in their summer exams. It would be fair to say that BISS students are given significant direction to support their learning in every lesson, often teachers break lessons into four discrete parts to keep students engaged and on task. However, when our students are not in exams they have enjoyed free time this week. A large number of students would have used this time productively, whereas others will have procrastinated or relaxed during this time. The way students manage time will be key to their success in the summer. It is important to take breaks between targeted revision sessions, but two hours of gaming will not be helpful, with this in mind we will do some post-exam reflection with the students to have them consider how they maximized their revision time.
Finally, stress management before, during and even after exams is essential. Stress is often caused by people’s fear of the unknown. Will I fail this test? What will happen if I answer too many questions by mistake? What will happen if I run out of time? We work hard to mitigate against these problems by ensuring students undertake a range of exams under realistic conditions from Year 7 onwards. Students become accustomed to ‘exam stresses’ and they are supported in managing it before each exam cycle. They also get the chance to ask questions and are given robust revision techniques to support them in understanding their own individual and unique approach in their preparation.
This week will have been trying for most of our Year 11 and 13 students. However, it is an essential week in terms of preparing them for the real exams which take place during the final term. It is expected that each of our students prepared properly, and we anticipate each of them will have learnt new techniques to help them during this time. We want the very best for our students and for some this may mean extra pressure, at BISS we put enough pressure on to bend the students but we are mindful not to break them. Exam preparation is a two-way process and we encourage students to be proactive over the next few months in approaching their teachers to request explanations or support to make improvements where necessary. We will continue to work with all of our students to prepare them for future examinations, whether they are IGCSE, IB, HSK, ABRSM or any other of the alphabet soup of exams. For now, I wish each of our Year 11 and Year 13 students a relaxing weekend; they have certainly earned it. When they return on Monday the work of understanding where the knowledge gaps are will begin.
By Paul Kelly, Head of Secondary