How do you improve exam results without really trying?

How do you improve exams results without really trying? You can’t.

But there are some simple things that any school can do, which make a big difference:

Organise exam prep classes: exams in government schools take place over at least 9 days, but if you add in Saturday holidays, public holidays and an occasional banda (national strike) – all of which happened to us over the past two weeks – exams can last for 14 days. That means it can be 14 days between the last lesson in say, Nepali, and the Nepali exam. Children forget a lot in 14 days. So doing exam prep classes on the morning of each exam makes a big difference in refreshing students’ memories, and getting them mentally prepared to do their best.*

Check your answers before leaving the exam room: on the first day of the exams, a bunch of students wanted to leave before the end of the exam – this is not entirely unreasonable since many of the exams are far too long – but when I checked their answer sheets, every single student had simple forgotten to answer one or more questions. There was no culture of rigorously checking your work before handing it in. More than that, there was a culture in the school that leaving an exam early meant you’re super smart. In assembly the next day I made it clear to everyone that staying in the exam room till the end of the exam means you’re super smart.

Don’t copy out the question: students waste precious time re-writing the question in their answer sheets. Some think it’s necessary, and others may do it because they don’t really know the answer so it fills up the page. Whatever the reason, it needs to stop.

Count the marks: students need to learn that not all answers are created equally – some are worth ten marks, and others just two. That should influence the way they answer the questions… or at least the time they spend on them.

Understanding the wording of the question: so many of our students struggle with this. Perhaps we should spend as much time on teaching them to understand the question, as we do to answer the question?

*When we first proposed this idea to our teachers, they said, what’s the point in doing two hours of exam prep? What can they learn in two hours? Which begs the question, why bother teaching lessons at all? If you can’t learn anything in two hours, what are you going to learn in a typical 40 minute lesson?!

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