Exam panic – have we taught them everything?

The time has come the walrus said to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings and that you really hope that you have taught them all the things that they need to know. It has come to that stage in the year where all the internal assignments are done and we are now on the countdown to the exams.There is always that mad panic that even though you have covered all the topics that you haven’t taught them everything. What if something comes up on the exam paper that you haven’t done.


I think this is a particular panic for new teachers like myself when although everyone is teaching new courses we have no frame of reference about whether we had covered it all correctly. In the prelim we at least know what is coming up but in the final exam who knows what the SQA will come up with.

As a languages teacher my major panic anxiety centres around the listening paper – a source of fear for pupils and teachers. The vocabulary itself isn’t an issue, nor the the style of the questions but the accent and speed of the person speaking. It is hard to expose learners to a wide variety of accents and types of voice to prepare them for this but that is what the next 5 weeks of revision sessions will be focused on using the voices of my lovely friends and colleagues from nearly every inhabited island in the Gaelic world and to whom I am very very grateful.

If you are lucky enough to be able to run exam revision sessions in the run up to your exam here are my top tips.

1. Content focused – ask the pupils what they want to practice. You may have your own thoughts but what they want to concentrate on is the main thing.

2. Time focused – there is no point at going at the topics all day, being too tired does no one any good. Keep the sessions manageable and focus.

3. Pupil focused – make sure that these sessions are completely for these pupils, no please takes, no phone calls or emails, no interrupting from other teachers. I usually lock the door, turn off outlook and take the phone off the hook. This is their time.

4. Skill focused – as well as the content there is a skill to answering exam questions. Don’t ignore this part in revision sessions.

5. Fun focused – all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Make the revision sessions as fun as you can.

Nevertheless, on the day of the exams themselves teachers are almost as nervous as pupils but as we say to them there is nothing you can do by that stage but breath deeply and plunge straight in!


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