What’s the ULTIMATE skill in nailing exams?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, as we get into exam season, and I’ve come up with what is, officially, my favourite exam skill.
Favourite in terms of the skill that gives biggest bang for buck.
And one that’s very specific.
Watch the video (or scroll down for the written version) to find out what it is and how your teen can get it!
Hopefully you know by now, if you’ve been following me for even a short while the ‘Not-So-Secret Secret’, that there’s more to exams than just subject knowledge.
That even if your teen knows EVERYTHING there is to know about a topic, it (unfortunately) does not guarantee them a top grade in an exam.
In fact, I coached one of my Next Level students on exactly this, this week.
He’d written an essay with heaps of great knowledge, vocabulary, examples.
But he hadn’t fully identified the FOCUS of the essay question and therefore hadn’t tied his points to that focus clearly enough to get the result he’s capable of.
And I see this EVERY year as an examiner.
Students who I can tell from their answers or essays, are obviously smart and have clearly revised and done everything they were told to.
BUT they haven’t been trained in exam technique.
There are 6 elements of exam technique and the one skill that is my absolute favourite is a cross over of two of them.
Well, actually three of them.
Conquering command words and mastering mark schemes are the two main ones, and time management would be the third.
The skill I’m talking about is:
Being able to write the most succinct answer that gains maximum marks.
In other words, how to cover each criteria on the marking guide, with the least amount of words.
It’s rare to see them but when I do, I get SO excited.
It requires a solid understanding of command words – and the trigger words that go with them – and it’s massive help with time management.
I still remember one of the best examples I saw of this.
It was around 3 years ago probably now, but I still remember it.
It got full marks with about half the words of most other responses.
I had to read it over 3 or 4 times to really check that I was definitely marking it correctly. That it really did satisfy all the criteria, and once I was certain it did, I was like – ‘Oh, that’s brilliant’.
I can’t recall the exact Q now, but it was a comparison, so had some very specific trigger words and this student had used them really well in their answer.
And if your teen can master the skill of giving the examiner exactly what they need to see and do it in the least words possible – or close to – then they’ll not only maximise their results, but also won’t run out of time in the exam. (Time being something that isn’t such an issue in the middle years, but is definitely an issue a lot of students have in Year 11 and 12).
That’s why I’ve already developed a ‘Most Marks, Least Words’ Challenge as a specific activity in the Exam Mastery Workshop and it’s why I train students in identifying and understanding command words, using trigger words AND the whole exam time management system in the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program.
Because ALL of these skills can be learned and actioned in your teen’s very next exam.
They aren’t talents you’re either born with or you aren’t.
They’re like driving a car.
We can all learn them, and once you’ve figured each thing out and how to do them, together, you’ve got the skill of nailing exams – and got it forever.