I’ve just had a great idea for a study strategy for HSC students – well, it can be used for all types of examinations.
One of the weaknesses our students seem to have is writing under examination conditions and responding to the essay question. Far too often they rely on pre-written and memorised essays. This really isn’t in the spirit of English – and I’m sure it’s not in the spirit of most subjects.
At HSC marking last year, something we saw a great deal of was pre-written responses that students tried (and failed) to ‘fit’ with the essay question. The problem for a great number of these students was that the essay questions were quite specific – take the ‘loyalty’ aspect of the Hamlet question and the ‘one related text’ dilemma of the belonging question. It is important that students realise that examinations (especially extended response questions) are designed to test a student’s ability to ‘apply’ what they know to an unseen question. Often these questions are challenging and unexpected – this forces students to adopt a position on the question being posed and apply what they have learnt as supporting evidence.
So, what is my solution you ask yourself? Simple!
I give the student TEN practice essay questions for each module/elective.
Each set of TEN questions is printed on a specific colour paper. E.g. ‘Belonging’ is green,’Module A’ is red.
The student cuts these questions into separate cards. The cards are put into a plastic sleeve – one sleeve for each colour.
The student then sets the timer to 2 hours (length of English exam), take out ONE of each of the coloured questions (for English this is THREE separate colour cards). These are laid out in front of the student – this is their exam paper. Press ‘start’ on the timer and off they go!
There are so many possible configurations that the students should have PLENTY of sample exam papers to keep them busy.
This is a really basic idea, but one I have never heard of. I’ll let you know how the kids like it.
PS: I’m sure there’s a fantastically EASY way to make this activity web-based. Press a button and the questions are automatically generated from a selection entered by the teacher – there could even be an online timer. Could you help me out with this? I’m sure kids would like the option for tech or low-fi.