Why do we need to prepare for examinations?

I imagine we can all remember taking exams at school. They are a part of academic life whether as a way of tracking progress, demonstrating the accumulation of knowledge and skills or as a way of getting accepted at a school, a university, on a training programme or getting that elusive job.

At Hatherop, we believe very strongly that examination success should not be the sole aim of any school. School should be an adventure, learning about ourselves and others, finding out about the world both in the past and the present, whilst challenging us to try new things and preparing our children for their future lives. However, this does not come at the expense of academic rigour and passing on the joy of knowledge and personal achievement.

Recent educational thinking highlights the importance of regular review of knowledge and exams and tests can help pupils to reinforce their knowledge. This has become even more important in the context of Covid-19, lockdowns and Learning from Home. For teachers, exams are just one part of our assessment system which, combined with classwork, prep, questioning and observation, help us identify those areas where pupils have a good knowledge and understanding and those topics where further support is needed.

Exams also provide an opportunity for pupils to work independently, showing their knowledge and understanding. However, I think it is fair to say that few children find exams enjoyable or easy. Exam rooms are strange places with strict rules and unfamiliar processes, indeed our own memories of exam rooms can often still send a little shiver down the spine. It is therefore vitally important that pupils get used to the exam experience well before they take exams with important consequences.

In order to help prepare pupils for examinations, pupils in Prep 7 and 8 sit a number of mock exams throughout the year. Pupils in Prep 6 also get the opportunity to sit exams in a more formal environment in the summer term. These mock exams help pupils get more familiar with the requirements of the exam room whilst providing invaluable experience of the necessary exam techniques.

As part of this process, pupils are also given guidance on revision techniques. It is also a useful opportunity to ensure pupils bring the right equipment into the exam room! The results of the exams are used to support pupils in developing their knowledge, their ability to interpret questions accurately whilst also addressing any misconceptions.

It is a fine balance between over testing and effective preparation but we believe that we are creating a supportive environment where pupils can approach their exams with confidence.

Jon Bond
Deputy Head, Head of Academics