What is the role of a teacher during exam season?

Just over a week to go and this really is the final run in.  In most school now, the students are on exam leave and should be in ‘exam mode’ i.e., they should be working VERY hard and teachers should be ready and willing to answer any and all questions.

Our role now, it to keep the students positive.  It is crucial that they keep working and see that there is a point to this – particularly in physics where the subject is tough and it is too easy for students to become fed up with slow progress.

My advice is to make yourself as available as is possible (easier in some schools than others!). Students need to keep working through past papers and pushing hard with the marking schemes.

Really tough questions. These can be a real drag on the student’s confidence because they cannot do them. And no matter how much they look at past papers, the IB is very good at finding new types of question that have never seen before, that are very tough. I suggest that you let students know that if they are not getting anywhere with the question, then move on – it is not worth the time and effort that is being wasted. Remind the students that any question that is ridiculously hard, is hard for everyone and in effect, because everyone will find it tough, it will score poorly and make no difference to the exam – because it does not discriminate.

Really easy questions. These are tricky for a different reason.  Students tend to like them because they can do them. However, the same situation applies in that, because they do not discriminate between students, they are effective useless in sorting out the grades. It is probably not worth letting students know this – at the moment it is all about keeping them positive and working hard.

In my experience one of the most helpful ways of efficiently revising is to get the students working in groups – helping each other.  They will need the teacher in the background, but getting the students to work through questions together is a good thing – when a student explains the material to someone else, they are effectively testing themselves – so at this stage, if they have never done this, then they should be in a position where their revision has left them able to help each other i.e., they should all have something positive to say.

A final point about the exams themselves – it is not yet clear if there will be time-zoned exams (as is normal) or if there will simply be one TZ0 set of papers (like last year).  However, it is important that teachers see the papers as soon as they are available and check through them for problems.  With this in mind, it is worth reminding the students that they need to let you know if there were questions they were unhappy with – you can then look at those points in particular.  Once this has been done, if there are other IB schools near you, organise a meeting to jointly discuss the papers and then complete the G2 feedback form. In this way, you can let the IB know about anything you are concerned about, and because there will be other schools saying the same thing, your arguments will carry more weight.

Let us hope for a good July!

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