The Roadmap to Exam Excellence

Insights from Impress Education’s Examiner Mindset Masterclass

Exam success is not solely about cramming facts or teaching to the test—it’s about understanding the exam process and applying knowledge effectively. Here our team of former examiners have identified some top tips to avoid the common mistakes and pitfalls that can often lose valuable marks.

Tip 1: Teach them how to tackle the questions

Students need to be prepared, not just with facts and curriculum understanding, but also with an understanding of what examiners are looking for. Success isn’t about writing more; it’s about confidently demonstrating knowledge to earn the highest marks. At Impress Education, our Masterclasses focus on critical thinking, empowering students to approach exams with excitement for learning.

Tip 2: Show them how exams are marked

Understanding the marks assigned to each part of the exam is crucial. Certain questions carry more weight in marks. For example, the AQA GCSE English language exam paper one, entitled Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing, from November 2021 (AQA, 2022) is a good illustration. Within this paper, question five carried the potential of 40 marks, which was half the marks for the entire paper!

Similarly, in GCSE maths, there is always a focus on 15 key topics. Therefore, showing the students some quick wins in terms of their approach can lead to a significant increase in their marks.

Therefore it is so important to show your students how their exam will be marked and instil the importance of time management to optimise the marks they can achieve on each paper.

Tip 3: Always ensure they leave time for checking and proofing

Allocating time for checking answers is vital to avoid losing unnecessary marks due to spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. It is vital to emphasise to students the importance of thorough proofreading to ensure they don’t lose unnecessary marks.

Tip 4: Teach them how to write formulaic copy

Examiners value originality and creativity in responses. Impress Education teaches students to craft compelling narratives using structural features, enhancing their chances of scoring higher marks.

The DFZCR framework reminds students to apply the skills and techniques that they have been taught in school.

  • D is for Dialogue: Students will score highly for punctuation that provokes the readers’ curiosity and emotion. We teach students that rather than describing a character it is more powerful to show how this person feels through what they say. A story can gain four additional marks on the basis of being compelling and utilising punctuation and ambitious vocabulary effectively. Have they used pathetic fallacy, metaphors and similes and demonstrated their understanding of punctuation by including exclamation and question marks, colons and semi-colons? Have they varied the sentence length?

  • F is for Flashbacks: Moving backwards in time and switching in and out of dialogue attracts good marks.

  • Z is for Zooming in and out: This is a creative writing technique of using your “imaginative microscope” to zoom into a small detail and then zoom out to show how that element fits into the bigger story.

  • C is for Crisis (as in include one!): The writer should reveal the main character’s innermost thoughts to explain why a crisis has happened, leaving the reader to consider how they would react in such a situation.

  • R is for resolution: Every good story needs to be drawn to a close with all the threads tied together, possibly with an unexpected twist!

Tip 5: Teach them active reading skills to avoid misinterpretation

Active reading skills are crucial to understanding and answering exam questions accurately.

Sadly, all-too-often, teachers hear the comment: “I was rushing and misread the question.”

By helping students to develop their active reading skills we can ensure they gain a deeper understanding of the question and check that their answer makes sense.

In the Impress Education Masterclass, we emphasise the importance of thoroughly reading and understanding questions to avoid losing marks simply down to misinterpretation.

Tip 6: Demystify exams to avoid students feeling overly stressed

High-stakes exams can contribute to student stress, but Impress Education aims to alleviate this by demystifying exams and equipping students with the skills and confidence they need to succeed.

Our Masterclass demystifies the mark scheme the ‘Impress Way’ taking the fear out of final exams, ensuring students are not met with surprises but know how to tackle each question with conviction.

How Impress Education Can Help your School

Success in exams is not a mystery—it’s about understanding the exam process and applying knowledge effectively. By avoiding common mistakes and adopting effective strategies, students can maximise their marks and achieve exam success.

At Impress Education, we offer a range of courses both in-person and online that are designed to support students on their exam preparation journey. Our tailored approach focuses on the examiner mindset, helping students understand what examiners are looking for and strategically applying their knowledge.

With Impress Education’s support, students can confidently approach exams, knowing they have the tools and skills they need to excel.

Would you like to know more?

For more information, please get in touch email us info@impress.education or call 0333 880 7097.

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