Showing posts with label revision. Show all posts
Showing posts with label revision. Show all posts

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Exam Performance - diagnostic and tips

Have you recently received your exams results?

I have made a short list of some of the best tips that will help you to improve your exam results in the future. How many of these strategies DID you follow (or not) in your recent work?
  1. Employ short blocks of time for work.
  2. Develop a balanced workload between all subjects means variety.
  3. Select days off work for leisure.
  4. Write down a list of reasons to be motivated.
  5. Reward yourself for doing the hours planned.
  6. Starting to revise too late in the process.
  7. Don't just rely on your revision sessions run by your school or college.
  8. Summarize your notes.
  9. Create Mindmaps or other visualizations to aid recall.
  10. Devise your own mnemonics or memory games.
  11. Read and study past exam papers.
  12. Ensure that you know what the examiners are looking for.
  13. Practise timed answers and exercises.
  14. Draft model opening and closing paragraphs for essays.
  15. Learn 50 impressive new words to use in discussions and topics.
  16. Work with your teachers to explain what's not clear.
  17. Collaborate with friends by working in pairs or teams.
  18. Revise throughout the year, not just at the end! 
  19. Reduce stress by planning well-ahead.
  20. Good luck! Stay positive!
Further Information

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.


He has recently published 11+ English (Primary to Secondary English Skills)
GCSE SOS

More advanced Students: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.

Dr Ian McCormick's other recent publications include chapters on Romanticism and Gothic Literature inThe English Literature Companion, edited by Julian Wolfreys  (London and New York: Palgrave Student Companions 2011).

His chapter on 'Teaching and Learning Strategies' was published as an Appendix to The Eighteenth-Century Literature Handbook, edited by Gary Day and Bridget Keegan (London and New York: Continuum, 2009). It is is available for free online (download the pdf) but you will need to complete a very straightforward and short registration.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

GCSE - SOS Q&A - What to do next

Can I improve my exam and/or revision technique?

Absolutely. You can typically improve your exam performance by working on technique, and by having a better revision strategy. Seek out the other tips on this site for more information. You might be able to improve your grades by 5-25%. Try this programme.


How important are GCSEs ?

It depends. Our culture is traditionally dominated by paper qualifications. Typically you will need Maths and English for career progression, plus 3 other subjects.

But GCSE performance does not predict success at A-level or at University, unless you've scored 10 X A* .

Remember that life skills, social skills, volunteering and other experience are also valued by employers.

I have to confess that despite my C in English Literature, I went on to receive the class medal, and first class honours in this subject.

What should I do if my results are not up to scratch?

Consider re-taking key subjects such as Maths or English.
Seek advice from your teachers
Sort our your exam technique and your revision strategies.

Is it worth having a re-mark?

Re-marks seldom result in significant grade shifts. But you may be able to find out where you went wrong and therefore have a better idea of the areas where you need to improve.

Should I write to my MP and complain about political interference?
From time to time this is a question last year. New exams in English Literature, for example, will be closed book, which means that you cannot take the book into the exam.
Ofqual head tells MPs qualification will remain vulnerable to inconsistencies until arrival of remodelled GCSEs in 2015. Here.
Girls could be disadvantaged by plans to axe mid-course tests as boys were often 'more confident' at end-of-course exams. Here.


Should I change schools?

Undoubtedly some schools gain better results than others. But the final responsibility for your performance is YOU.
Did you do enough to perfect your exam technique?
Did you revise thoroughly, efficiently, and effectively?

It is possible to check your school's inspection report and their league table position. But these tables often mask the work of poor or brilliant teachers.

Some parents even seek private tuition as a supplementary solution. (And even children at the most prestigious private schools also have private tutors...) An expensive option, but perhaps a decent investment in a world of unequal wealth and mixed opportunity?


Other options?

Perhaps it's time to consider a more vocational qualification, work-based learning, or an apprenticeship?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Strategies to avoid exam stress and anxiety


As we have noted in earlier blogs on this site, exam stress and anxiety is built into this mode of assessment. That's partly because the exam is typically a two or three hour endurance test in which you are deprived of home comforts and familiar supports. For many students exams present an image of clinical discipline and dehumanisation. Sitting exams may also cause you to revisit similar occasions in the past that involved a traumatic sense of disempowerment, defeat and failure.

But despite the huge potential downside of exams presented in these terms they do mimic real life experiences where you may have to work under pressure, use your wits, or demonstrate that you can plan and manage your time. Exams are here to stay!

Nonetheless, it will be helpful to recognise that there are some common anxieties that exam candidates experience. They may fear that there isn't a question that they can answer, or they may fear being seized with writer's block as they stare at a blank page. In other common cases, students often fear that they have not written enough, or that they failed to complete a section of the exam.

If this type of situation has affected you it is essential to practise your timing, and to write model answers. You can also practise opening and closing paragraphs for essays. Familiarity with key words and phrases also helps to speed up writinng.  These techniques will save you a lot of time.

Don't copy other students who write a book in the exam. My experience has often been that the students who write a 9 page essay, often filling up an entire answer book in the first hour, are typically prone to verbal diarrhoea; they are simply writing down everything that comes into their head, without any sense of structure or agument. Such answers rarely pass! A concise and well thought out response is more likely to be rewarded by an examiner who is tasked with 600 scripts to mark in less than three days.

Several years ago I attended a self-defence course in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After several weeks of training delivered by an ex-SAS officer it became clear that what we were learning was not how to fight back using martial arts, but rather to avoid conflict situations altogether. By planning and reading the signs of danger, we would avoid actual risk of harm to ourselves. This scenario is similar to exams. The first strategy is to plan your revision early, familiarise yourself with the format of the exam by looking at past papers, and by writing model answers. If there are topics that you do not understand you can check out the solutions with your teacher, if you have begun your revision at an early stage. This approach should allow you to ensure that you have covered a sufficient range of the topics outlined in the course syllabus.

By avoiding the disastrous and always risky 'night-before-revision-stay-up-all-night' policy you will already be on the road to cutting out by far the most common and most significant source of stress that affects those students who leave everything to the last minute.

Another kind of stress exists in the exam itself. By scrutinising past papers it is far less likely that the exam will harbour unpleasant surprises. Andat this point let me also declare that the old-fashioned policy deployed by examiners that involved catching you out seldom applies these days. Rather, examiners want to find out what you have learnt, and want to see you demonstrate your knowledge and understanding. Exams are generally designed as a fair and representative examination of the syllabus.

In terms of general health it is a good idea to practise positive thinking. Remember that there is no such thing as someone who is symptomatically, characteristically, or psychological bad at exams. But there is poor technique and inadequate preparation. As my other blogs have been demonstrating, techniques consist of skills that you can work on and improve.

Another health tip is to practise breathing exercises, light physical activity, and meditation. These will help to calm your mind and body.

Immediately prior to your exam it is not sensible to make sudden life changes. Don't start a new diet or stop smoking, or start learning to bungee jump, or parachute. Stick to sensible leisure patterns, avoiding excess and getting as much sleep as you need. Sleep has a noticeable healing function.

After the exam avoid the temptation with friends to undertake a forensic diagnosis of your performance in the exam. I often experienced a vague sensation that I had not performed well in the exam. Yet the reality was more that I was simply tired, having delivered a high level of concentration for three hours. Worrying about the exam you recently sat will cause more anxiety as your next exam approaches.

Finally, keep a sense of proportion. Often there is an opportunity to re-sit a failed exam. Sometimes 'failure' is a sign that you should change direction. Also many famous and successful people have not passed some exams during their time at school, college, or university. Many academic educational specialists have also argued that exams do not test your underlying academic ability or your potential. So don't let the grade achieved brand you for the rest of your life. It is also true that those who are brilliant at exams do not always fulfil their potential in life.

Just do your best, and do it for yourself. You might even enjoy it!


Dr Ian McCormick served as Professor in the Arts at the University of Northampton. He works as a teaching advisor in educational creativity and participatory methodology. He also enjoys reading literary fiction, and writing about disability and the grotesque. His PhD was in the field of English literature and cultural history.  

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences

(Quibble Academic, 2013) 


 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

63 Tips for More Effective Memory and Recall of Quotations, Texts and Speeches



As a tutor I am often asked to help students who are having trouble with their recall of texts and quotations.

But before I outline my 63 memory-recall tips, it is worth observing that many public speakers avoid trying to memorize speeches with word-perfect duplication of the original.

Spontaneity and improvisation in speech making is far more natural and attractive than stressing-out over perfect recall.

Momentary silences focus attention and create a sense of and sincerity, which may draw more applause than a speech that sounds arrogant and excessively confident. We want pathos not parrots.

In fact, some audiences will be turned off by an artificially memorised speech that sounds like a robot in replay mode.



LEARNING CLASSIC SPEECHES for RECITATION or PERFORMANCE

But if you are learning a classic text, such as a speech from Shakespeare, you will need to aim for highly accurate recall, as the audience will spot errors, and mistakes may also upset the delightful rhythm of the poetry.

Effective memory and recall involves far more that repeated re-readings of the words on the page:

Rote learning is dull; creative memory is fun.

Effective Memory Skills depend on factors such as the use of structure, selection, visualisation, comprehension, cue association, emotional impact, repetition, speaking and listening, sequence, context, and unstressed learning and recall.

Here are my Top Tips for Success ...


POSITIVE ACTION MODE

1. Start by rewiring your brain to this script “I AM ENJOYING MYSELF”,

“THIS IS FUN

and “I WILL DO THIS CHALLENGE BRILLIANTLY”.

UNSTRESSED

2. Everyone finds memory work difficult. It is a complex process and it requires patience.

3. Gaps between learning episodes are gradually increased as the memorized items shift from being short term to finding an anchor in the long term memory (LTM)

4. Success needs to be paced in small steps, not giant leaps.

5. You will need to take short rests in-between your 20 minute learning sessions.

6. Also ensure that you take longer breaks after 2 hours of work.

7. Avoid distractions that would affect your concentration

8. Actively remove any temptations away from your work

HEALTH

9. Generally, 6-8 hours of work over a 16 hour period is more than enough. You need to be realistic about work input and recall outputs

10. Sleep is essential for memories to become rooted in the LTM.

11. If you are tired, learning will be very slow

12. If you are very hungry, or bloated with excess food, the effectiveness of your learning will be reduced.

13. Also avoid alcohol and excessive stimulants such as caffeine.

14. General physical and mental fitness also support learning.

REWARDS

15. Design a reward system as you complete different success stages in your memory-recall work. This builds motivation.

SKELETON STRUCTURE

16. Divide your speech into 3-7 short sections or paragraphs

17. Design a structured workplan for learning based on this document and tailored realistically to your needs and character.

18. At this stage some people like to use a flowchart or diagram for the speech as whole.

19. Choose an appropriate colour scheme for each section

20. Select a key word for each section, and memorize the main sequence.

21. Choose a memorable image that links with the key word. Ideally this will be quite vivid or even humorous in order to create a strong link.

PORTION SIZE SELECTION

22. Select a key word from each sentence.

23. Choose a memorable image that links with the key word

24. These are the foundation building blocks for memory

VISUAL PRESENTATION

25. Your speech text should be well-spaced with LARGE capitals for the most significant words.

26. Use colour highlights

27. Use single and double underlining if necessary.

28. But don’t make your system of visual cues too complicated

UNDERSTAND and FEEL

29. The words on the page must become a core part of your emotional and intellectual being.

30. This means that the words must make sense and feel right to you. Identification is essential. Become what you want to recall.

31. It’s very hard to remember what we don’t understand or relate to.

ASSOCIATION

32. Some memory techniques employ the notion that your key words should be linked, logically, absurdly, or by mnemonic devices.

33. Kinetic memory: this is rather like encountering Word Objects in the course of an imaginary journey/ walk.

SELECTION

34. Learn one section or sequence at a time. This approach avoids the sense of overload, panic and helplessness.

RECALL CONTEXTUALISATION

35. Some people try to learn each section in a different part of the house, garden, or in the car, or the garage.

36. Or try learning a section in an odd space, such as underneath a table, in the bath, or by candlelight, or looking into a cracked mirror!

37. Sometimes it helps to have a specific odour associated with each section. Try lavender or mint, or perfume, or aftershave.

38. These contextual clues support vivid encodement and quick recall. The sense of smell activates the oldest parts of the brain, and it’s a highly underestimated technique.

REPETITION

39. Gradually repeat your chosen sentence with longer gaps between reading/speaking and the act of attempted recall.

40. Initially try intervals such as 1 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 120 minutes, 3 hours, 6 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours.

41. Sleep also helps to fix memories in the brain. That’s why staying up all night before an exam is counter-productive.

COMPREHENSION

42. If you get stuck try to use your intellectual and emotional understanding of the words in order to finish the sentence.

43. Unless you are memorizing a classic text you do not need to be word perfect every time.

IMPROVISATION

44. If you get stuck during the performance, improvise. This is the mark of a great artist: spontaneous creativity!

BE THERE PHYSICALLY

45. Act out your speech as you learn it.

46. At first use melodrama and exaggerated gestures in order to make the experience more vivid

47. Method acting: think and feel your way into your character

ORAL / AURAL

48. Try associating music or other sound cues with your sections, sequences, sentences or words

49. Speaking the words is often far more effective than simply reading them silently.

50. Try recording and playback of your voice, or someone else’s

51. Experiment with serious or funny voices

52. Imagine your favourite actor reciting the speech

53. Experiment with very slow and fast pace in your recitation

54. Listen to the natural rhythm, rhyme, metre, and punctuation

55. Pay attention to assonance and alliteration as sound clues

COLLABORATION

56. Work with friends or family to support your learning

57. Establish a small study group

58. Quiz and test each other

UNSTRESSED

59. Stress is natural in some degree on the day of your performance.

60. But stress may block effective recall when it turns to anxiety and panic.

61. Practise breathing exercises and meditation in order to reduce anxiety.

62. On the day, again, rewire your brain POSITIVE ACTION MODE to

I AM ENJOYING MYSELF

and

I WILL DO THIS BRILLIANTLY

...

CREATIVE SUCCESS

63. Rote learning is dull; creative memory is fun.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)
Further Reading


For and Against Memorizing Poetry  Here.

"Many people in Great Britain and the United States can recall elderly relatives who remembered long stretches of verse learned at school decades earlier, yet most of us were never required to recite in class. Heart Beats is the first book to examine how poetry recitation came to assume a central place in past curricular programs, and to investigate when and why the once-mandatory exercise declined. Telling the story of a lost pedagogical practice and its wide-ranging effects on two sides of the Atlantic, Catherine Robson explores how recitation altered the ordinary people who committed poems to heart, and changed the worlds in which they lived. Heart Beats begins by investigating recitation's progress within British and American public educational systems over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and weighs the factors that influenced which poems were most frequently assigned. Robson then scrutinizes the recitational fortunes of three short works that were once classroom classics: Felicia Hemans's "Casabianca," Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," and Charles Wolfe's "Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna." To conclude, the book considers W. E. Henley's "Invictus" and Rudyard Kipling's "If--," asking why the idea of the memorized poem arouses such different responses in the United States and Great Britain today. Focusing on vital connections between poems, individuals, and their communities, Heart Beats is an important study of the history and power of memorized poetry." See Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem by Catherine Robson (Princeton University Press 2012)

"What has happened to the lost art of memorising poetry? Why do we no longer feel that it is necessary to know the most enduring, beautiful poems in the English language 'by heart'? In his introduction Ted Hughes explains how we can overcome the problem by using a memory system that becomes easier the more frequently it is practised. The collected 101 poems are both personal favourites and particularly well-suited to the method Hughes demonstrates. Spanning four centuries, ranging from Shakespeare and Keats through to Auden and Heaney, By Heart offers the reader a 'mental gymnasium' in which the memory can be exercised and trained in the most pleasurable way. Some poems will be more of a challenge than others, but all will be treasured once they have become part of the memory bank." By Heart, By Ted Hughes (Faber 2012)

"The ancient Greeks, to whom a trained memory was of vital importance - as it was to everyone before the invention of printing - created an elaborate memory system, based on a technique of impressing 'places' and 'images' on the mind. Inherited and recorded by the Romans, this art of memory passed into the European tradition, to be revived, in occult form, at the Renaissance, and particularly by the strange and remarkable genius, Giordano Bruno. Such is the main theme of Frances Yates's unique and brilliant book, in the course of which she sheds light on such diverse subjects as Dante's Divine Comedy, the form of the Shakespearian theatre and the history of ancient architecture. Aside from its intrinsic fascination, The Art of Memory is an invaluable contribution to aesthetics and psychology, and to the history of philosophy, of science and of literature." The Art Of Memory, by Frances A Yates (Pimlico, 1992)

"Mary Carruthers's classic study of the training and uses of memory for a variety of purposes in European cultures during the Middle Ages has fundamentally changed the way scholars understand medieval culture. This fully revised and updated second edition considers afresh all the material and conclusions of the first. While responding to new directions in research inspired by the original, this new edition devotes much more attention to the role of trained memory in composition, whether of literature, music, architecture, or manuscript books. The new edition will reignite the debate on memory in medieval studies and, like the first, will be essential reading for scholars of history, music, the arts and literature, as well as those interested in issues of orality and literacy (anthropology), in the working and design of memory (both neuropsychology and artificial memory), and in the disciplines of meditation (religion)."  The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature) by Mary Carruthers



Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

SMART Revision Planning for Exams - 16 Tips





You have probably come across the SMARTER model as a way of organising a project. 

It works like this

S          Specific
            Significant, Stretching, Simple
M         Measurable
            Meaningful, Motivational, Manageable
A         Attainable
Appropriate, Achievable, Agreed, Assignable, Actionable, Ambitious, Aligned, Aspirational, Acceptable, Action-focused
R          Relevant          
Result-Based, Results-oriented, Resourced, Resonant, Realistic
T          Timely
Time-oriented, -framed, -based, -bound, -Specific, -tabled, -limited,
Trackable, Tangible
E          Evaluate, Ethical, Excitable, Enjoyable, Engaging, Ecological

R          Reevaluate, Rewarded, Reassess, Revisit, Recordable, Rewarding

In order to apply these practical strategies to your revision work for exams, I would also recommend:
  1. Short blocks of time for work
  2. A balanced workload between all subjects means variety 
  3. Days off work for leisure
  4. Writing down a list of reasons to be motivated
  5. Rewarding yourself for doing the hours planned
  6. Not starting to revise too late
  7. Summarising your notes
  8. Creating Mindmaps or other visualizations
  9.  Devising your own mnemonics or memory games
  10. Reading past exam papers
  11. Ensuring that you know what the examiners are looking for
  12. Doing timed answers and exercises
  13. Trying out model opening and closing paragraphs for essays
  14. Learning about 50 impressive words to use in discussions, arguments, or concepts
  15. Working with your teachers to explain what's not clear
  16.  Working with friends collaboratively in teams
  17. Good luck!
Further Information

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Also worth a look: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.


Dr Ian McCormick's other recent publications include chapters on Romanticism and Gothic Literature inThe English Literature Companion, edited by Julian Wolfreys  (London and New York: Palgrave Student Companions 2011).

His chapter on 'Teaching and Learning Strategies' was published as an Appendix to The Eighteenth-Century Literature Handbook, edited by Gary Day and Bridget Keegan (London and New York: Continuum, 2009). It is is available for free online (download the pdf) but you will need to complete a very straightforward and short registration.