Showing posts with label techniques. Show all posts
Showing posts with label techniques. Show all posts

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Exam Performance - diagnostic and tips

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." --- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Have you recently received your exam results? Are you preparing for an exam?

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)

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 in The 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) -- you will need to complete a very straightforward and short registration.

"Someone with 4As at A-level from Eton may look good on paper and come across as very smooth, but push a bit more, and often you get the impression they have learned to pass exams rather than think for themselves." Cherie Blair

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?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Life Beyond Writer's Block

Building blocks, or Writer's Block ?
You do not have writer's block as such.

It's a myth!

It’s far more likely that you are stuck in an unimaginative rut, and that you are experiencing a shortage of stimuli, or a lack of variety in the brain and body soup that should be feeding and nourishing your creative mind. 

If the situation has been really bad for many weeks you may be depressed. The good news is that creative strategies may help to decrease the depth and frequency of your depressive phases. Increasingly, writing and other creativity strategies are being recognised as therapeutic techniques.
Why not change the sex of your main character, and/or make him/her drastically older or younger? Absurd tweaks should initially be treated as harmless fun; but they may, nonetheless lead you in an unexpected direction. 

Great art involves patterns and destiny, but the aleatory, random dimension deserves to be better understood. In this case, risk means experimentation with improbability. One effect of this process is that the initial elements of a composition are re-constituted. Again, the emphasis is on removing a creative blockage in the way that you have been working.

Why not try transplanting the action of your narrative to another country, and /or different timezone or historical period. With a word processor a Search and Replace is a quick solution to this issue. If you don’t like the result, it is very easy to undo.

Why not make your hero into a villain. Show a wicked streak in your virtuous heroine. Chill out! This strategy of blending good and evil, virtue and vice, also helps to prevent your characters becoming tedious predictable stereotypes.

Transformations of Genre
A popular exercise that many schools are now using in order to explore and develop style, and an awareness of a writer’s chosen linguistic effects, is to re-write a poem as a story, or a story as a poem, or a tragedy as a comedy, or to parody a fictional text using exaggeration of the stylistic effects. These can be seen as warm-ups to promote the parts of your brain that deals with words, thoughts and concepts.

In the Middle

Remember that you can start a story from the beginning, the middle, or the end. Many writers start in the middle (in medias res) in order to provide suspense. Then they explain how the characters came to be there (working backwards); finally they proceed to the end - which may involve another surprise.
e.g. car race; car hanging over a cliff; car falls (dull)
car hanging over a cliff;
feelings as the characters consider their selfish dull lives and learn to love each other for the first time;
they all die happy, unless there is a miraculous intervention, as their guardian angels intervene.
I often find that the opening is the last thing I write as it creates too much pressure to impress. Get your story down on paper and then select a new start by arranging your ideas in a way that is unusual and creative.

The Critical Voice and the Creative Impulse

Although I strongly recommend that you should distance yourself from negative thoughts, don’t be frightened of constructive criticism, or re-thinking how you theorise your practice.
Literary criticism is your creative friend, not your despised antagonist.

Other Common Solutions to poor creativity that you might wish to consider are:
  • Engage in a variety of activities that are uncharacteristic for you. This may involve taking up a new hobby. It almost certainly means moving away from the torture of staring into a flickering screen. (See my other blog on internet and social media addiction, here.)
  • Start a new project. Sometimes it’s your determination to stick at a dead project that explains why you can’t move forward. But you can always return to older projects in the future, equipped with a fresh mind and new ideas
  • Learn to meditate. Become human again. Sometimes you are blocked by having too many thoughts. Too much creative flow is exhausting, especially if it remains chaotic, or it lacks the sense of an emerging shape or direction.
  • Read a random page of a random book and underline three magic words. That wonderful eighteenth-century word ‘Serendipity’ involves the art of finding what you need while you are looking for something else.
  • Take randomness a step further by using Tarot Cards to build character, or like composer and inventor John Cage, use dice, or the I Ching, in order to explore patterns beyond conventional expectations, and to help you to move away from bland stereotypes.
  • Read some poetry. Even better, cut it up and rearrange the words. Poetry is the ultimate mind-gymnasium for the creative writer.

  • Take a long walk. Take a few words for a walk. Let them go wander. Many great writers such as Charles Dickens have employed walking as a way to compose and liberate their creativity.

Did you read 52 Examples of My Creative Writing Activities? Here.

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