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Ep6 Playing catch up: facing into 2021 exams

This year’s GCSE and A-Level students are suffering with a double whammy. They’re facing into future looking questions while also worried about catching up. That’s an awful situation to be in but does that mean it has to be a hopeless one?

In this podcast episode The Study Buddy’s founder, Nathan McGurl is talking to Dylan Wiliam about this year’s exams. Given the uncertainty, we’ll be considering alternatives as well as some practical guidance for parents when it comes to supporting their teens. 

In a wide ranging conversation Dylan talks about the shortcomings and upsides of different approaches to assessment drawn on years of working in the UK and also the US. He as gives practical advice to those facing exams this year.

Over the past week our students have been preoccupied with the amount of work that they have to do. By which I mean catch up on. They’re aware that they missed a lot and most are very worried about how they’ll get back on top of what’s been missed, and keep on top of ‘new’ learning. The level of worry does vary from student to student, as you might expect.

Anastasia, for example, is finding school hard at the moment. She struggled with independent study over the holidays as she prefers groups and teacher led learning. As a result, she’s worried about having fallen behind and is piling the pressure on to catch up.

We hear that that preparing for final assessments early is a no regrets strategy. Dylan talks about ‘little and often’. That spacing study and revision out over a longer period is significantly better than cramming. If exam do take place, this will have strengthened the storage of that information, while practicing retrieval – testing yourself – is a great way to hone retrieval skills. And if they don’t take place, this approach should show progress and help with any evidenced attainment if teacher assessment forms part of any grading approach.


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