Exam season, inside the exam hall


As an exam invigilator for 8 years, I have seen the work that goes on behind the scenes at my local secondary school.    Apart from all the preparation, there are so many things to consider.

When the exam rooms are set up, there is a lot to think of apart from children getting the right papers and equipment on their desks!

Other things that have to be considered in the exam room:

  • Some children may have very specific needs
  • Seating plans need to be set out so children know where to sit and can come in quickly and quietly.
  • The seating arrangement of children in the main hall or a separate room will depend on their needs. Some may need to sit near the back if anxious or in a smaller room.   Some students with a history of distracting others may have to be seated in a particular way.
  • The use of scribes and readers for students that need support
  • Laptop provision if your child has access arrangements to use a laptop in exams
  • Prompt cards on desks so invigilators know to check in on children who may start to lose focus.
  • Supervised break cards for children who may need to take time out.
  • Coloured overlay provision
  • Language dictionaries
  • A good supply of tissues!
  • Children must be read the rules of the exam before starting, whether they are late or not.
  • Removal of mobile phones, notes and watches before the exam. These can mean disqualification not just from one exam, but all the exams by that board.

How can I help prepare my child for entering an exam?

  • You would not believe the amount of children that walk into exams without basic equipment including a pen, pencil or ruler. I remember a boy walking in late for a mock exam and asking him what equipment he needed.  “All of it” was his response.
  • Unless your child has a genuine problem such as a pen run out, they should not be provided with alternative equipment in an exam.    They therefore should have a complete kit including pens, pencils, highlighters, rubber, ruler, calculator and maths equipment (protractor, compass etc) with them in a clear pencil case.
  • Make sure your child leaves plenty of time to get to school before exams and is aware of their time table. You never know if the road is going to be busy and we have quite a few students turning up late to exams.
  • Water bottles should be clear with no label on them.
  • If your child has access arrangements to use a laptop during the exam, then a touch-typing course could really help them with speed, accuracy and focus. If they aren’t looking up and down at the keys, this allows your child to spot errors more easily and also their increased typing speed will allow their fingers to keep up with their thoughts!
  • If using a laptop, they should make sure they save their work regularly and not turn off their computer until their work is successfully saved, printed and checked.
  • When taking the exam, have a quick look through first to see how many longer essay questions there are so you can decide how much time to allocate to each section.
  • If they don’t know an answer, skip it and then answer the questions they do know first before returning to it at the end.
  • Try to leave time to check work through at the end.

More tips on revising for exams next week!

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