Mixing up Health and Skill

After teaching GCSE PE for nearly 10 years and also playing a role with an awarding body, one mistake within the theory exam keeps cropping up, pupils mixing up Health and Skill.


Students find it extremely difficult to distinguish between the 5 Health related fitness components and the 6 Skill related fitness components. They muddle themselves up and end up becoming really confused. This can be vitally important, as during the exam, some questions require pupils to identify the components. If the pupils do not identify them within the correct group, they are just throwing marks away. And as we all know, marks mean prizes!


I find myself asking several questions. Why do they do this? Is there anything that I can do as a teacher? Can I teach these topics in a different way?

With this in mind, I decided to try and really focus my teaching of these two areas to enable the pupils to be able to distinguish between the two.


The 1st part of this was to get the students to relate the numbers 5 and 6. The fact that there are 5 Health related fitness components and 6 Skill related fitness components.  Throughout the GCSE PE course, numbers can be an extremely valuable way of remembering information. 3 categories for reasons for taking part, 3 somatotypes, 4 definitions of Health, Fitness, Exercise and Performance, etc


Using mnemonics and acronyms was the 2nd part. A mnemonic is any learning technique that aids information retention. Mnemonics aim to translate information into a form that the human brain can retain better and even the process of applying this conversion might already aid the transfer of information to long-term memory. Using the mnemonic of Fat Men Eat More Sweets Cos Fit Boys Can’t for the Health related fitness components.


  • Fat – Flexibility
  • Men Eat – Muscular Endurance
  • More Sweets – Muscular Strength
  • Cos Fit – Cardiovascular Fitness
  • Boys Can’t – Body Composition


For the Skill related fitness components I used the acronym ABC PRS or RSPCA B.


  • A – Agility
  • B – Balance
  • C – Co-ordination
  • P – Power
  • R – Reaction Time
  • S – Speed


It could be beneficial for pupils to try and make there own acronym for each.


The pupils have been able to identify the components and have had much more success in separating the two during exam style questions.


I also use videos within my theory lessons to try and embed the focus of the lesson. I find video extremely useful for engaging pupils within learning. For this to have the maximum effect on learning, the videos should be current and contain some content that is relevant.


I have used videos to help develop understanding of the Health and Skill related fitness components. Some of the videos that I have used include


Pupils view the videos and then have to explain which Skill or which Health related fitness component they see. They have to then apply their knowledge and explain how that component is being used.


Videos can be found throughout the internet, but YouTube is probably the best medium for finding videos that are both current and relevant. Creating a YouTube account for your PE department or GCSE PE department and allowing pupils to sign up and subscribe to your account is an excellent way of providing the pupils with access to useful videos.


Why just teach the theory during my theory lesson? How could I maximise the learning within the practical lesson?


Pupils spend 1 double lesson (100 minutes) in their practical lesson and only 1 single lesson (50 minutes) in their theory lesson.  Practical lessons were traditionally about pupils practicing and improving within a variety of sports. In order to maximise the learning without impacting on practical time, I decided to paint pictures onto the sportshall walls. The pictures relate to the Health and Skill related components. 1 wall is for Health related fitness and 1 is for skill.

This is an indirect learning resource but can also be used within the lesson.  E.g. Go and stand under the picture that shows which Health related fitness component is needed for Press ups.

Another way to help maximise the practical lessons is to deliver Fitness training at the same time pupils are learning about Health related fitness, Skill related fitness, Principles of training and methods of training. This way pupils are practically experiencing the theory knowledge. Through the fitness testing, pupils are experiencing the Health and Skill related fitness components


This has proven to be extremely successful and can also help the pupils with writing their Personal exercise programme.


The impacts on the pupils of using these methods are that they are far more confident in identifying Health and Skill related fitness components. The frequency of pupils mixing the health and skill components up have decreased. The pupils have increased their confidence of being to explain and give practical examples for each Health and skill related fitness component.


I am sure that the area of Health and Skill will continue to be one of the major misconceptions within the GCSE PE exam for years to come. Hopefully these techniques will help reduce these errors and help pupils to gain simple marks within the exam. Why not give them a try and see if they can work for you. Are you doing something that works? Why not let us know about some of the techniques that work for you

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