December Term what have we been doing…….. In Depth Exam Analysis

This guest post was written by Martyn Beaumont @cantersno15.

We are getting to that stage with my year 11 group, where exams are not too far around the corner and by February at the very latest, the course will be complete. It is inevitable that the students will be taking practice exams, have mock exams (which mine have this week) and be practicing technique until they are blue in the face. This will make me unpopular, but ultimately pupils need to able to answer exam questions so the more they practice it the better they will get. What I have been working on is how pupils (and myself) analyse these exams once they have been completed. This has taken me a fair few years to develop to find the best way to engage pupils in looking at more than just the grade but I feel the technique explained below makes taking and reviewing the exams the most worthwhile.

The Technique

Obviously first of all pupils take the test in exam conditions and it is marked by me. The marking is where I have (with the help of my department) started to change my approach. Rather than writing in answers or correcting mistakes all I now use is a code. Different codes mean different things and these can be adapted throughout the year and be made as individualised to your class as you would like. Using the codes firstly makes marking a lot quicker but secondly does not give the pupils an instant fix to their issue, they have to find it. The codes that we started to use last year are below:

Writing related feedback

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These codes were firstly brought in and stuck in folders in year 10 to improve quality of feedback and I know they are not revolutionary and I am sure many people use them, but the way I now use them for exams (rather than folder work) has had a real impact this year.

Once I have marked all exams I produce this geek sheet:


This is my geek sheet breakdown of every question answered by every student, with averages, totals and all sorts. This allows me to clearly see the strengths / weak areas of the class as well as the individuals and how the next few lessons need to be directed. Here you can clearly see the scenario was a huge issue and allowed me to notice this and address it very quickly. Also you can see three questions in section A and one question in the multiple-choice were an issue.

One I have produced the teacher geek sheet (it only takes about 30 minutes once you have set up a decent spreadsheet) I then produce an individual breakdown and address sheet for each pupil to work on to analyse their own performance further. The sheets they receive look like this:

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The sheets that are given out are not colour coded in anyway as black and white copies are the only way forward at our school! Again this does not take me very long at all as the bulk of the sheet (the bottom boxes) are pre-existing and I just have to copy and paste a picture version of the analysis over from excel to my word document for the individual pupil.

These sheets are given out before the marked exam papers and pupils are given the task of going through their analysis; highlighting any question or topic where they achieved half marks or less. These topics are then written into the box where it states topics to start revising.

Once they have done this I give out the exam papers fully marked with grades on. Pupils are then tasked to work their way through the exam paper and create a tally of exam codes in the box for exam technique development. They then look at the marking codes sheet in their folder and work out the key areas of technique they need to develop. This process gets quicker the more the group get used to the different codes.

Pupils now have a clear idea of what the main issues were in their exam paper both on a technique level and content knowledge level. Pupils then work independently for one lesson addressing these issues with various tasks set by me. They also have to show they have responded to the exam analysis by re-doing questions that they got half marks or less in or where certain codes (the biggest tally) showed up a technique issue. I also give them some new similar topic or technique questions to work on to make sure it is a thorough process and not merely finding the correct answer and re-doing a question they have already seen and discussed.

This technique follows the marginal gains idea of improvement, but puts the pupils in charge of addressing the issues that have been shown by the exam paper. Rather than here is your paper, here is your grade, let’s go through every question and write notes getting very little from it. Pupils engage in their own personal analysis, finding out weaknesses (and strengths) and developing them. At the end of it all I take a photocopy of each pupil exam breakdown sheet fully completed so they can be used for comparison on their next set of mocks.

A simple breakdown of this technique is as follows:

• Take the exam
• Mark using codes and produce teacher geek sheet
• Produce individual pupil analysis sheets
• Pupils highlight questions with half or less marks and write topic areas down
• Exams given out
• Pupils work through exam tallying up different exam codes in technique box
• Pupils work on a series of tasks related to codes
• Pupils show response to analysis by re-doing highlighted questions and similar area questions

Yes, this technique does take a little bit of extra time to produce the end results and I am lucky as I currently only have one group of 20. But I have done similar types of analysis for larger groups and a lot more pupils over the years and feel it is very worthwhile for both the teacher and the pupil. Identifying and addressing individual and whole class key issues, showing progress, showing responses to feedback among other things in an engaging way which will ultimately help the pupils in the all-important GCSE summer exam. My pupils will take a large number of full mock exams and mini exams over the next 6 months so by using this technique to show improvement it will make it slightly less painful for all involved.

I hope you find this post useful and feel free to ask me any questions related to this via my twitter handle @cantersno15