Public examinations can be one of the most challenging aspects of secondary education. However the right planning, preparation and support can help children and young people go into the process with confidence and show what they can achieve.
If you are fostering a child or young person who is at secondary school they may soon be coming up to public examinations. This page will provide some suggestions to support them through the process.
- Information: Attend any exam information evenings held at school and encourage your fostered child or young person to attend any study skills or revision sessions available. Look at the syllabus online and make a note of any gaps or areas that have not been covered, so that these can be followed up with school. This is particularly important if your fostered child or young person has missed periods of schooling or changed placement in the years immediately before the exams.
- Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments: if your fostered child or young person is eligible for examination access arrangements and/or reasonable adjustments (due to a disability), speak to school about this as soon as possible. Applications generally need to be made well in advance of the exam period. See the Joint Council for Qualifications guidance as an example but check the relevant examination board for the most applicable and up-to-date information.
- Revision habits: encourage your fostered child or young person to begin revising well in advance of the examination period. Beginning early will reduce pressure and avoid a last minute rush. Use a calendar to draw up a longer-term revision timetable, making sure that sessions are allocated to each subject and noting in any key dates. Encourage your fostered child or young person to find a quiet place to work, free from distractions and that they have any stationery or materials that they need.
- Past papers: most examination boards have past papers and question banks available online. It is a very good idea for your fostered child or young person to begin using these as soon as revision is underway, as one of the most effective ways to prepare for an exam is by practising questions. Applying knowledge in this way can be far more effective than writing lots of revision notes. Using question banks and past papers also has the advantage of becoming familiar with the format and language used in the exam.
- Question timing: use a past paper to look at the number of marks allocated to a question and compare this to the total marks for the paper to work out how long it should take. For example, if a three hour exam (180 minutes) has a total of 180 marks, a question worth 12 marks should take about 12 minutes. Encourage your fostered child or young person to practise writing question responses using a clock or kitchen timer, trying to cover as many points as possible in the allocated time and then move on. Spending too much time on one question is unlikely to lead to more marks; it is probably better to move on and get the initial marks on the next question. If your fostered child/young person doesn’t know how to approach a particular question, encourage them to miss it out and come back to it at the end of the paper.
During and after the exams
- Balance: encourage your fostered child or young person to draw up a timetable for the exam period, including the dates of all exam papers and planning in revision sessions. Make sure that they plan in some time for relaxation, meeting friends and perhaps some exercise or hobbies.
- Examination rules: It is very important for children and young people to be aware of examination information for candidates, which will include rules around conduct during the exam and what can be brought into the examination room. Breaking these rules can lead to significant penalties, including disqualification from that paper or set of exams. See the Joint Qualifications Council information for candidates as an example, but ensure that you check the relevant examination board for the most applicable and up-to-date information.
- Results: Once exams are out of the way, encourage your fostered child or young person to put them out of their mind until results day. The period between examinations and results could be a good opportunity to sign up for summer programmes or gain work-experience. If their results are not what they expected, seek advice as soon as possible from school or from their chosen provider of further or higher education. On the other hand, if their results are better than expected, it is also important to seek advice as new and exciting options could be open to them.
The following websites contain useful syllabus information, timetables and guidance for public examinations. In alphabetical order:
Careers and vocational planning
Some useful links to research 16+ provision, apprenticeships and options for higher education include:
National Careers Service: provides information on choices in careers, training and work.
UCAS: provides information on opportunities for higher education and apprenticeships.
The Propel website offers information on the support and assistance available to care-leavers in higher education.