Exams, from both sides

I’ve been teaching so much I’ve lost the habit of sharing.

We talked about sitting exams today. We drew up a brainstorm of all the things which help, all the things to learn beyond the information itself. We picked out the things the teacher can help with, and the things that they can’t, really.

I’m good at exams. I trained myself to be: in high school Latin there was a choice between memorising hundreds of lines of Latin and its corresponding translation or translating Virgil without a dictionary. An easy choice. It meant I could memorise 500 lines of text in four days, by my final year, and that sort of practice translates well to other things. It’s incredibly useful. But it’s not practice that everyone had, and while that’s good, it’s also frustrating: because I tutor high school students, and exams are as much about technique as they are knowledge. And it’s hard, very hard, to train someone’s head to work a different way.

That exams are not for everyone is not news. But they could be so much less harrowing for so many more people. It’s like teaching someone to run and enrolling them in a hurdle race.

I’d like to say that I teach students to succeed in exams, that I leave them with confidence and experience, but that’s the sort of fallacy every teacher would like to be true. The 8 months or so I get is not enough. Sometimes I scare them. Sometimes, undoubtedly, I confuse them. Occasionally, I think I might inspire determination in them. And that, I think, must be enough.

The featured image for this post, in full below, is Antoine Édouard Joseph Moulinet’s ‘Children at Prayer.’ 

Antoine Édouard Joseph Moulinet - Children at Prayer


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