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As the children head back to school, accountancy examiner and Wanstead resident Steve Wilks offers his advice for preparing for the next season of exams

The summer holidays are over; the nights are drawing in and a new term is starting. For many of Wanstead’s students, this means embarking on final year exams, whether at GCSE or A level. This will determine a student’s university choices and ultimate career path. Examinations are the traditional way of assessing this, and it is essential students develop a good exam technique to maximise the best result possible.

It is important to familiarise yourself with the examination requirements – whether it’s multiple choice questions, short form structured questions or essay writing – and how these will be assessed. It is also essential to pay attention to the mark allocation for a question. Clearly, an answer worth 10 marks will often require a longer, more detailed response than a one- or two-mark answer. Often, small marked allocation questions are marked on a penny points’ system, so a two-mark question will require two points or one point well explained – the further explanation being worth a mark. Use the mark allocation as a guide to tailor your response.

With essay-style questions, there is usually a bit more flexibility and often answers are marked on a “levels of response” basis to reward a level of thinking. This differs between examination boards, but generally speaking, listing and explaining points score marks at the lower levels, with further analysis (perhaps with an example and synthesis showing how the points relate to each other) scoring much higher marks. At the top of the spectrum of answers, if a candidate can evaluate an answer, this will often score the most marks of all as it demonstrates there has been a balanced assessment of a topic. Remember, in essay-based questions, an answer is rarely black or white, it is often a shade of grey, and candidates who reflect this will score highly.

Reading widely also helps, particularly in the topical social science subjects. Examiners often set questions based on stimulus 18 months before the real exam where relevant. Therefore, you may come to familiarise yourself with the subject matter already from wider knowledge, which may give you an advantage over other students.

It is also important to note that in numerical subjects, such as accountancy, marks are awarded for principles as well as the number itself. Often, calculations will involve a process a candidate needs to go through to arrive at the final answer. Many candidates may not get this wholly correct, but if they apply the figures they calculate to the principles required from the question, they will get follow-on marks.

With extensive examination practice using mocks at school and effective revision techniques, most students should be able to achieve a good pass. Good luck.

For more information on qualifications and exams, visit wnstd.com/ofqual
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Steve Wilks