To help children prepare for exams within a home education, there are past exams papers available for all kinds of exams, from eleven plus examinations to GCSEs and A levels. These are available to buy from book shops and websites, and may also be possible to borrow from the library, but since many children prefer to fill them in directly onto the exam paper, as they will have to in the ‘real’ exam, it may be a worthwhile investment to purchase your own past exam papers.
They may be particularly useful for teaching home schooled children who have not previously attended school, since they are less likely to faced other exams, such as SATs, which are taken in school and thus might provide especially useful opportunity to get used to the ways that questions are asked and responses should be phrased in exams.
Going Through a Practice Paper with Your Home Schooled Child
It’s a good idea to go through a practice paper together with your child during their home education to look at the format of questions and discuss the possible ways to answer questions. Ask your child what he or she thinks the question is actually asking about, and the length and detail of response required.
Talk through issues such as mark schemes, and how the number of marks that is ascribed to each question – usually printed on the side of the exam paper, adjacent to the question – should determine length and detail of answer. For instance, one mark answers usually only require a response of one word or a number, but a fifteen mark question might demand something more akin to an essay, with suitable time set aside for planning. Teaching these issue will differ according to the type of exam that your child is sitting.
Encourage your child to understand questions with different kinds of answer options. Some children sitting exams at eleven, for example, may not be used to multiple-choice responses, so talk through the options, e.g. that even if a child guesses an answer that can be worth a point so it’s worth a try! Other tips to talk through while going through the practice paper is that children who find themselves stuck on a question should move on rather than waste time on it, perhaps circling it so that they remember to return to it while checking through responses.
Practice spending a few minutes checking the responses a child has put for a paper to ensure all the questions are answered as fully as they need to be.
More Tips for Discussion While Going Through a Practice Paper with Your Child
Talk about ‘key words’ that require certain kinds of responses. For example, ‘analyse’ will usually require factual responses to be backed up by reasoning, while ‘Write down’ might require a shorter answer devoid of extra explanation.
Encourage your child to write in neat handwriting since messy writing is harder to read and thus to mark. Look also at your child’s spelling, punctuation and grammar while answering a practice paper since extra marks are often provided for these aspects of an examined answer, and these are important issues for learning about exam techniques.