The Head, Nicola Huggett

A few thoughts on... Exams

Exams mean different things to different people. For some they seem like an impossible memory test and it may seem like it is all about just remembering the facts. In fact, it is rarely just about that. The real test is about how you use the facts you can remember to answer the question you are asked. I read an interesting article about questions that employers ask candidates, even the most highly qualified graduates, at job interviews. A recruitment organisation called Glassdoor put together a list of the top 10 questions companies have asked people applying for jobs with them in the last year. In these five questions, you will see they are pretty far from a memory test of facts:

Top Shop (turns over £1b and employs more than 20,000 people): ‘Which magic power would you like to have?’

IBM: ‘How many hours would it take to clean every window in London?’

BT: ‘How many people born in 2013 were named Gary?’

Gemalto Security: ‘How do you squeeze an elephant into a fridge?’

Network Rail: (my personal favourite) ‘If you had three minutes alone in the lift with the Chief Executive, what would you say?’

So as you can see, whilst we need to revise and remember formula, facts and examples, above all we need to remember how to use what we know to answer the questions we are asked. We need time to stop and consider what the question is asking? Do they really want to know how to squeeze an elephant into a fridge? No, they want to see how interesting and innovative an answer you can give – one that shows them what you do when put in a really difficult position. To answer any of those questions, you would need to think, and to use what you know. The same will be true, I would argue, in a good number of your exams to come.

So I hope this term, you will use some quiet time and time with each other to think and to get used to learning but also analysing what you know, rather than just repeating it and hoping you chose the right bit.