Blog Archives

Post-Exam Thoughts: GCSE Drama – 18 May 2012

After what can generally only be described as disappointing results across the whole year group back in 2011’s sitting, both GCSE Drama classes today retook the written paper than makes up 40 per cent of the final subject grade. (The other sixty per cent comes in the form of two performances: one devised, one scripted.)

FACING THE CHALLENGE: Me and my GCSE Drama classmates had already completed the two performances that make up the coursework, and had just the retake of the written exam still to do.

The Drama exams are always difficult beasts to revise for: the questions are quite vague while the mark-schemes are the opposite, and there were just two past-papers for this year’s candidates to look at. Furthermore, it seems in order to score top-marks you need to able to write faster than Philip M Parker, and write well. Read the rest of this entry

My Thoughts: Drama Exam – 20 May 2011

Another day, another exam. This morning it was the Drama paper, which makes up 40% of the final GCSE grade (the other 60% is made up of two performances: one scripted, the other devised). This exam was really hard to revise for; not only are the questions extremely vague, but also there was just one past-paper to look at. This meant nobody knew the extent of the deviation from last year’s questions, so most of us went into the exam hall feeling unprepared (which was not really any fault of our own or our teachers).

I took in a highlighter with me – a tip my Drama teacher had suggested – and singled out key phrases that the question asked. Then, before writing anything in the answer booklet, I jotted down a few ideas for each sub-question – a tip my Dad had suggested. This was extremely beneficial, as later in the examination I found that my writing had direction.

I think I spent far too long on the first question, describing in detail a performance that I was in during the course. I chose to write about one that we devised in December 2010, as I’d been able to revise from my response to a virtually identical question that was in our ‘mock’ earlier this year.

As I had in the mock, I found that I wrote much shorter answers to the other 10-mark questions in Section A, but I did try to put in as much detail as I could – explaining the rehearsal process, and techniques we used.

In addition to Section A, the candidate must choose between Section B and Section C. We hadn’t done the work associated with Section B, so therefore I answered Section C. This asks about a live production seen during the course, meaning my choice for the two 20-mark questions within it was between The 39 Steps and Lilly Through The Dark. My choice to write about the latter was due to the fact I’d been lucky enough to bag myself a rare copy of the show on DVD – something none of my classmates had.

LILLY TRAILER_The River People’s production of Lilly Through The Dark.

But then, reading the two questions asked in Section C – worth, let’s not forget, twenty marks each – my heart sank. “For this section, you will be writing about at least two scenes or sections from a play you have seen during the course, where you thought the on-stage relationship between two characters was effective.” This was my fatal mistake: I’d memorised one section quite well, re-watching it on the DVD again and again, but two? In the end, with little choice, I decided to put as much effort into the first question as I could. If it meant running out of time during the next question, and consequently risking twenty marks, so be it – after all, I couldn’t remember that much of the rest of the play anyway, so those marks were in jeopardy anyway.

Many years ago, whilst my brother (now 22, working for Lloyds Banking Group in London) was doing his GCSEs, he famously burst out of the exam room after one examination and exclaimed “that paper was a dream”. I’d been hoping to come home this evening and describe today’s paper as similar. Sadly, I cannot. That said, it could have been so much worse, and I’m quietly confident that I will score quite well in the first section. It’s the grade boundaries that will affect the final result in my envelope in August, and annoyingly they’re set to be higher than last year’s. It’s impossible to guess my grade though; we’ll just have to wait and see what the examiner makes of my answer booklet.

My Thoughts: Biology B2 Exam – 19 May 2011

Loyal readers of this blog will have noticed a severe lack of posts of late: it’s exam season, and consequently my attention is on revision. However, I do think it important to jot down a few thoughts on the exam I just sat so that, when I get the results in a few months’ time, I can look back and see what I thought of it immediately after.

ELEVENTH HOUR_The exam started at 1:30pm, so some crammed in last-minute revision on the field.

The exam started at 1:30pm, and given the number of people on the field at lunchtime with books open cramming in revision at literally the eleventh hour, I was fairly certain that many of my peers would have found the paper tricky. This afternoon, I therefore used Facebook to create a poll, asking my friends and classmates how they think it went. The results (though the question is still open to be answered) show a majority for the ‘Easy’ radio button, but with a fairly sizeable proportion voting for the more pessimistic options.

RESULTS_The results of the question at the time of writing.

As you can see, I found it pretty tough. There was one four-mark question I omitted (and didn’t have time to come back and try again), and a couple of dotted-line, one-mark questions I left blank as well. In some cases, by re-reading the question, I realised I’d answered it completely wrongly, but – with no space to re-write my answer – I had to squeeze it in, in very small handwriting. I’m concerned that this will be illegible to the examiner, or may not even be scanned into the image that the online examiner sees.

Only time will tell how I truly did in this examination. The thing is, Mum (a maths teacher at a different school) brought home a copy of the paper I sat and, looking through it, I know the answers. But the first question was mean, throwing me for the rest of the test, and with the pressure of the exam hall and the ticking clock, I mucked up even simple things like filling in Punnet squares.

As 25% of my entire Biology GCSE it was crucial that I did well in it. Hopefully, I’ll be allowed to retake it, but I can’t bank on that. Fortunately, that was my only exam today. But the trick now is to put it out of my mind completely and allow myself to concentrate on the rest of the upcoming exams – the Drama written paper (which makes up 40% of that GCSE) is first thing tomorrow morning.

On with the revision!