I’ve seen some examples of great learning both in lessons and in work which people have submitted in the run up to the AS exams. I’m noticing what people are doing well and things which you need to focus on to do even better. If you can work smart as well as work hard, you deserve to succeed. In no particular order …..
1) I’ve seen people make very good use of techniques which worked well for them at GCSE. In particular, I have seen people come in with cue cards and other methods for condensing their notes. I’ve been really pleased to see some clarity in these and also people focusing on the core information. We know in particular that knowing key terms and being able to to use them is an essential component for success in the exam. Those people whose cue cards focus on definitions put themselves at an advantage because we know that definitions are essential to clear answers.
2) I’ve been struck in recent weeks by the differences between GCSE and AS. You go from something where content is clearly defined and where if you know it you write it down to something where the exam is asking you to think on your feet and shape what you know to the question in front of you. I’ve had two people this week on two separate occasions tell me that they think it is absurd that they get two years to prepare for GCSE but 8 or 9 months only to make a much bigger step up to AS. In A2 in the last couple of weeks, we have been thinking about the step up from AS to A2 research methods. We need in AS to be thinking about that step up even though none of you have done Psychology before.
3) I’ve seen some great examples of people being thorough and covering everything. That’s been through people handing me a lot of questions which they have done or by making cue cards for everything. One of the things I’ve been trying to avoid for a while is people getting zeros for questions in the exam because they remember nothing about the question. Use the checklists on the front of the skeletons to check everything.
4) Making everything fit …… I’ve seen examples of answers where people have quoted evidence and summarised well but the evidence and the summary do not quite fit. Occasionally, people ask what they need to do to get better. It is often not about putting more information in but making sure that everything fits together properly. That often means shaping back to the question at the end of an answer.
5) Elaborating …. I see people stating a point in a sentence but leaving it there. Make the point clearly in a short first sentence and then elaborate through a second and, if needed, a third. Short sentences work best.
6) You don’t need to get 100% to get an A: it’s normally around 70%. When I show you mark schemes, I often focus on what you need to get full marks. It might be better to focus on the next level down. If you can make your work reasonable thoughout the exam, you will still be close to an A. On a 12 mark answer, reasonable for AO1 is “less detailed but generally accurate description that demonstrates relevant knowledge and understanding. Appropriate selection of material.” So why not aim for this as a starting point and then work upwards, adding detail and making sure everything is accurate to get to a 6? For AO2, reasonable is “Material is not always used effectively but produces a reasonable evaluation. Reasonable evaluation of research. A range of issues and/or evidence in limited depth, or a narrower range in greater depth. Reasonable expression of ideas, a range of specialist terms, some errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling.” So get a couple of issues which you can explain in a couple of sentences, then work out what to add. Start at reasonable and work upwards. If you can avoid muddle for both AOs, you will stay in “reasonable” and accumulate marks.
7) There’s no harm in asking for help and feedback. That is what the best learners do.
8) If you get confused by something, do not blame yourself. Ideas in Psychology are always being reviewed and opinions change. Some answers are better than others but there are often no right answers. So if something is confusing, it might be because it is not a very good idea, not because you didn’t grasp it.
9) One point which keeps coming out in both AS and A2 is thinking in opposites. You often need to be able to contrast things: biological and psychological, multistore and working memory model, secure and insecure, interview and questionnaire, life event and hassle. Thinking in opposites is a sign that you really understand the material.
10) This is difficult. I see fear of failure in the people I teach and I recognise it in myself in the learning I do. Having a go and failing can be tough. It feels good if you have a go at something difficult and succeed in your own terms.