Learning Opportunities from Tests and Examinations

By Sara Woolley, St Leonard’s College Head of Learning – Mathematics

Throughout schooling, a test result does not need to be viewed as the final result but as another learning opportunity and a path forward for improvement.

The lead-up to a test allows time to revisit ideas from throughout a topic, review feedback, target areas of weakness and fill in gaps. Like most things, the material often appears easier when engaged with a second time around.

Many of our students are going through this exact process right now as they complete exam revision and sit an exam. From a school perspective, only the Year 12 final exams are truly summative and even then, we know there are many pathways beyond this. The rest of the exam and test situations are valuable learning opportunities. This is especially the case in Mathematics where topics recur year after year, embedding and building on the previous years’ knowledge.

While all effort should be given throughout the topic to understand the material and prepare for a test or examination, some of the best learning from the topic comes from the feedback from a test. While we would all love as high a mark as possible, in moving forward, some of the mistakes made on tests can lead to the most valuable information. This is provided the time is taken to review these errors carefully and record what has been learnt.

In Mathematics we have increased the time allocated to the follow-up on any formative or summative assessment completed. Exam revision time also gives an opportunity to further reflect on this and build on progress made throughout a topic. Students can see clear progress during the revision phase and should also take this as a sign of success and not just the exam mark itself. The exam mark can be impacted by a range of factors including feeling nervous during the exam, the pressure of timed conditions, the exam schedule and the strategy of an exam and learning to prioritise your time.

So, if it’s not already, perhaps the next time your child receives a result on their Maths test, the first question could be “What did you learn from the test?” rather than “What mark did you get?”.