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05 December 2022

St. Francis' Blog: 'Taking off the stabilisers - Revision'

St. Francis Blog: Taking off the stabilisers - Revision

“Are you ready to have a go on your own now? Shall we take the stabilisers off?” Questions we have all been asked, and that in our own time we have answered in the affirmative, thus allowing us to take full control. Whilst those of us in the education industry may not all like to think of ourselves as stabilisers, the analogy remains an easy one to draw.  


What we all know and remember is that once we were on our own, we fell off a few times, possibly shed a few tears, before dusting ourselves down and getting back on. Resilience, a valuable skill, but learned the hard way. The emotional resilience of a successful student has its clear parallels. By the time a student achieves their goal in public examinations, they will have previously misunderstood questions and misapplied their subject knowledge. It is learning from these mistakes that is the key behind the most significant progress on the road to success. 


When it comes to revising for exams, the most important message I have to relay to students is the key difference between knowledge and application. It is a two-step process, and all too often students think that acquiring knowledge (step one) through rereading notes and learning an entire textbook cover to cover ready for regurgitation is all the preparation they need for an exam. The truth is that unless this knowledge is then applied (step two) in line with the questions asked, you won’t know whether you have understood something, or simply learned it. There no examination questions asking you to conjugate an irregular verb, cite the periodic table, or give the rules for a quadratic equation. Yes, you need to know all of those things, but they alone won’t get you any marks (sadly!). Yes, look over your work first, and use all the highlighters and post-it notes you could ever wish for, then cover it up, check the flashcards, use quizlet for the 1000th time. All of which are undeniably valuable. But then, most important of all, put it into context, apply the knowledge so diligently acquired. After all, knowledge is like paint. It does no good until it is applied. 


An actor will diligently learn their lines, hours and hours spent shut away reading scrips and remembering dialogue by heart. but they are acclaimed on their performance alone, hence the value of rehearsal. A high-performance athlete will go through hours of video analysis, but only so that they can then go and put it in to practice. When you learned to ride a bike, you didn’t study the theory behind it (though we all remember our cycling proficiency test!). You went out and practised until you could go it alone. But don’t forget that you fell off a fair few times first. Learn not only to fail, but also to accept it as part of the journey, so that you then truly appreciate success. 


We wish all of our public examination candidates as they start their revision for mock exams next term! 


Mr D Carr – Assistant Head, Director of Studies 



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