Exam Literacy

A guide to doing what works (and not what doesn't) to better prepare students for exams

By: Jake Hunton


£18.99

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Ebook


Size: 222 x 182mm

Pages : 240

ISBN : 9781785831980

Format: Paperback

Published: August 2018


In Exam Literacy: A guide to doing what works (and not what doesn't) to better prepare students for exams, Jake Hunton focuses on the latest cognitive research into revision techniques and delivers proven strategies which actually work.

Foreword by Professor John Dunlosky.

Read, highlight, reread, repeat if such a revision cycle sounds all too wearily familiar, you and your students need a better route to exam success. And in light of the recent decision to make all subjects at GCSE linear, so that students will be tested in one-off sittings, it will be even more important that students are well equipped to acquire and recall key content ahead of their exams.

In this wide-ranging guide to effective exam preparation, Jake Hunton casts a careful eye over a wide range of research into revision techniques and details the strategies which have been proven to deliver the best results. With plenty of practical suggestions and subject-specific examples, Exam Literacy provides teachers with user-friendly advice on how they can make the content they cover stick, and shares up-to-date, evidence-based information on:

  • The nature of learning and the various types of memory.
  • How to improve students' retention of knowledge and recall of content.
  • Why popular revision techniques, such as rereading, highlighting and summarising,may not be as effective as you think.
  • How revision strategies that have been identified as being more effective ' such as interleaving, elaborative interrogation, self-explanation and retrieval practice ' can be embedded into day-to-day teaching.
  • How students can be encouraged to make use of these winning strategies when revising independently.

The book also shows how the proven revision strategies which Jake details could work alongside subject content, and explores the overlap between the use of revision strategies in and out the classroom ' suggesting ways to fill any learning gaps. As an additional focus, Jake discusses why teachers may be better off delivering their own revision (or revisiting') strategies as part of the normal flow of their teaching of the curriculum rather than resorting to after-school revision sessions or outsourcing to revision companies.

Suitable for all teachers looking to improve their students' exam results.

Contents include:

Part 1: The Debate

1. Testing and Revising: The Evidence

2. Memory and Forgetting

3. What Might Not Work As Well

4. What Might Work Better

Part 2: The Strategies

Elaborative Interrogation

Self-Explanation

Practice Testing/Retrieval Practice

Interleaving and Distributed Practice

Read the feature of Exam Literacy in Humanising Language Teaching Magazine here.


Picture for author Jake Hunton

Jake Hunton

Jake Hunton is head of modern foreign languages at Heart of England School in Solihull and believes in combining passionate, engaging and fast-paced teaching with a focus on the highest achievement for all students.

Click here to read Jake's insights on teaching approaches, research and challenging misconceptions in education in his interview with The Learning Scientists.


Reviews

  1. In his excellent book Exam Literacy, Jake Hunton uses his considerable teaching experience and knowledge of research literature to provide teachers with considerable insights into a range of practical strategies to help prepare students more effectively for exams.

    Jake discusses at length the research on the benefits of regular testing for students to learn the skills of retrieving information to support retention and application of knowledge.

    Both teachers and students will gain from the discussions on memory and forgetting, in which the author contrasts the values of retrieval strength (recall) and storage strength (how well we know something). I particularly gained from the sections on the pros and cons of highlighting and elaborative interrogation.

    Exam Literacy is an outstanding text which will promote more effective use of revision time, and it should be a key resource within all schools and colleges.
  2. Preparing for external examinations and tests can generate considerable anxiety, stress, restless sleep patterns, etc, as students attempt to remember notes which their teacher/tutor has given them.  In this excellent book, Jake Hunton from his considerable teaching experience and knowledge of practical research literature provides the reader with considerable insight and awareness of a range of strategies to prepare students more effectively for exams

    He discusses at length the research on the benefits of regular testing for students to learn the skills of retrieving information to support retention of knowledge and application of the knowledge by elaboration within other domains

    The reader will gain from the discussions on memory and forgetting where the author contrasts the values of retrieval strength (recall) and storage strength (how well we know something).  I particularly gained from the sections on the pros and cons of highlighting and elaborative interrogation. Teachers, students and parents will gain by reading the section on what might work better where the author discusses at length the benefits of self testing, elaborative interrogation and self explanation, which all demand an -˜output' by the student



    This is an outstanding text that will enable the reader to promote more effective use of revision time and reduce stress levels.  The book should be a key resource within all schools and colleges to raise awareness of inappropriate revision techniques.  In particular, it highlights and raises insight and awareness into what works in raising performance levels
  3. Jake Hunton is head of modem foreign languages at Heart of England School in Solihull and believes in combining passionate, engaging and fast-paced teaching with a focus on the highest achievement for all students. In "Exam Literacy" he draws upon his years of research, experience and expertise to create a guide for doing what works ( and avoiding what doesn't) to better prepare students for exams, Hunton focuses on the latest cognitive research into revision techniques and delivers proven strategies which actually work. 'Real world practical' and 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Exam Literacy" is a thoroughly and very highly recommended addition to school district, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Exam Literacy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.09). 
  4. The psychology of learning has been insufficiently embedded in most training over the years, leaving the profession vulnerable to group-think bias or in-service training that's rarely evaluated for impact.

    Jake Hunton had a hunch that something was not quite right with many of his enthusiastic language learning activities born out of received wisdom, experimentation and even the need to perform. Exam literacymanoeuvres you gently from his biographical context into the world of research.

    Drawing on an abundance of hypothesising, exploration and conclusions from academics and the blogosphere, he explores “what might not work as well” and ultimately “what might work better” to avoid techniques that lull us into “a nice fuzzy sense of cognitive ease”.

    Exam literacy is a guide to effective exam preparation, yet it does not read like that. In the new era of linear 9 to 1 exams and a gear change from inspection bodies, teachers have a greater understanding of cognitive psychology. Hunton reminds us that the jury is still out on many of the techniques for effective learning. He has no panacea, but calls for more meaningful learner outputs supported by research.

    By focusing on techniques in the classroom, the exams become like a sleeping partner: there in the background, but never considered an end point - and rejected as such at certain stages in the text. Hunton is clear that “the strategies involved in successful exam preparation do not necessarily look like the exam itself”.

    Exam literacy is intended to challenge the reader to engage with research so that judgments are based on evidence from cognitive science. Attempting to sort “the edu wheat from the pseudochat”, he begins with 95 pages focusing on the debate, and then moves on to examples of the most promising practical strategies to deliver results. By results, be clear that he means depth of understanding and recall of knowledge and the ability to apply this in a range of contexts, within and beyond exams.



    Highlighting and underlining, rereading, summarisation, keyword mnemonic and imagery for text are explored through examples and a discussion of academic research in these areas. Hunton lets you understand and reflect en route, as he explains why these techniques fall short of effective learning. Here, in “what might not work as well”, he refrains from consigning techniques to the scrapheap of educational bandwagons, but warns of their limitations while suggesting which ones might still be of some, albeit limited use.

    The scene is set in “what might work better” by a small section on “learning as a generative activity” (based on research by Fiorella and Mayer). It reflects on the surface structures of problems and how they can be potential stumbling blocks for students who struggle to see the actual concrete examples. Structuring his commentary mostly around John Dunlosky's 2013 review of “effective learning techniques”, he then moves on to examine more successful methods: elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, practice testing, multiple-choice questions, distributed and interleaved practice.

    When I reached the end of part one, I noted with slight irony that retrieval of the information could well be a challenge. Part two is not, as I anticipated, a “dip-in manual”, a quick route to classroom techniques. Rather it needs careful reading, relinking the ideas to theory.



    Hunton's book challenges individual professionals and educational collectives to adapt their practice to build portfolios of “domain-specific examples”, to develop whole school practice and curriculum design that embrace spaced retrieval practice and cumulative knowledge testing. This is a book that will make you think, but demands a considered response in order to prepare students more effectively for exams by enabling strong long-term recall.

    Click here to read the full review online.
  5. PROS:

    - Shares real examples from a range of popular secondary school subjects.
    - Includes critical questions for pupils to ask themselves when preparing for exams.
    - Explains the most effective revision techniques, compared to popular techniques that are not as effective.
    - Explores the cognitive evidence around memory and recall.
    - Suitable for all teachers looking to improve their students' exam results.

    Click here to read the review on UKEdChat's website.
  6. Jake Hunton's timely book makes clear from the outset that exam literacy should be comprised of much more than a flimsy understanding of the exam paper's format or the way the questions are worded. In a national climate in which increasingly desperate teachers and school leaders embark on a yearly merry-go-round of revision sessions, -˜period sixes' and targeted interventions, Jake draws on his extensive reading of cognitive science research to offer realistic, alternative approaches that are grounded in evidence-informed, pragmatic and actionable advice.

    A real strength of Exam Literacy is Jake's ability to marry his understanding of the evidence with his understanding of how the exam system operates in English schools. His advice, therefore, can be taken straight off the page and applied with immediate effect in the classroom.

    This book deserves pride of place in every secondary school's CPD library.
  7. Jake Hunton's Exam Literacy is an extraordinarily broad synthesis of ideas from some of the most exciting thinkers in education today, written with the insight of a teacher working hard at the chalkface to put them into action.



    Jake succeeds in offering a fresh perspective and a cornucopia of practical strategies, often complemented by subject-specific examples, which any teacher can apply to their everyday practice. All classroom teachers would benefit from reading his reflections and suggestions.
  8. It is refreshing to find a book that acknowledges the immense importance of how to revise, rather than what to revise. As educationalists, it is imperative to realise that all students learn in different ways and with differing levels of exam literacy. Using a common-sense approach, Jake Hunton identifies subtle barriers to learning and explores ways to ensure confident learning for success. 
  9. I have to admit to finding books on revision rather tedious. This book, however, changes everything.

    Written by a classroom teacher, Exam Literacy is a mature, intelligent and comprehensive survey of research relating to all aspects of revision, and represents a fresh approach as the evidence is prodded and tested in classrooms, not merely followed unthinkingly. Readers will immediately recognise that they are being addressed by -˜one of their own', as the writing is clear and makes constant reference to the day-to-day application of laboratory-based findings.

    Jake is striding out in the direction envisioned by Dylan Wiliam of the teacher taking responsibility for assessing the efficacy of research in subject contexts. The way in which the evidence is considered, compared and projected onto the realities of the classroom yields insights way beyond the boundaries of the book's focus.

    Part 1 contains invaluable investigations into the effectiveness of various learning and revision strategies, while Part 2 is seminal in its synthesis and application of evidence-based techniques to a range of subject-specific topics. Not only are the key pieces of research collected and organised into an engaging narrative, but communication with the researchers is also included to add an engaging and enlightening element. As such it is a significant contribution to the classroom-level mobilisation of research knowledge.



    Exam Literacy will be of immense value to all teachers throughout the school year.

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