Exam Technique – Lower School

This is for L1st to L3rd. I’ll give you a hard copy of the advice and guidance below, but just in case you lose it (What Sir? Me Sir? Yes, you) here is a copy of what is expected of you in the examinations after 1/2 term.

Lower School Exam Rubric


The exam will consist of:

a) a comprehension exercise

b) a creative writing task

You will be asked to spend equal time on both sections.


The comprehension exercise can be based on either a poem or a piece of prose, and will test your understanding of the passage.  It will test your vocabulary and your understanding of stylistic features and effects.


You may be asked to:


  • Show your understanding and appreciation of particular aspects of plot, character, setting and atmosphere;
  • Define words as they are used in the passage;
  • Find misspelt words and spell them correctly;
  • Comment on the use of punctuation;
  • Show some general knowledge of basic literary history;
  • In the Upper First you will be required to comment on the use of language in specific phrases or sentences: this will require you to make observations about the effect of literary and poetic devices such as imagery, metaphors, similes and alliteration, although you will not necessarily be expected to use these terms.
  • In the Lower Third, you will be required to identify and explain a variety of literary and poetic techniques, such as imagery, metaphors, similes, personification, alliteration and sibilance, assonance and onomatopoeia.


This year, the creative writing task will, in some way, use the Mary Rose exhibition as a stimulus.  This does not mean that you will be tested on your historical knowledge, or gain / lose marks depending on how much you know about the Mary Rose; since this is an English exam, you will instead be rewarded for writing engagingly and accurately.  But you will probably be asked to engage imaginatively with the story of the Mary Rose’s sinking, or with what is displayed in the exhibition.  Paying attention when you visit the exhibition in the first half of term, and thinking about what you saw and learnt, may give you ideas about what you could mention or include in your writing. 




  • Read the passage through several times.
  • After your first read-through, look at the questions that you have to answer, and then read through the passage again.
  • Read the questions very carefully so you don’t misunderstand them.
  • You may find it helpful to underline or highlight important parts of the passage.
  • Have a go at all questions, even if you’re not sure of the answer.
  • When deciding how long to spend on each answer, look carefully at the mark scheme.
  • Pay careful attention to whether the question asks you to explain in your own words, or to support your answer with a quotation from the passage.



  • There is little formal revision that you can do for these exams; they test the reading and writing skills that you have developed over this academic year.
  • You can make a list of spellings that your teacher has corrected over the course of the year and learn them.
  • Your teacher will have given you some tips over how to tackle a comprehension exercise effectively, as well as some practice over the summer term.  You may also find the tips on this site helpful.

~ by mrprestney on May 6, 2009.

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