The end of year exams

Almost without exception, all secondary schools do end of year exams in the ‘non-exam’ (ie not years 11 and 13) years.

So what is the purpose of these end of year exams? And should kids and parents be worrying about them?

The purpose is mainly to see how much progress kids have made over the year and how much they have actually learned. They are often used to place children in sets for the following year.

End of year exams are also a good introduction to revision and exams in general, so that kids get used to the concept long before things get serious with year 11 and GCSEs.

But as to whether we should be worrying about them? Kids’, schools’ and parents’ expectations on this are hugely divided, so I’m not sure whether the end of year exams can ever truly be a reflection of their ability and progress.

There are parents and kids who think they don’t matter at all and kids shouldn’t do any work. There are others who think they are hugely important, with parents putting pressure on their kids and kids putting pressure on themselves to do loads of work.

Personally, my view lies somewhere between the two. BUT, while I will encourage my kids and support them to work, I can’t and won’t force them to revise. Ultimately it is their own decision as to how much work they put in.

Remarkably, all three of my kids have their end of year exams this week – in years 7, 9 and 12.

Just to give you some idea of how things have worked over the years in our house…

In years 7 to 9 I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW MY ELDEST HAD EXAMS. There were no letters (unless they stayed screwed up in the bottom of his bag) and no emails from the school. My son never did any revision. He did a little bit in year 10 and surprised both himself and the school at what he could achieve. He has always been very good at hiding his light under a bushel and year 10 was the first time his teachers realised that he was perhaps brighter than he had been letting on.

Normally, year 12s would be doing AS Levels now, but my son has struck lucky. They are phasing them out this year and a lot of kids, including my son, aren’t doing them. With his A Levels only a year away, I think he should be doing two hours’ revision a day for his year 12 exams, but he hasn’t been doing anywhere near that much.

In year 7, my younger son started off very enthusiastically, with revision timetables, flash cards and highlighters. He had German phrases dotted around his room. But then half-term came along. And he didn’t see why he should revise in half-term. So he didn’t. And he didn’t go back to it after half-term either. It was a similar story in year 8, just without the initial flurry of enthusiasm. That would be why he ended up in middle set maths, rather than top set where he should be.

Now he’s in year 9, we’ve agreed an hour’s revision a day. I’m pleased to say he actually did revise during half-term this year too. Having done his GCSE options, he knows what subjects he will be doing next year and has decided he won’t be revising for French, history or any of the other subjects he’s dropping. This doesn’t sit particularly well with me, but I respect his decision and I know it gives him more time to spend on the subjects he does care about. He has also agreed that he will definitely do more work for his year 10 exams next year.

And my daughter? Her school actually told the kids not to revise in half-term. Yet a girl in her class was planning to get up at 5am every day and revise for eight hours until 1pm. I do hope her parents stopped her. My daughter has only revised for a few days and only done an hour at a time. Her plan is to have only one session on most subjects, and that’s fine by me. Personally, I wouldn’t have bothered revising for food tech, but she has done.

It will be interesting to see the results, but I don’t think the end of year exams will ever be a true reflection of ability, only a reflection of how much work the kids have put in and how important they think they are.

What is your view on end of year exams in secondary school? 

Stationery, Revision, Son, Year 7, Exams, The end of year exams

Author: Sarah Mummy

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10 Comments

  1. Sarah,

    End-of-year exams are of some importance, for the reasons you give, but (especially for years 7, 8 and 9) they’re not worth all that much stress.
    The story about the girl in your daughter’s class might possibly be a wind-up. ;o)

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    • I think your view is pretty much the same as mine! They shouldn’t be disregarded altogether, but they’re not worth worrying about. I do actually believe the story of the girl in my daughter’s class because she’s not one of the class clowns and my daughter doesn’t make stuff up. Will be interesting to see how this girl gets on.

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  2. I didn’t know about the end of year exams until my teen did the one’s at the end of year 9….I think it’s because the school didn’t make a big deal out of them and they just did them in the classroom.
    My teen has been revising every evening for at least half an hour. She has her GCSE’s next year so it is good for her to get into the habit x

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    • It’s great that your teen is getting into good habits. I’m hoping my younger son will do the same next year and my eldest needs to really raise his game as he’s got A Levels next year! I think my younger kids just do their exams in the classroom too, but the whole year group sit the same subject at the same time to avoid cheating!

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  3. I see them as being useful for getting kids ready for exams so it’s not a shock to the system. I think that taking them each year in high school is healthy and helpful to show children that exams aren’t the be all and end all or worth getting stressed over. I draw the line at primary school though, I hate that we make our primary age children do exams, especially the year 2 sats.
    Nat.x

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    • I agree, they’re definitely useful in getting kids prepared for exams later on. I also agree with you about exams in primary. In my experience, kids don’t even know they’re doing them in y2 as they play them right down, but they do make a massive deal of them in y6.

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  4. I don’t recall ever doing end of year exams but we had modular exams through the school year for certain more exam based subjects. I presume that was how they decided if anyone was moving sets, but that was a very rare occurance (we were only set for science, maths and languages anyway). I’m not sure where I stand with them. I think it’s a good idea for children to get used to the process and get their head around the best way that they work on revision. I’d never done formal (non-practical music or ballet) exams apart from a Grade 3 theory music exam age 10, until final GSCEs. Kids these days are so much better prepared.

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    • We always had end of year exams at my secondary school. On the whole I do think it’s a good idea that kids can get some exam practise in before their GCSEs, but I don’t like it when kids themselves, schools or parents put too much pressure on. I will be interested to see the results of the kids who’ve worked really hard compared to my kids who haven’t!

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      • I agree with that. It seems that children put so much pressure on themselves too nowadays. When I think back, I used to have about 1 item of homework a night, and even at GCSE level I probably only did an hour of homework max a night. I was top set, but felt like I didn’t work much for them. I guess a lot of people put their kids into tutoring as well – although most of the straight As at GCSE in my year were due to kids having tutoring. So things haven’t changed that much in 23 years

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        • I didn’t know anyone who was tutored for their GCSEs! I wasn’t far off straight As myself. I did work pretty hard throughout the two years though.

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