Insider Secrets of the Exam Boards

Exams - Set - Go!

Today I’m going to show you a treasure trove of useful information that you might not have come across before!

If your child is doing GCSEs, A Levels or similar, the content they have to learn will be set by an exam board, a big organisation that operates nationally. So that comment I often hear that A levels are harder at some colleges than others is just plain wrong – they’re all the same. Teachers go to the exam board to get the specification – that’s the syllabus that tells them what material to cover in their lessons.

Now, did you know that lots of the information on the exam board websites is publicly available? Not just the specifications – there are sample assessments (that’s exam papers with answers) and past papers, guides to assessment – even examiners’ reports. And if you get hold of these resources, and use them, you can really boost grades.

Practising past papers is obviously important, but the real value is in the mark scheme: getting a clear understanding of what the examiner is looking for enables you to tailor your answers to hit all the marks. It’s a sad fact that much of our system is about testing how well you can pass exams rather than discovering your overall abilities. The Examiner’s Report comes next – that’s a document that highlights all the common errors people made on the paper: great for avoiding pitfalls. And of course the specification itself – it’s a good idea to base revision planning on this, so you know you haven’t missed anything.


So your challenge today is to find out which exam boards your child’s exams are with (if it’s for GCSE, just choose 2-3 subjects to focus on so it doesn’t become overwhelming). If you’re not sure bout the exam board, you can often find it on the school’s website or intranet – wherever they put details of courses. You may already have some past papers at home showing the name of the exam board – common ones are OCR, AQA and Edexcel but there are others.

Once you know the exam boards, get on the website and stat downloading stuff! Some of it might be password-protected but much of it won’t be. Set aside some time over the next week to look through it together. Come back tomorrow for the final part of the challenge.

Read this next! Part 5: Revision – why bother? All about motivation

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