Confusing and seemingly off-topic questions left GCSE students baffled in exams this year.
However, those that rose to the challenge were likely to have achieved higher grades, as they demonstrated extracurricular thinking.
Here we’ll explore just what those questions were, and how teachers can encourage out-of-the-box thinking in years to come.
What were the odd GCSE questions?
Odd GCSE questions were scattered across the curriculum, but here are some of the ones that made the headlines:
Biology students found themselves asked to consider why some Victorian publications published pictures of Charles Darwin drawn as a monkey, shortly after he published his theories on evolution. Even though the topic of evolution was part of the syllabus, very few students had considered the social side to biology when preparing for the exam.
Geography students were bewildered when asked to apply statistics about dishwasher usage to suggest why water demand is increasing. In addition, many students had spent months memorising case studies that barely featured in the exam.
Why did the exam boards ask these questions?
These questions require a critical thinking approach, and allow exam boards to differentiate between A* and C grade students. This is becoming more important as the changes to GCSEs take place.
By asking students to apply their knowledge to a real world scenario, or an unusual context, examiners are asking them to demonstrate their understanding of the material.
Where lower ability students will be reliant on the facts and figures they memorised, higher ability students will be able to analyse and engage with this material/context on a different level.
How can you help your students prepare for the unexpected?
Odd GCSE questions can shake students’ confidence. However, those who can balance facts and figures with real-life knowledge applications will be in the strongest position when it comes to exams. Here are a few ways teachers can help their students achieve the top grades:
- Inspire students to think outside of the box before the exam period begins. It should be second nature by the time exams come around.
- Encourage students to question things and come at them from different angles.
- Put down the textbooks and encourage class discussions. You’ll find new angles and discussion points much more easily this way. As it’s more interactive, the students will be more likely to remember what they learn, and speaking in front of their peers will help them build up confidence.
- Curriculum-based school trips will contextualise the facts and figures students have learned and give them some vital hands-on experience. For example, a trip to the Natural History Museum would have helped biology students with the Darwin question!
Start preparing your students for their GCSEs through exciting school trips and fun practical elements related to the curriculum. These will contextualise the facts they already know.
Find out more about organising a school trip with WorldStrides, to give your students real world experience applying what they’ve learned in the classroom.