Getting ready for exams is not easy. There is an unlimited number of revision resources that can be drawn upon and there are multiple subjects pulling students in opposing directions. One of the core challenges therefore, is knowing what things to focus on to produce the most impact. That is to say, what work to do and what work to avoid. This article introduces the concept of the Bulletproof Booklet and how it can help your child discern what tasks and topics to focus on in the last few weeks prior to exams.
One of the biggest traps we see students fall into is that they study for the subjects or topics that they’re most confident with, avoiding the areas that actually require more work. This is a natural avoidance behaviour that we see exhibited by students – even those who are naturally driven and focused.
One of the simple techniques we’ve seen used by top students is to prioritise their weakest areas using the Elevate Bulletproof Booklet. This involves 3 steps.
Step 1: Do past exams or revision questions
Students cannot self-identify their blind spots (that’s why they’re called blind spots). Therefore, the best way to find them is to test for them by completing a past exam – regardless of how ‘ready’ they feel. These exams can be sourced from their school, from the Elevate Student Portal, or they can get state-mandated past exams from the exam board websites.
Step 2: Get the exam/questions graded
There are 2 main ways to do this. Firstly, the student can submit it to their teacher. Alternatively, if your child has completed an official past exam, they can mark it themselves using examiner’s reports which can be found on the state-based examination authority websites.
Step 3: Fill in the Bulletproof Booklet
The Bulletproof Booklet is essentially a catalogue or database of all the wrong answers or lost marks. it contains a series of blocks for the student to fill in which include the source exam, the question itself, the topic(s) it related to, and most importantly why they lost marks on that question.
They may need to speak to their teacher about this column to get accurate feedback, or it may be obvious to them once reading the correct answer. Either way, it is important for them to identify the reason why they got it wrong. Was it due to misreading the question, did they miss a key-term in a definition? Did they not show their workings? Whatever the reason, this is important to identify so that the student can begin to re-frame their understanding or approach to that question style or topic. The final column leaves room for the student to fill in the correct answer to the question to use as a reference point.
Once the student has repeated this process for 3+ exams, it begins to reveal patterns in their exam behaviour. By spotting patterns they can then isolate where their weaknesses are and focus primarily on these. This booklet becomes a record of all of their wrong answers and the associated correct ones, thus being a highly effective study resource. If they are to read over their notes, a student will derive more benefit from reading over their Bulletproof Booklet than any summary that can be created.
Many students will spend the last week of their exam preparation block by writing and re-writing notes. While this results in students having feelings of accomplishment, in reality they have just copied out information from one sheet of paper onto another. Not a lot of learning takes place there. Conversely, those students who drill into the specifics and focus on their weaknesses turn them into strengths and become, dare we say, exam bulletproof.