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Aqa As Level Timing


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#1 mumonamission

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 07:08 AM

My son took his first AS level History paper yesterday AQA unit 1c, the one with questions worth either 12 or 24 marks. He has Aspergers and the teachers over the years have been so helpful at trying to get him to write less, as he does tend to have trouble stopping! He always word processes his exams as his handwriting is very poor. When he came home he said he didn't quite finish the paper, but almost. Apparently he wrote 2300 words and while answering the questions found it very hard to move on as he kept thinking of other points that he thought were relevant. Makes me wonder whether he will ever 'get' exam technique! Still at least he thought that what he wrote was fairly good.

#2 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 11:03 AM

It is not essential to finish the paper, but he does need to discipline himself to write something about every question.

My advice for someone with Aspergers would be to do a calculation - based on the number of marks for each question - as to how long he has for each question.

Time for each question = Number of marks available times (Number of minutes divided by the number of marks)


Then he should be able to follow a RULE which says: when the time is up, move on to the next question.
If he has not finished that answer, leave a space to go back to it if he has time.

This will leave him feeling greatly frustrated, but will maximize his marks on a formulaic basis.

With other pupils, you can advise them to follow times as a general guide, on a 'swings and roundabouts' basis, and leave them to exercise their judgment.
Autistic/Aspergers pupils do not possess the intuitive mechanisms that allow them to judge when the 'best time to stop' is.
In which case, they are best to follow the formula litigiously.

Following a formula does not give you the highest marks - the best way is always to exercise that intuituve judgement about when to move on - but it DOES minimise the dangers, and is better than writing on and on about the first question in the way that Aspergers pupils can so obsessively get trapped into.


PS I trust you have applied for extra time?

#3 mumonamission

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 06:28 AM

Thanks Mr Clare for your sensible advice as usual. I think having a formula would appeal to my son. Yes he does lack that insight that tells him to move on, if something has sparked his interest then he could write pages! He can become so bogged down in detail but I think he needs to learn how to use that to his benefit. We did apply for extra time but that was not straightforward as his marks are usually so good there didn't seem any justification for extra time, however after doing one mock exam one of his new teachers was horrified at how little he had done, even though what was completed was 'excellent' according to her. He has the 2nd part of the history today so hope that goes well. He went to an extra revision class yesterday but he said it was mostly about their knowledge of the subject rather than the way to answer questions.

Thanks Mr Clare. I tried to post a reply earlier but lost internet connection so apologies if 2 replies come through. I think having a formula would work for my son. It is incredibly hard for him to move on from something he hasn't finished, it's just not the way he likes to work. But I think gradually he is beginning to see how to 'work smarter'. Todays History went better he felt. He wrote 2750 words and managed to finish all questions, he must have been typing 'like the clappers'!
He is allowed I think 20 mins extra in an exam, but this has been used in the past to make sure he is calm and focussed. School were very reluctant at first I think but realised how much he becomes bogged down in detail e.g. once spending 20 minutes trying to think of an interesting title for an English essay.
Fingers crossed he did well

#4 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 07:23 PM

You are correct that Aspergers pupils find it incredibly hard to make decisions.
I had one lovely pupil whom I used to tease mercilessly by asking him to choose all sorts of things as the lesson progressed - he knew what I was doing and found it as amusing as I did!
They can always find a caveat, and their mind just goes round and round!

I think you are correct that they prefer, and certainly do better, when things are expressed in terms of 'rules'.

So, if a decision has to be made, they can be asked to give each idea a score out of ten.
They can take N minutes to think about it, but then they choose the item they gave the highest score.
Where two ideas tie, they take the one which is first in the alphabet, or (say e.g. it is which question to choose) first numerically.

As to how long to spend on each question, similarly, there is a set time which they MUST obey.
Does your son do his exams on his own? You have to be careful, because some exam rules preclude this, but if he does, the invigilator might be able to give him 'time updates' at exactly the time he needs to stop writing and move on to the next question.
All a bit late to organise/practise for these exams, but worth exploring with the school SENCO/examiner for the future.

PS one of the hard things about working with Aspergers children is that it is easy to devise rules which will get them through safely, and agree the rules with them. But then you have to be prepared for them to decide (on, it appears to our brains, the flimsiest of reasons) to abandon the rules you so carefully devised, and to do something different.
That is part of the condition! And over the years I came to accept it as for the best; the pupil was exercising his rights, going his own way, asserting his independence, being himself ... and that was GOOD. There would be a cost, but he would have to pay it - it was his decision, for better for worse.
And there is always another day...

#5 mumonamission

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 09:38 AM

Hi Mr Clare,
I just wanted to thank you for the advice you gave to help my son in his History exam. We returned from holiday yesterday to find that he'd got an A which he was very pleased with and higher than the B he was predicted!

#6 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 09:45 AM

Excellent news; thank you for letting us know. I am sure Mr. Clare will be delighted.

#7 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 10:39 AM

Wonderful news.
Congratulations to you both!!!




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