It’s human nature, you panic. I don’t care what your name is. You can’t help it. Fuck, man, you panic on the inside, in your head, you know? You give yourself a couple of seconds. You get ahold of the situation. You deal with it. What you don’t do is start shooting up the place and start killing people. (Reservoir Dogs: Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
It’s less than a month to go before the Shakespeare exams my Y11s and Y13s will be taking. The Y12s and Y10s have mocks broadly over the same period.
Today’s post relates to three things I often say in the classroom:
Firstly, that panic is fine, a good thing almost, inasmuch as it gets the adrenaline going and allows you to perform superhuman feats in the hall. You think and write faster. It’s a basic, fight-or-flight, caveman thing … but we are not cavemen, so we panic just a little, on the inside. Then we get a grip. Right?
Then, the observation that the biggest enemy of the well-prepared student is time. Students ask more frequently than you might imagine whether I/we could get a top grade at GCSE or A Level. My response is always that the toughest thing for me – and all the other teachers in the department – would be getting their ideas down in the time allowed. (Related to this, I am tirelessly saying that if you finish early in any English exam, you have probably done something very wrong)
Finally, and connected to the above, is the notion that I won’t ask my students to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. That’s a bit of a fop to my enjoyment of writing model answers: see all those Forensic Friday posts.
So. At A Level (OCR board), students have a 35-40 minute question in which they’re presented with an extract from the play they’ve studied and asked, basically, to thoroughly analyse it – and this is exactly what I asked my Y12 and Y13 classes to do yesterday, with different extracts from Richard III. I could have written yet another Forensic Friday model, but actually I thought it might be useful to do something else.
What you have here, therefore, is my copy of the Y12 question paper, with my annotations over the course of six-minutes, leaving about a half-hour race against time to get a prize-winning answer written.
And yes, my heart WAS beating a little faster by the end …
Feel free to give me a shout with any questions about my annotations!
PS: shooting up the place and killing people is not a recommended exam strategy.