This section describes the Ziauddin Schools and Colleges examinations process for parents and students.
In this booklet you will find detailed information about the purpose of exams for students and how we, in Ziauddin Schools and Colleges, use the outcomes of exams to ensure that our students are always learning and always achieving.
Our aim is to ensure that when our students reach the point of taking Board exams, or international qualifications, they are not only fully prepared to succeed, but ready to excel beyond all others.
Why are we giving an exam to our students?
We need to give exams to our students so that we can evaluate their progress in relation to the curriculums they are following.
Exams have the following key purposes at all levels of education, but these play a very influential role in Ziauddin Schools and Colleges for our students:
- Exams provide a controlled environment for students’ independent work in order to verify students’ learning.
- Exams, and their results, are a motivating factor for students’ study. When exams are coming up, students will revise more and this plays an important role in ensuring deeper and long-lasting learning.
- Since exams are a form of learning activity, they add variety to learning. Through exams, students get to see the content of the curriculum from a different perspective.
- They provide feedback that students can then use to improve their
- To identify weaknesses and correct them. Exams enable both students and teachers to identify which areas the students do not understand. This supports us in addressing areas that may need more attention, thus ensuring student progression, improvement and success when it matters most.
What are we assessing?
We are assessing the Learning Outcomes for the course. These are prescribed by the curriculum that the students are following. These cannot be amended, altered or deleted in any way since they ensure the quality of what is taught and learned nationally.
NOTE: Copies of the curriculums are freely available and we urge all parents to make themselves aware of the learning outcomes and the prescribed skills and understandings in the curriculums.
At Ziauddin Schools and Colleges, we see the curriculum as the most valuable focus point for all of the teaching and learning. Valuing this, we not only ensure that we are assessing the achievement of the content covered in lessons, but also the intentions of the curriculum regarding skills and understandings.
From this, you can see that we are not examining students’ ability to memorise content. This is not learning. We are examining:
- Knowledge and how it is used.
We design our examination questions to assess students’ understanding of the material covered in class and their ability to apply that understanding.
- Process and product.
We design our exams to test students’ reasoning skills and evaluate this ability in our students by allocating marks and other feedback on the process they follow to arrive at a solution. We also allocate marks to the end product (the outcome achieved) of an examination activity.
- Communicating ideas.
Since we put a lot of focus on our students developing their language skills, we use exams to evaluate our students’ communication skills – their ability to express themselves in writing.
- Convergent thinking and divergent thinking.
Our aim is to enable all of our students to think – we work with them in ways that develop their critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills. For this, we test our students’ ability to draw a single conclusion from different sources of information (convergent thinking) and we also want them to come up with different possible answers (divergent thinking). We expect and value different answers from students rather than expecting all of them to provide the same answer that has been memorised.
- Absolute and relative standards of achievement.
We do not simply see student success being defined by them learning a set amount of material and demonstrating certain set skills. We also assess student success from the amount of progress they make over the duration of the academic year. Therefore, exams are an important opportunity for us to learn how to provide the highest level of support to our students continued learning.
How do we decide what to test and how to test it?
We ensure that the exams students take are consistent (100% aligned) with the curriculum learning outcomes for each course.
We test our students using multiple question types because we know that different students are better at different types of questions. In order to provide a fair opportunity for all students to demonstrate their understanding, our exams include a variety of types of questions.
We also ensure that our exams are free of bias. We understand that our students differ in many ways, including their language proficiency, socio-economic background, physical disabilities, etc. When constructing an exam, we keep student differences in mind to watch for ways that the exams could create obstacles for some students. We do everything we can to avoid such shortcomings.
We see exams as only one part of the process of measuring our students’ learning, and exams are not seen as the sole opportunity for students to obtain marks. Assignments and midterm exams provide students with lots of opportunities to practice answering different types of questions, and we will always balance the outcomes of these assessments along with the students’ final exam outcomes.
An exam that is too easy does not accurately measure students’ understanding at all. We make our exams challenging so that we are truly testing understanding; an easy exam does not help our students work in the right way and learn in the right way, which means they are not being prepared for the exams that truly matter – those that begin in Grade 8.
We aim to prepare a marking scheme or rubric that verifies that we are really testing the material we want to test. In this way we are able to give students consequential marks; this means that we do not penalise students for the same error repeatedly. If an error is made but then carried through the answer, using the marking scheme we would penalise it only once if the rest of the response to the question is sound. We are always looking to give students marks rather than take them away.
Exam review exercise.
After each set of exams, all teachers review the exam papers with the students, working through the solutions to each paper in each subject. We do this so that students learn more about the types of question they can face in exams, and also it is another chance to learn or to correct any misunderstandings about a topic. This happens as soon as possible after each set of exams.
What are the question types in Ziauddin Schools and Colleges exams?
We use a range of question types which are the same as can be found in the qualification exams that the students ultimately take in grade 8.
Short Answer Questions
These require a brief but descriptive answer, which ask students to discuss and expand on a topic or idea. Typical questions will begin with ‘explain’, ‘define’ or ‘list’. For this type of question, the students must know the key terms and theories for a topic. To prepare our students for this type of question, in lessons we work with them to write important points and summaries to get them used to identifying and explaining significant ideas.
Multiple Choice Questions
Multiple Choice Question are focused on terms and definitions. These are key pieces of data or important facts/ figures that need to be memorised. In our lessons, our teachers focus on these key terms and definitions and ensure that students have fully retained them before moving on.
These questions require students to write critical judgements or well-structured discussion or arguments with a clearly defined ‘beginning, middle and end’. In our lessons and for homework, we give our students essay practice to prepare them for this type of question. For these, teachers provide highly constructive feedback not only on the content, but on the student’s ability to structure their writing, so that they are always learning and developing their writing skills.
Some Other Exams
Open Book Exams
These depend on students’ ability to use information to build an argument, to discuss a point of view, or to build a case for something. In our lessons, we do a lot of work on developing students’ research skills, critical thinking skills, and their ability to reason and evidence their logic – all these are important attributes if students are going to be ‘users of information’ rather than slaves to it.
We know that there are four language skills in which all of our students must become proficient. Reading/ Comprehension and writing skills are tested through the exam papers. Skills for speaking and listening are assessed through oral exams. In our lessons, we use a range of language teaching techniques to ensure that students are developing their communicative competence, and use digital, audio and video media to expose our students to language-in-use. This prepares them for our oral exams.
The long-standing theory that supports our exam system
We use Bloom’s (original) Taxonomy (a theory that underpins the work of all school systems in Pakistan) to construct our exams. This ensures that we are always working to develop and assess our students’ higher-order learning, rather than only relying on lower-order skills assessment – this is how our students succeed.
We see time as a precious resource and so we do everything to ensure that we do not waste it and that students get the most learning in the least amount of time, from every activity they engage with in school.
Our exams help our students get the most out of their learning – school exams are another form of learning, which we use proactively and constructively to help our students excel.
Whatever the grade that is achieved, our teachers will use this information to provide better and more challenging learning, and ensure the maximum support and encouragement to our learners.
For us, exams in school are an important part of learning and not an end point. We are preparing our students for exams that really matter – those that lead to qualifications from an Awarding Body. In Ziauddin Schools and Colleges, we are affiliated to the UK’s Edexcel Examination System, and so our in-school exams, across all grade levels, are focused on getting our students to the point where they can confidently sit the Edexcel exams and gain the best marks possible for their efforts.