The primary purpose of prelims is to let you experience what a formal exam setting is like and sit assessments that are as close as possible to the length and challenge of the final assessments.
As well as the actual assessment experience, prelims allow teachers to give you feedback and let you know how you are doing, but perhaps more importantly what you need to do differently, if anything as you prepare for the final assessments.
Along with assessments you sit in class time, prelims also get some ‘evidence in the bank’. In normal years this evidence is only formally needed by the small number of pupils who for a variety of reasons are unable to sit their final assessments. In recent years where the final exams have not taken place, assessment evidence from class-based assessments and prelims has been significant in helping to determine your final grades.
Assessment evidence from class-based and prelim assessments also helps teachers submit estimates to SQA. Estimates are used by the SQA as part of the exceptional circumstance arrangements and for their own internal quality checks.
Key strategies to doing your best (preparation)
The best way to get the most out of the prelims is to be prepared. You should study for your assessments as far in advance as possible. Effective studying goes beyond just reading your notes. Effective studying includes summarising your notes, making flashcards or mind-maps and practising answering questions, including those from past papers. This helps get the information into your long-term memory. If you don’t know how to study or are not seeing improvement based on the studying you are doing, speak to your teachers or PTG for advice. Successful revision is as much about how you study, as well as how much time you invest.
Eating properly before and during the prelim diet is important in giving the brain the fuel it needs to perform at its best.
Staying up late the day before an exam ‘cramming’ is rarely productive.
The prelim window runs from Friday 7th January 2022 through to Monday 24th January 2022.
S3 pupils undertaking National Qualifications
S3 pupils undertaking National Qualifications this session will have any prelim arrangements communicated with them separately. In some cases, they may sit prelims along side S4, S5 and S6 pupils but may also have prelim assessments out with the date range given above.
This year we are offering study leave to pupils in S4, S5 and S6. To benefit from study leave we must have consent from a parent/carer. We will send an email to each pupil’s main contact which provides the option to give consent or to decline consent.
Study leave is offered on the understanding that parents/carers ensure pupils use the time well to work at home and prepare for examinations to get the best possible grades. Study Leave may be withheld from pupils who have failed to make satisfactory progress in their courses over the session. Teachers may arrange additional support times with pupils not making satisfactory progress to enable them to catch up on class work, folio work and/or assessments. If a pupil fails to attend these prearranged times parents/carers will be contacted immediately and unless there is a medical reason for their absence, the privilege of Study Leave may be withdrawn.
Study Leave is from Friday 7 January 2022 to Friday 21 2022 January (both dates inclusive). All Pupils must return to school on Monday 24 January 2022. The final exams of the exam diet are also on Monday 24 January 2022.
It is permissible for pupils to stay at home before an examination or arrive at school as normal in the morning. Unless you have an assessment starting before 9am, pupils must sign in then go to a study area. At the end of an examination, pupils must either go home or go to a study area. If a pupil has signed in, they must also sign back out. If you had an assessment first thing and plan to stay on and study in school, you must sign in immediately after your first assessment ends.
Pupils must not abuse the privilege of study leave by wandering around the community/school prior to or after an examination.
Study leave is for studying and is offered on the understanding that pupils are at home working to prepare for your assessments. It is not for meeting up with friends in town, for watching daytime TV or for getting some extra hours in with part time jobs.
We will endeavour to provide a personal timetable to each pupil, but each pupil should check their own subjects against the master timetable to check that:
- all the subjects and assessments you expect are included
- you are not being asked to sit two assessments at the same time
- that if you have two different subjects on the same day that you have enough time between them to eat your lunch and get a rest break.
If a pupil has any concerns about their timetable they should speak to me, Mr Gardner, as soon as possible.
Pupils should ensure they bring blue/black pens, a ruler, pencil, eraser and when necessary, a calculator. Please do not delay or disrupt the start of an assessment and inconvenience others by arriving without the necessary equipment.
We expect you to attend assessments in full dress code.
Unlike a normal class lesson, there are some things you are not allowed to bring into a formal assessment. These are called prohibited items and include:
- Mobile phones
- Electronic devices which can store information or connect you to others (smart watches, tablets, ear pods etc)
- Extra information – books, notes, sketches, or anything written on paper, your clothes or your body.
- Pencil cases (unless they are clear and colourless) or calculator cases
- Calculators (except where they are specifically allowed)
- Dictionaries (except where they are specifically allowed)
The reason these things are prohibited is that they could give someone an unfair advantage.
If you have long hair, we would ask that it is tied back during the assessment – so that it is clear that you are not using ear pods.
Lateness and Absence
If, for any reason, a pupil is late for an assessment, he/she must report to the main Campus Reception without delay. It may still be possible for them to sit your assessment. If your son/daughter is ill and unable to sit an assessment, please inform the school by telephone before the start of the examination.
If we experience disrupted school due to adverse weather, we will reschedule assessments wherever possible. If school transport is not running, pupils should make their way to school only if it is safe to do so and if they are also able to make their own arrangements for returning home after the assessments.
Arriving for the assessment
You should arrive at the assessment venue (wherever possible) at least 10 minutes before the stated start time. You will be let into the venue before the start time so that you can check you are in the right place, get settled and have any notices or instructions provided to you so that you can start at or as close to the official start time as possible. If the assessment starts a little early or later the end time will be adjusted.
You will be allocated a specific desk number for each assessment. These will be displayed outside the venue as well as being included in any individual timetables issued. Please sit quietly at the corresponding desk and wait for further instructions.
During your prelim assessments you will be supervised (or invigilated) by many of the same team who will invigilate your final assessments. This is to let pupils and invigilators get to know each other. During prelims we will also use school-based staff to invigilate. The job of an invigilator is to make sure your assessments take place according to the rules, that no-one gains an unfair advantage and that no-one is unfairly disadvantaged.
You must listen to and follow any instruction given to you by an invigilator.
If anything, unexpected happens to you during an exam, such as you begin to feel unwell, you should immediately and quietly raise your hand and tell an invigilator.
Question papers or booklets
In most cases when you arrive at your assessment desk the question paper and or answer booklet will already be on your desk. You should only touch this when directed to by an invigilator. You should check that the subject and level (i.e. National 5, Higher or Adv Higher) match the subject and level that you were expecting.
When directed you must complete the front of the booklet or answer paper including your name (including surname) and your desk number. If there is space to write your SCN (Scottish candidate number) you should do this as well. If you are the only person in a particular room your desk number should be recorded as ‘n/a’ (not applicable).
Do not look at the questions or begin answering until you are directed to by an invigilator.
Your SCN is the 9-digit number which is included in the tracking emails which we send. It is useful if you can memorise this.
Writing your answers
Your invigilators will tell you when you can begin to read the questions and write your answers. From this point forward you must remain silent unless talking to an invigilator.
Pupils must use a pen with black or blue ink. Do not use gel pens as these can fade.
It is important that the markers can read your writing. They will do their best to read your work, but they might not be able to award marks if your writing is difficult to read. When writing on unlined pages, try to leave a space of about 1 cm between lines.
In some subjects, poor spelling and punctuation could also result in marks not being awarded. If you have any concerns about this, or about your handwriting, speak to your teacher in advance.
Remember to cross out any rough work, or any unwanted answers if you make more than one attempt at a question.
The invigilators will tell you when to stop writing. When they do you should remain silent, put your pen or pencil down and wait for further instructions.
Leaving the exam room
Candidates must remain in the examination room under the supervision of the invigilator(s) for the complete duration of the examination. Leaving early is not normally permitted as it can disrupt other candidates. We would ask that you go to the toilet before your assessments to reduce the need for supervised toilet breaks during the assessment.
Before you leave, you must give the invigilator all your exam papers, including any answer booklets, extra sheets, question papers and data booklets. You could lose all marks for the paper concerned if you don’t give your exam papers to the invigilator before leaving the exam room.
Additional expectations re conduct in formal assessments
We expect that you will model the school’s values of Honesty, Hard work, Ambition, Respect and Kindness before, during and after your assessments. We expect this between pupils, but also in relation to members of the invigilation team and school staff.
Fairness & Malpractice
Everyone should have a fair chance to do their best during exams. Cheating or causing a disturbance during an exam is unfair to other candidates. Examples of cheating and unfair behaviour (candidate malpractice) include the following:
- Having prohibited items with you at your seat in the exam room
- Pretending to be someone else or getting someone else to take an exam for you
- Disruptive behaviour in the exam room
- Using rude, abusive, offensive, or discriminatory language or images
- Copying from another person
- Collusion — communicating with other candidates working with other candidates on an individual task that must be your own work
- Plagiarism – failing to reference sources properly or presenting someone else’s work as your own
Any cheating or unfair behaviour can have serious consequences for your results and your future. This could include losing marks, receiving a lower grade, or having your qualification cancelled. Your school or college can explain more about this.
In our ongoing efforts to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 we continue to have in place a number of mitigations which include wearing face coverings, the use of hand sanitiser and the regular sanitisation of desks and chairs. At this time, we expect that these will remain in place during the prelims. For the avoidance of any doubt, we do expect pupils to wear face coverings during their assessments unless medically exempt. We use the required desk spacing in our prelims that is enforced for the final SQA exam’s, in addition to our normal practice of providing the maximum possible social distancing.
At this time, we plan to deliver assessments in the same range of venues used for the final exams. This includes the school’s Theatre and Dance Studio, as well as some of the smaller rooms in the school. The situation remains under constant review, considering the latest health advice. If Covid-19 case numbers rise, we may revert to providing assessments in classrooms rather than larger venues.
To meet specific identified needs, some pupils may be invited to sit assessments in venues other than those shown in the master timetable and this information will be communicated to pupils on an individual basis.
Additional Assessment Arrangements
To ensure fairness, some pupils are provided with Additional Assessment Arrangements (AAA). These can include the use of specifically coloured paper, being part of a small group, having extra time or being able to take breaks where the ‘clock is stopped’. These arrangements are to ensure no candidate is unduly disadvantaged. They are put in place based on evidence and demonstrated need. If a pupil is entitled to an AAA this will be discussed with them on an individual basis.
Assessment Evidence (under what circumstances might it be used)
While the most important evidence produced for a National 5, Higher or Advanced Higher course is the final assessment, evidence produced in a prelim assessment, along with some class-based evidence can form an important source of evidence, if for any reason you are unable to sit the final assessment. For this reason, you should try to do as well as you can in these assessments, while also recognising that there is still a lot of learning time available after them too. Even if you don’t do as well as you would like in the prelims, what matters the most is that you learn from the prelim experience and the feedback that you will receive from staff, based on the evidence you provide.
We appreciate that this is a lot of information to take in, but we believe it is important to give our school community as much information as possible given that our pupils have not been able to experience formal style assessments for much of the last two sessions.
On behalf of the staff at Alford Academy, I wish each pupil every success and am grateful for the support and assistance provided by parents/carers in helping them prepare for these important assessments.
Mr Struan Gardner
Depute Head Teacher