Taking ‘O’ level GCE examinations: the strategies employed by candidates and their teachers

It is taken for granted that allowing a choice of questions in an examination question paper is desirable. Question choice allows teachers the freedom to prepare their candidates on those aspects of the syllabus that are most appropriate to the interests and strengths of both teacher and students. It also allows teachers and candidates to omit parts of the syllabus. Question choice for candidates enables them to organise their classwork and revision in order to capitalise on their strengths and concentrate their efforts on particular aspects or topics of the course. In the examination itself, the choice of questions allows candidates to select those questions that they believe will give them most credit. No examination can be constructed to test the whole of a syllabus and, therefore, only, a sample of the syllabus content can be assessed. Both candidates and teachers have to make careful decisions; the former to decide which questions to answer and which topics to revise for, and the latter to decide which topics to emphasise and review. The risks can be minimised by careful and thorough preparation over as much of the syllabus as possible, together with skilful and sound revision using past question papers.


This study sets out to examine the effect of question choice upon teachers’ practices and candidates’ behaviour both in revision and the strategies used in the examination. It was suggested in a previous investigation into Ordinary level chemistry (Francis and Owen, 1978), that candidates who adopted specific revision techniques and used past papers for this purpose were at a considerable advantage over their peers who did not. While this may appear axiomatic, this study looks at the relationship between candidates’ behaviour and the use of revision techniques.

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