“How do I improve my grade?”: Assess the Obvious

There are many reasons why students struggle with writing essays. It might be because of the higher level technique, the structuring of their own prose or arguing a certain standpoint. Or maybe we are missing the obvious…they just don’t have the recall of the basic information.

Because of this I introduced Key Knowledge Tests about three years ago (or KKT’s as my students know them). Every week I set a KKT in lesson to assess the previous week’s topic. They are designed to test the basic knowledge needed in order to survive on the course (so mainly key words, names and ideas).

Benefits for Student:

  • Enables them to keep track of their progress
  • Helps them recognise key points needed to do well in each topic
  •  Promotes revision early on so reduces crash revision and exam stress

Benefits for Teacher:

  • Invaluable measure of how well students are going
  • Clear indicator of any misinterpretations, errors or areas to recap
  • The students swop and mark them in class so there is no extra marking


But I don’t stop there. My students now do a full Key Knowledge Exam in each of the main areas: Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought. This exam takes roughly 60-70 minutes to complete in class and consists of a set of short questions, roughly 10-15 per topic area, that covers all the must know material (e.g. What is a predicate?). I then mark and grade each paper (for you own copies go to KKE Bundle).

There is a very simple reason as to why I do this and that is because I believe that a student’s essay writing technique will never improve past a certain point if they do not have a good recall of the basic information. This exam challenges their recall, test their revision and highlights areas of importance that might otherwise be missed. This is all about student progress not teacher work. It is about giving students autonomy over their revision, learning and progress in order to assess where they currently are and what they need to do to improve. Often improvement comes once reality sets in. This KKE is a reality check.

With linear subjects, students must embed good revision skills early on and recognise the importance of keeping on top of information and workload. There is no avoiding or getting away from the truth that there is one exam and one chance to do well. This KKE is an early indicator of what is and is not working before it is too late.

If you would like a Revision Pack that includes a Key Knowledge Test for each topic, please click on the image below to be transferred to the revision resource section of the shop:


For more revision tips check out Preparing for the Finish Line: Revising  New Spec  and “Oh no I need to revise!” Top Revision Tips.

3 thoughts on ““How do I improve my grade?”: Assess the Obvious

    1. Hi, all the KKT have an already made answer, which can be found on the powerpoints. Some questions might have a few correct answers e.g. for the Plato topic ‘what do we experience in this world?’ Answer: illusions, echoes, imperfect copies etc. but most are either right or wrong e.g for the Ontological Argument ‘what type of argument is it?’ Answer: a priori. Hope this helps 🙂

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