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Hole in one on the big day

THE golfer Colin Montgomerie, who has course problems of his own at present, has offered top tips to beat stress and help pupils succeed in their exams - even at this late stage.

"When you're stressed, you're stuffed. I practise every shot in my head until I know I can do it," Scotland's top golfer advises in a new motivational publication aimed at pushing students towards success.

Monty's tip is worth noting, Alistair Smith, one of the country's most sought-after learning consultants, said last week on a training day in the capital.

Students can practise questions in their heads before the big day, getting in the right frame of mind. "In the last week I would be using maps and visual cues, taking questions and structuring the skeleton of a mock answer. I wouldn't do it longhand. The day before the exam I would take an overview. I would lay out all the stuff and talk myself through it," Mr Smith said.

Every strategy should be deployed to improve memory. "Memory is a better predictor of success at Standard grade than a high IQ," he stated.

It was about making as many connections in the brain as possible. "Children do not get sufficient coaching in skills related to memory and the way they are assessed is predominantly about recalling information in challenging circumstances. If we are able to teach memory techniques we would make them more independent learners," he said.

Rewriting notesis a waste of time, unless students are reorganising them. "Teaching someone else is useful, explaining things as you go, or talk something through yourself, doing it aloud," Mr Smith says.

The secrets to exam success were practice - "little and often", not last minute bingeing - and self-testing. "It improves familiarity and your level of understanding. You do it at home as well," Mr Smith said.

Research has shown that over a six-month period recall is only 0-10 per cent after one input and one test. Test four or more times and the figure rises to more than 60 per cent.

Mr Smith would like to see more frequent and varied testing in and out of class, with teachers instructing on exam technique and students mentally rehearsing successful strategies. "Sitting mock exams in the same space where you are going to sit the final exam and doing revision work in the same space are important. If you are sitting exams in the assembly hall, you do it there. If you have got a higher level of familiarity, you have got less stress," he said.

Mr Smith, addressing primary teachers in the Craigmount cluster, urged more revision of work at the end of lessons and end of week to imprint learning. Staff could use some of the techniques pupils use, such as memory maps and peer teaching.

"You make a difference 20 to 30 years down the line, you are a lifelong learning role model," Mr Smith told teachers.

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