Remy Shelton shares her experience and tips for preparing students for the new examined unit.
Attempting the dreaded finance unit is always a challenge. Teaching the finance exam element to the new NQF course for the level 3 BTECs has definitely been less challenging for those year 12 students who studied the course at level 2. Like most colleagues teaching the unit, I have taught the unit in order of the content list within the specification. Students have used the unit content list as a topic checklist and have highlighted the topic when completed, usually as a plenary activity to recap on what has been taught. After each topic has been taught I have then requested that my students complete the assessment activity from the text. This is an easy piece of summative assessment to carry out and allows students to receive a small mark for their progress. The text book for the unit is available to download as a PDF and can easily be found online. The revision guides and workbooks that Pearson has produced have also been useful with planning and are very student friendly. The revision guides are clear, full of mind maps for revision purposes and include valuable exam technique pages. Pages from the workbooks have also been helpful with lesson preparation and can be used for class tasks, exam question practice or simple homework tasks.
I have tried to aim lessons around the command words needed for the exam and regularly review the meaning of each term to check student understanding. Some students lacked the understanding of what ‘Analyse’ and ‘Evaluate’ actually meant and what was required in this type of question. This was definitely a key focus for me and needed to be reviewed before I could prepare them for mock questions. The command word definitions in the specification are helpful but I still felt that I needed to create a student friendly help sheet with my own definition of each key term. I have also spent time on teaching students different connectives to use .This has allowed my students to have a word bank ready for their exam and know how to structure their answers.
Section 1 (Learning Aim A and B) personal finance is a great topic to start with and usually the section my students score highly on. It is relevant, current and the content is full of terms students hear every day and at home. Not only have the topics been relatable but the topics have allowed a great amount of class discussion around borrowing, saving and the services financial institutions offer. Students have particularly enjoyed looking at different accounts as most year 12 students are now opening their first bank account, making lessons particularly relevant to their current financial situations.
I have started many of my lessons with logo activities, allowing students to recognise high street banks and building societies. This then usually leads nicely to links to their websites to identify what they offer customers in terms of financial services. I have tried to also make lessons relevant to current issues, one being the closure of branches around the country and the importance of the increase in online and mobile banking. Statistics can easily be found online and can be delivered as an easy research task for students to complete. I have let students use their own phones in class as a research tool which once again has allowed student debate, interactive activities and class discussion in lesson.
I tend to teach the topic and then focus another lesson of advantages and disadvantages of the personal finance term. For example, spending one or two lessons teaching all types of borrowing and then spending the next lesson looking at advantages and disadvantages for each type. This is usually done through class conversation, students producing advantages and disadvantages tables or flash cards for each type of borrowing. I have also tried ‘flipped learning’ for some topics. For example, giving each student a type of saving, asking them to present key features to their peers and deliver to the class its key advantages and disadvantages. Students then record notes from the presentation and deliver another form of saving back to the class.
Knowing key features, advantages and disadvantages of each topic in learning Aim A and B is key for section one. Section one includes one 10 mark ‘Assess’ question and one 12 mark ‘Evaluate’ question. Both questions will require students to give pros and cons and will require students’ answers to link possible advantages and disadvantages to a personal finance scenario. Knowledge of the topic is key and can allow students to pick up easy marks. Key marks are then awarded for links made to the case study or scenario given in the question. An example could be selecting a type of insurance that would be best for a person having been given their personal financial needs in the question, why the option is the most appropriate and what the advantages and disadvantages are from taking out the insurance type.
I have often used the Identify questions, which are usually the one mark questions as starter activity or mid plenary/recap question. Identify questions can easily be used as exit card questions to consolidate learning as they leave a lesson. I usually take examples of these easier questions from past papers, the Pearson workbook or from the text book itself.
Outline or explain questions are usually the command words used for the two mark questions. These questions have been successful in peer assessment activities. Allowing students to see whether their peers have the right content first for the one mark and then have they successfully further explained their point for the extra mark. I usually ask students to aim and complete the first section of the paper in 45 minutes and write a finish time for this section on the top of their paper when they begin their exam. Students then have the remaining time of the exam to focus on section 2 with the biggest weighting in marks.
Section 2, learning Aims C, D, E and F focus on business finance which contains some similar topics from the level 2 content list. It has been great to see total costs and total revenue formulas remembered by previous level 2 learners, allowing some students to start the learning aims with a basic understanding already.
The most difficult teaching element for this section is teaching formulas and getting them to stick with students. Over 25 formulas are needed for the second section and none are given within the exam. Flash cards have been successful and regular reminder tests as starter activities. One mark can be awarded for the right formula and can be key to starting a higher mark question in section 2.
Like section 1, knowledge based questions are introduced at the start of the second section. Learning the new definitions and key terms of the business finance terminology are an easy way to pick up those easy marks. I have found the best way to get the students to learn the new definitions is to give them a case study and ask them to link their answer to the business’s needs. For example, providing the students with a new business idea from the local area and asking them to identify what their revenue expenditure may be. This allows students to recall knowledge and practice the ability to link their answers to real life business scenarios.
Like section one, the importance of giving advantages and disadvantages is essential in the business section of the paper. Giving students different coloured pens for each advantage and disadvantage has helped with revision. Group work has also worked well with these topics too. For example, groups of 6 looking at sources of finances, two students providing definitions, two students provide advantages and two students provide disadvantages. This type of activity has allowed discussion within the group and peer assessment. Like the level 2 exam, students have been asked to identify key benefits and likely limitations of not completing certain financial documents like cash flow and break even. Again, completing regular tables for each and regular recalling will help students to explain both pros and cons in the higher mark questions.
Finally, ensuring students know how to conclude their answers has been imperative for answering those 12 marks questions. Many students are still very unclear on how to write a conclusion and sum up clear points made within a detailed exam response. I usually ask students to sum up their final idea or decision, why they have chosen the idea and end on a final link to the questions content. For example, if the question requires the student to suggest the best source of finance for a business then the conclusion will include the student’s final decision and their choice of finance. I then ask students to explain why they have made that choice with valid reasons and closure of their knowledge. Why it is the best option, valid reasons and why other choices are not viable for the business. I would then suggest for a final sentence to include a relevant connective and a final link to the questions scenario, this will allow a final summary of knowledge and the student’s overall opinion.
Remy Shelton is an Assistant Head of Sixth Form at the University Church of England Academy in Ellesmere Port.