What is a Review?: Exam Reviews with Pivot Interactives

December 2, 2022

Exam Reviews with Pivot Interactives

Whether you’re reviewing for the AP® or IB® exams or just getting students ready for your end-of-term assessments, reviewing is essential and doesn’t need slide shows and packets to get the job done.

When I started as a teacher, my mentor teacher told me that there were five parts to the science lesson cycle: lecture, lab, practice, review, and exam. When I asked how to review, my mentor just kinda waved their hands in the air and said, “ya know… you review…. You do a review.”

*Begin blank staring* 

Funny enough, as a teacher, I don’t remember EVER being taught what a review was, let alone how to review. So, let’s set the record straight.

What is a review, and what does it mean to review?

“Reviewing” is a broad term used in education to describe an opportunity to reteach a topic based on previous data. Generally, the review is the last point of direct instruction you give. However, nothing is saying that it MUST be right before the exam. It’s crucial to avoid review overload, which is typical at the end of the year. 

How do we determine what to include in a review?

When we review, we provided a targeted reteach: this means we’re using data (typically from previous assessments) to drive our discussions. For exams like the AP® or the IB®  exam, I like to use mock exam data. I use mock exams when my in-class exams do not mimic the exam style, in terms of length of content, of the final exam. 

Take my AP® Physics 1 course: our unit exams were 80% current material and 20% previous material. This meant that each unit exam was heavily weighted to only one topic. However, the actual AP® Physics 1 exam is weighted based on the exam weighting breakdown listed in the Course and Exam Description (the CED). So, to get a snapshot of this method, I would do a mock exam, where students would sit for the entire length AP® exam using the exact times, scripts, and tools as though it was an actual exam. While mock exams are not required, they give you significant data to base your review on.

Using Previous Assessment Data

If you aren’t using a mock exam, you will want to use previous assessment data. This could include:

  • Scores on previous summative assessments, like tests,
  • Scores on previous formative assessments, such as experiments, in-class practice, Pivot Interactives activities, exit tickets, and quizzes,
  • Anecdotal evidence, and observations from instructional times, like observing when the majority of the class didn’t know the answer to a question or a time when a lot of students asked for help with a certain step of the activity.

Remember, data isn’t always a score. It could be the time it took for students to answer a question correctly or the number of students who volunteered to answer a question. It could be example responses to a question you asked during an activity. It could even be the noise level of the room when they’re working or the number of off-task conversations during an activity (I found that off-task conversations happened the most when the activity was too easy or too hard). You are the expert on your students: you likely have a gut feeling in general about what needs to be reviewed. Go with that!

What should I be reviewing?

Remember the data we collected earlier: now is the time to let it shine!

When you’re selecting topics for whole group review or small group/individual review, look at where the whole group needs help. Topics where 50% or more of the students need to review are ideal for whole-class interventions. Topics where 25-50% of the students need review work great for small groups. Topics that are needed by less than 25% of the students work well for individual reviews. 

I recommend identifying needs with the students. This will encourage them to make independent decisions in the process and grow their ownership in the review. 

  • As a part of our calendar building, I had the students rank the topics in order of importance, with the highest priority getting the most points and the lowest priority getting the least points. With students who are new to this strategy, I would have them explain their ranking. We would then share these rankings anonymously through Google Forms or Google Sheets.
  • You can also use a point-by system (much like those used in tabletop RPGs) where students have a certain amount of points to allocate to the topic: the topics with the most points get reviewed first and for the longest. This method can be great with younger students because they can visually put their points into their “review buckets” by using marbles and bowls. You can also give yourself “teacher points” to allocate to topics that you feel need review as well. If you’re using the marble method, give the students a different color marble than yourself so that they can see where YOU think they need review and where THEY think they need review. 

Generally, with end-of-year reviews, I try not to review more than 3 weeks of learning in one day. This means my reviews tend to cover a single unit. For units where my students need more work, each day becomes more granular. 

End of Year Review

It’s not just WHAT you review… it’s WHEN you review too!

An essential part of your end-of-year review is to know when you intend to review. This is especially important for the end-of-term reviews because there are a lot of factors to consider. I recommend making a review calendar with your students. Generally, mine was just a table like this:

Review Calendar (PS: That’s the 2022 AP® Exam dates on there. Wanna see the 2023 dates? Go here.)

Notice, before I even start placing review topics on there: it’s already REALLY full! I can’t review on:

Ask your kids to include days they will miss, sports events, school events, field trips… EVERYTHING. Mark out any days that over ½ the class will be busy. The remaining days: highlight them. Those are the days you honestly have available for review. The other days will be independent review days. 

Bonus: By building this calendar with your students, you are modeling how to make study plans, an important skill for students in advanced academics! Students also have greater buy in to attend class on days when they said they plan to review as a class because they feel that they were part of the plan-making: the student is not just missing out on your plans; if they don’t attend, they’re missing out on their OWN plans.

AP® Teacher Advice: Encourage students to get an AP® review book that they like. These can be invaluable for additional review and summarized notes. Older editions are usually available in used condition on Amazon for $5. I have found them at thrift stores for pennies. Make sure that your review book is up to date for your exam topics. For example, an AP® Chemistry review book from 2000 will not cover the material on the current exam; however, last year’s review book will likely work well. There are several different review book authors and styles, so this can be an opportunity for them to see which ones work best for them. Ask students to donate their old review books to a classroom library for the next year’s students to preview before they purchase.

Wanna learn how to use Pivot Interactives to review for your exams? Check out our blog on Review Strategies with Pivot Interactives.

*AP® is a registered trademark by the College Board which is not affiliated with and does not endorse Pivot Interactives. IB® is a registered trademark by the International Baccalaureate which is not affiliated with and does not endorse Pivot Interactives.