Designing Effective Exam Wrappers...

An 'Exam Wrapper' (also known as a 'Cognitive Wrapper' or an 'Assessment Wrapper') is a metacognition reflection worksheet designed to be used before and after assessments, practice exam papers or practice exam sections. Use of exam wrappers is one of the most consistently recommended metacognitive strategies that teachers might employ by those writing on metacognition and pedagogy.

Exam wrappers have two sections, one to be completed before the assessment and the other afterwards. When designing an exam wrapper it is sensible to have these sections on different sides of the page.

This article provides tips, advice and ideas on how to create a good exam wrapper for your students. If you would like to save time we have created a set of five exam wrappers that you can download here.

The Purpose of an Exam Wrapper

Exam wrappers have many potential uses and focuses: it is impractical to make a single exam wrapper that encompasses all of them. For this reason it is better to have a variety of different exam wrappers that, as a teacher, you cycle through over the course of multiple assessments and practice papers. This way you can ensure that student engagement is maintained by the variety of tasks and that multiple aspects of metacognition are fostered through their use.

The pre-assessment section should have a different emphasis than the post-assessment section. Here are some general metacognitive issues a student out to reflect on before and after their assessment, framed as questions.

Pre-Assessment Reflections

  • What is your current state of mind and how might it impact performance?

  • How long did you spend preparing for the test?

  • How did you prepare for the test?

  • Which revision activities did you find most effective?

  • How are you feeling about the assessment?

  • Are there any physiological issues that might interfere with performance today? [e.g. lack of sleep, dehydration, hunger, etc]

  • What topics do you feel most and least confident about that might arise in this test?

  • In relation to longer answers: what kind of content makes for an ideal answer?

  • What challenges do you face?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses in this subject?

  • What is the examiner looking for?

  • What are your current targets based on previous assessments?

Post-Assessment Reflections

  • How did it go?

  • What went well?

  • What didn't go well?

  • What challenges arose in that assessment?

  • Which specific areas could you improve on? (it's good to provide various options on this front such as time-management, subject-knowledge and exam-technique)

  • What are your targets for improvement next time?

  • How could you have prepared more effectively?

  • What grade do you think it deserves?

  • What strengths and weaknesses in subject-knowledge has the test revealed?

  • How can you improve next time?

  • To what extent does your performance today indicate that you are making progress in this subject?

General Tips for Design

Each of the two sections of the exam wrapper should take no more than five minutes to complete. They are intended to be quick reflection tasks so that plenty of time is left for the assessment itself as well as any additional self and/or peer assessment that needs to take place afterwards.

For this reason we recommend that your worksheet includes metacognitive reflection tasks that are quick to complete such as:

  • Agree/disagree tables

  • Ranking tasks

  • 'Rate how accurate the statements are'

  • Circle the correct answers...

  • Answer the question with one word...

It should be more like designing a questionnaire or survey than a full learning-activity.

Try to make your exam wrappers colourful and engaging, with relevant graphics: avoid boring black and white worksheets! Have a look at some of the designs we come up with for our Metacognitive Exam Wrapper Pack...

This download includes a selection of five exam-wrappers. They are editable, double-sided, colour A4 printables: please see the preview images above to get a sense of their quality. Simply print them off and give them to students before they take practice exam papers/sections: they should complete one side before the assessment and one side once they have finished.

They are suitable for teachers of any subject that leads to formal assessment (i.e. any secondary exam subject) and perfect for students aged 14-18.