Making the most of quiz books


Myself and Andy Lewis are proud to have some GCSE religious studies quiz books published by John Catt. I thought I would share what they are and some ways in which these might be used.

What are they?

The books are based on all GCSE specifications for the new, reformed GCSE religious studies courses.

They have quizzes on the main topics for each religion, repeated 6 times, but with the questions in a different random order. Students should complete a quiz, check their answers and write their mark on their mark tracker. At another point in time (see below) they should complete the quiz again and record their mark. The aim is for them to improve each time if not get full marks.

They are knowledge quizzes. They aim to help students to learn and retain key facts, quotations and reasons. They are the foundations for being able to write coherent, well supported exam answers. They should be used alongside practising exam questions; not as an alternative.

Why is testing useful?

“Testing is a powerful means of improving learning, not just assessing it.” Roediger & Karpicke (2006)

Research on how we learn suggests that the testing effect is a good way to retain things in our memories (Roediger & Karpicke 2006).

Repetition is also useful and research suggests that repetitions at increased intervals (spacing) might have more impact on long term retention that at equal intervals. This blog by Mr Benney discusses what might be the optimum spacing.

What does it mean for the use of these books?

Whoever uses them should consider when they will do each of the 6 quizzes. For example, increased intervals 50 days before an exam could be:

  • Day 1 quiz 1
  • Day 3 quiz 1
  • Day 7 quiz 1
  • Day 14 quiz 1
  • Day 28 quiz 1
  • Day 49 quiz 1

I recommend that the quizzing of a topic starts as soon as you’ve taught/learnt it. So, from the start of the GCSE, rather than at the end.

How could they be used?

With students

  • They could be used as a starter/plenary for a lesson to help students recall content.
  • A student that works elsewhere (out of class, in hospital, at home ill etc) can easily use them. You can tell them which quiz/zes you want them to complete and they can self-check.
  • As regular homework. The teacher can set a specific quiz/zes but should consider when they set the repetitions (as above)
  • They would be useful for cover lessons as the students can ‘self quiz’ and check the answers themselves.
  • As revision for students that have completed the course and have time to repeat the taught content through testing
  • For private tutors that want to give a student a short knowledge test
  • As a knowledge audit – for the student and/or the teacher to work out what they do/don’t know and what they need to focus on to improve.
  • TIP: Give students a revision plan starting as early as possible. If you give them a date/spaced plan it will help them to be organised.

Here is a FREE revision plan for the 2020 GCSE Religious studies exam to use with the Christianity book

With teachers

  • For subject knowledge enhancement – as testing is a good way to help retain information for the long term, these books may help teachers that want to brush up on their subject knowledge
  • Trainee teachers – those new to RE can use these to help learn knowledge needed for GCSE RS.

“To state an obvious point, if students know they will be tested regularly (say, once a week, or even every class period), they will study more and will space their studying throughout the semester rather than concentrating it just before exams.”

Roediger & Karpicke (2006)


To order the books…..



Catholic Christianity with Judaism (by Andy Lewis)

The books are also available directly from John Catt. They will give discounts on bulk orders so please contact them.


Roediger & Karpicke 2006


The best tool all teachers have for differentiation

  • It’s free
  • It doesn’t require photocopying lots of different sheets
  • You can use it for any class and any age group
  • It requires minimal planning and even less as a teacher gains experience

What’s the best tool all teachers have for differentiation?

I made the ‘mistake’ this year of looking at some class data. I say mistake as I don’t usually look at student data unless I spot something in the first few lessons with a class.

I looked at reading ages and noticed that a student had the reading age of 7; they were year 8 (aged 12-13). I started to panic. How could I teach a student that wouldn’t be able to read some of the complex terms or access the new longer texts we are trialling this year?

I worried for about 10 minutes and then reflected that I’ve never had problems before so I’d just carry on teaching as I normally do.

And nothing happened. No disasters. Everyone in the class seemed to be learning. In our recap quizzes at the start of every lesson, all the students, including this one, were giving the correct answers.

So what’s the tool? It’s what we say & how we say it; teacher exposition.

I’ve already written on the importance of teacher exposition here but didn’t stress the importance of it being the best differentiation tool a teacher has.

I’m still saddened to hear teachers promoting the use of different worksheets, tiered learning objectives (must, could, should) and different activities for different students, and thinking they are good differentiation tools; they’re not.

On the other hand, teacher talk has been discouraged and in some cases limited to set maximums.

What you say and how you say it to students is probably one of the most important things that can differentiate between students learning or not learning. But it’s a subtle form of differentiation that many observers (especially if not the specialism of the lesson) may not spot. So the box for ‘differentiation’ on the observation proforma goes unticked.

The key is to tier your language and explanation to start from the foundations of a concept and build on it over time, using retrieval to help embed the separate ideas. A kind of verbal scaffolding.

I think scaffolded exposition is the key to good ‘mixed ability’ teaching (That’s not to say this isn’t true for set groups). Having to start with what everyone can access, brings every student on board and then, the development of concepts and the links between them can gradually build.

If using a piece of text, regular stopping, discussion and annotation in simple terms makes it more accessible. I always use my visualiser for this so they can copy but students can also make independent notes.

Class discussion also contributes to differentiation. If any student can ask ‘any’ question about the topic, the teacher response is already differentiated as it should respond to their question; it’s already at their ‘level’ and extending their understanding.

How do you know it’s worked?

I listed these in the other blog but with my initial anecdote the student can equally talk to me about the concepts. They may not be able to write them fluently due to their written literacy but writing isn’t the only way to assess. I would say they’ve progressed as the other students have in what they’ve learnt.

Whilst this blog is about exposition, it’s also about not obsessing over prior data. It could limit our expectations and in turn not allow all students to be challenged.