Analysing Model Answers with the X Factor


Ever found out that you are going to be observed in the middle of a controlled assessment, coursework or exam prep? There is nothing worse than finding out your teaching will be assessed when you are doing the least creative thing possible in lessons, but, as luck would have it, that nearly always happens. Whether it’s a routine observations or the elusive Ofsted they always seems to crop up when you least expect them and when they are the least welcome.

As an English teacher with constant pressures on exams, controlled assessment and coursework we are constantly interrogating model answers and although this can frequently tick the progress box, and is clearly a worthwhile task, rarely is it an activity that generates much ‘buzz and wow’ amongst students!! Well, until now…

Last year I was faced with a Year 13 English Language observation just before they were about to go on study leave. In all preceding lessons we had been doing monotonous exam prep and I knew I couldn’t deviate from this just for an observation, but, that meant I had to produce an observation worthy lesson on exam prep. Not easy exploit. I would have to get my thinking cap on!

This is where I came up with my X Factor lesson. It is now my go to lesson for all year groups and for both English and Law that I teach when we need to analyse model answers. This isn’t just a good lesson to pull out for observations but a much more collaborative and engaging ways of analysing model answers. My students love it!!!

The bell…

As students enter they are met with this power point slide as I blare the X Factor theme tune from the speakers.

x1The music and links to X Factor get a noticeable reaction from students as they enter and they become quickly engaged with reading the 3 contestants’ responses that have been left on their tables.

The starter…

When students have been given time to individually read through the responses, the task is explained:


When I have since done this with younger groups I appointed roles within the group to ensure everyone was engaged in the task i.e. (‘You are Simon, you must look at the negative things about this response’, or, ‘You’re Cheryl, pick out what they have done well’ etc). I purposely don’t give students any guidance or a success criteria as this will be introduced later in the lesson. The contestant responses will contain a lot of ‘red herrings’ both through the names, picture and descriptions of the contestants but also by ensuring that the longest response and the one with the most complex language is never the best as lots of students are dazzled by these superficial factors.

Exam XFactor Submissions

Every time I have done this, students have always picked Edmund as the contestant to go through as they base it on his complex language and stereotyped view of his name and demeanor. This is a good way of demonstrating progress as through the rest of the lesson they will learn why they were wrong.

The main…

At this stage I then reveal the real winner: Tami. Students are then asked to prove why. Finally they are given the success criteria and a blown up version of the response. They are told to prove why it is the best by annotating it with the features of the success criteria. I will assign specific parts of the success criteria to each member of the group and give each member time in the activity to feedback their area to the rest of the group. x1


Often I will add an element of challenge and say that the group with the best feedback will win a prize to keep students engaged and motivated.

The second main…

Next, I will put students into learning pairs (I will have chosen these matching a weaker student with a stronger one to help to differentiate) they will swap a recent, unmarked example of one of their exam responses and students will now peer assess each others work. By doing this after the group task we guarantee that the feedback given will be much more purposeful and accurate as they have practiced the feedback skill collaboratively first. Students are then asked to talk each other through their feedback and together, strategise on how to make their responses better.



I also use feedback forms to ensure that the feedback is purposeful and effective e.g.  XFactor Feedback Form

The plenary…

The last stage of the lesson is for students to respond to the feedback they have been given and to DIT(Directed Improvement Time) their essay to bring it in line with the success criteria.


I have been observed doing this lesson twice both with Yr13 and with a Yr10 class and both times it was judged as outstanding. However, lesson gradings aside this is an enjoyable lesson for students and they get a lot out of. It is one that I would thoroughly recommend!


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