There are 2 halves to my job as a teacher, to teach and to help a child to remember what I teach. I can go through a whole GCSE English poetry anthology with a student, but if the child does not have the skills to remember it, then it’s teaching time I have wasted.
When faced with upcoming tests and exams, students can get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work. This task of revising is like asking a student to tidy up a rubbish dump, they don’t know where to start, how to sort it and what to do with after it’s sorted.
So I break down revision into three parts.
Find out what you need to know.
Most school teachers give out “I can” sheets at the beginning of every new topic. These are just a list of statements which summarise what the student should be able to do by the end of the topic. Edexcel 1MA0 Linear Exam Topic List – Foundation.
Then take each statement and make sure you have notes and explanations on it. If you don’t, then you need to make your own notes either using school textbooks or revision websites recommended by your teacher. You can also make your own flashcards on websites like QUIZLET.
Do Some Past Paper Questions
Now that you understand the statement, you need to test your understanding. So collect exam questions or practice questions on the topic WITH ANSWERS. How will you know if you are doing it right if you can’t check the answers. Good sources of questions are end of chapter questions in textbooks and worksheets you might have in your books.
This three-step method works for any topic and for any age group. Try it!
Some good websites for making notes:
BBC BITESIZE – syllabus specific notes on most topics covered in school. It’s a big site and can be difficult to navigate. If you have a specific question, for example “how does osmosis work” then search “osmosis bitesize” in google and it will take you to the best page.
MATHSWATCH – educational videos explaining how to do maths.
WOODLANDS JUNIOR SCHOOL – better for years 1-6, but also useful for older children to recap. The writing is simple and easy to understand.
ENGLISH BIZ – great revision site for GCSE english. I love the way each section has examples of student’s work and professional examples. A good place to start for cntrolled assessments.
MR BRUFF’s YOUTUBE CHANNEL – if you want a different way to revise, try watching youtube videos. Mr Bruff’s videos give excellent tips on how to answer exam questions in GCSE english. He uses real exam questions and goes through the paper one question at a time.
Good websites for exam questions:
KESH MATHS – a great website for exam questions broken down by grade.
MYMATHS – only works if your school has given you a password.
MATHSWATCH – this used to be available on a CD but now most schools have online access. You watch a video where a teacher explains how to do a maths question, then you try a question yourself. If you didn’t understand what you did in class today, watch a video on Mathswatch.
EXAM SYLLABUS WEBSITES – make sure you know which examining board you are studying and then navigate to the syllabus you are following. Download past papers and mark schemes. the common examing boards are OCR, EDEXCEL and AQA.
You revised, you went to revision classes at school, you paid attention in class, you did your homework, yet you still didn’t get the grades you hoped you would. What did you do wrong? If you are wondering this, then read on.
This week I have had numerous calls from worried parents who have said the same thing to me. Their child works so hard, yet it doesn’t show, what could be the reason? They saw their child sitting at their desk with their books open, sometimes even staying up late to get the work done.
Experience tells me that any child can learn, if given the right tools. It’s all about focus, technique and time. If one of these three elements is missing from revision, then it won’t work.
The obvious meaning is to avoid distractions, and really really concentrate. Don’t procrastinate. One of my students can take up to 10 minutes just getting her books out, another will leave out the tricky topics hoping that they won’t come up. One student had a super organised study area, where she had a collection of text books, notes, past papers and worksheets, but no real revision had actually taken place.
The other meaning is to cast aside all the stuff you don’t need. Only revise what is going to come up in the exam. If you don’t know what will come up, then you need to ask your teacher to print off a syllabus. Then tick off each topic as you revise it. It will show your progress and will ensure that you don’t miss anything out. If you missed out questions or revised the wrong topics, then you didn’t FOCUS on the right things.
1. What’s your learning style?
We all learn in different ways. I am an auditory learner, so I prefer to watch videos or listen to talks and lectures. Sometimes I like to make notes, and use highlighters to help me remember things. Find a learning style that suits you and one that comes to you naturally. If you don’t have a preferred way of learning, then use what works. This infographic will help you find out your learning style and how you can use it to study better.
2. Test yourself.
There’s lots to revise so break down each topic into smaller chunks. Revise that chunk, and then test yourself. So many students will revise without doing past papers and tests. Worse still, they do the past papers and wait for their teachers to mark them. How will you know if you got the questions right? It’s like cooking something to eat and not eating it! Mark the papers yourself, look at the wrong answers, and then figure out how to get the right answer. Then do another paper and repeat.
I was watching a TED talk on YouTube called “The First 20 Hours — How To Learn Anything“. The speaker claims that all you need is 20 hours to learn something and is worth watching. Did you devote this much time to your revision? If you did fail your mock exams, then now is the time to get organised. Watch the video and then act on it.
So here’s my thought of the week…
So many year 11’s are under pressure right now. They have to go to extra classes arranged by the school, even at the weekend, they have to finish off all of their coursework and revise for mock exams.
The pressure is so much that don’t know where to begin. From experience I know that they struggle with getting organised and don’t realise the seriousness of exams until it’s too late. They cannot see the bigger picture, that a little bit of work now will make less work in the future.
Parents can only push them to a certain extent but the end result depends on the child. If the child is not motivated, then you can be paying for the best schooling and extra tuition but it will not make a difference. Schools can put on booster sessions and revision sessions until 8pm every night. This will tick all the boxes and show that they care for their students of course but will the child be focussed and make the most of the time?
Until effort is made, and I mean real effort which involves engaging the brain when revising, and putting in the hours, the rewards will not be gained.
My A* students are already at the finishing line, they had their notes organised from day one, they realised that it takes an enormous amount of time, they realised that success only comes with hard graft, not because your mummy and daddy are nagging you to work.
Is this pressure a good motivator? Are we being too harsh on our kids? Or is it a necessary life skill to learn? They are teenagers, and have a right to choose what they do with their time, but when faced with deadlines and work loads, should they ignore them or work on them?
Last week one of my students asked me to be an “audience” to help practice her speaking and listening exam. All I had to do was to listen to her speech, but I couldn’t just sit there could I? I had to intervene and give her some practical tips.
So while it’s all fresh in my mind, I want to share some of the things that worked for her. At the end of the article I have a link to my free speaking and listening cheat sheet to help you assess how good your presentation is. I have adapted it so that it is user friendly and anybody can use it. You don’t have to be a GCSE English student to use it either.
Know what you are going to say and in what order. Have a clear logical order for your speech so that it all fits together and flows smoothly. This means that you need to think carefully about linking your points – a bit like newsreaders do as they swap from newsreading – weather forecast – newsreading. They have to think of ways of making the transition effortless.
Dont’ try to memorise your whole speech. If you do this, you will sound like a robot and your speech won’t sound natural. If you forget some of your speech you will be fiddling around with your notes to find the bits you forgot and this won’t look good to the examiner. You will lose eye contact and end up panicking. Why don’t you have have memory prompts to jog your memory or questions to get you talking. Keep the prompts and questions simple.
Practice the speech in front of a person rather than in front of a mirror. A mirror can’t talk back to you, and it won’t tell you if your speech is boring. Look for signs of boredom from your audience (yawning and day-dreaming) and find ways of engaging the audience. The mirror will make you aware of your body language and facial expressions but these could change if you are in front of an examiner.
Listen to a recording of your speech. This will tell you how fast you talk, whether your speech is clear, whether you hesitate too much, whether you sound like a robot, whether you say “um” and “err” or “so” too much, whether your voice is shaky, whether you sound confident and if you know your speech well enough. Record your speech, and use this cheat sheet to grade your speech.
So you’ve just received your GCSE results and you don’t understand what all the numbers mean? I get many parents calling me on results day trying to get their head around their child’s GCSE results. The grades are easy enough to understand, after all, a C grade is a C grade, and that’s all that matters right?
But what if you didn’t get that grade and want to know exactly how far off you were? Because if you were only 2 marks away from a C grade, it might be worth getting the paper re-marked. Or if you want to re-sit the exam in November, you’ve got a better chance of passing if you close to a C grade.
Most schools in Luton follow the AQA examination board in English, so I will use AQA as an example to explain how you can find out grade boundaries.
UMS POINTS Versus Real Marks
Grade boundaries are the marks needed to achieve a particular grade. For example in the GCSE English Language Foundation paper, there are a maximum 80 marks. If a student gets 56 out of 80, then that’s a grade C. Grade boundaries based on raw marks differ depending on whether the student has done a foundation or higher paper.
If you want to see an example grade boundaries based on raw marks, see this document. The English grade boundaries are on page 8.
However, on your results slip, you will NOT get raw scores. You will get UMS points. So when looking for grade boundaries based on the numbers on your results slip look for UMS points grade boundaries. “The Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) is a way of turning the raw marks achieved in a unit in a particular sitting into a mark that can be used to compare with those achieved in other series.”
Grade boundaries based on UMS scores are published when exam results are out. However, these documents are usually a collection of the grade boundaries of 100’s of exams. Rather than searching these documents page by page, make sure that you know your course code. Open the document, press CTRL F and type in the course code, for example “4707” and it will take you to the results you are looking for.
The UMS grade boundaries for AQA are here. So it’s that simple. One of my students got a UMS score of 104 in one of his English exams (4 points away from a C grade), so he will be re-sitting the exam in November. He doesn’t want to take another year to get his GCSE, especially when he was so close.
If you need to get some help for your GCSE’s, just give us a call. 01582 402225
Are you worried about your child sitting the 11+ exam in September?
Does your child lack confidence/ need to catch up/ forget what they have learnt too easily?
WE CAN HELP
The Kip McGrath Luton South summer school has successfully helped students aged 4 – 16 to:
Bridge the gap when going into a new school year, moving from primary to secondary or nursery to reception
Help children catch up if they have fallen behind at school
Learn how to revise, study and prepare for GCSE exams effectively
Prepare for the Buckinghamshire (and other counties) 11+ exams in September
Build confidence and enjoy learning
Be one step ahead when they start the new school year
When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, teachers have to help them catch up on all the work they have forgotten. Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN”. But this can be avoided by enrolling your child on our summer school.
The sessions are in the mornings from 10.00 am, so it still leaves the rest of the day to enjoy the summer. There are only 20 places available, so book now.
I get a lot of comments from frustrated GCSE students who just don’t know how to revise effectively and get the grades. Despite trying their best to study and swatting up for exams, they keep failing. Some do well in class, know all the answers but flop in exams. Others will spend hours making colourful notes, drawing mind maps, reading books, and trying all sorts of revision strategies and still end with a fail. So what’s going wrong? Are they just not cut out to be A* students?
I don’t have a magic formula to help students pass their exams but I can draw on my past experiences when helping students revise to come up with some winning strategies. There are 4 types of problems:
1. When You Get Good Marks in Class Tests But Not in Real Exams
A class test is usually taken in the classroom and it is usually with the class teacher present. This makes it easier for students to relax because they are not faced with something unfamiliar. The class test is often not taken as seriously because “it doesn’t count” and so again helps the student to be more relaxed.
Another reason is that class tests are taken straight after a topic is finished whereas exams are on topics which might have been done months ago. For example, if your child is taking AS exams, then they might have to revise all the work they’ve done since January or even September. For GCSE students, they will be tested on topics they’ve covered since the beginning of year 10. For KS2 SATs students, they will be expected to know everything they’ve done in year 6.
To get over exam nerves , students need to get used to working under timed conditions and under pressure. Practicing past papers at home with a stop clock ticking away can help a child get accustomed to it. Getting used to the idea that it is normal to be nervous for exams, and learning strategies to cope with such feelings can also be beneficial. I have taught students who have well-used revision guides and text books, but haven’t seen a single exam paper. They haven’t had mock tests, and they haven’t timed themselves to see if they finish on time. So you must:
get used to working under pressure
practice tests at home under timed and un-timed conditions
compare your test results to see if you really are performing as well as you can in exam conditions
2. You Don’t have Enough Time To Learn It All
There’s no point in revising topics you know already. Find out what your weaknesses are and which skills you need to brush up on. You can ask your teacher if you don’t know. Then choose one topic you need to improve on and find exam questions on that topic. For example if you need to improve your vocabulary, then you need to read more and work out the meaning of unfamiliar words in the context of a passage of text. If you are a level 3 because you don’t know how to read tables and graphs, then find questions on data handling.
Exam papers are written so that the easy questions come first. For a higher GCSE maths paper, the C grade questions come first, for KS2 SATs, the level 3 questions come first and for English reading papers, the easy comprehension questions come first. Save time by finding out what level/grade you are working at. If you are already a C grade and need to get a B, then just skip the C grade questions. If you want to get a level 5 in your SATs then start at the back of the level 3-5 paper to practice harder questions.
3. You Spend Too Much Time making Notes/Mind Maps/Revision Cards
I encourage all of my students to have a good bank of resources to help them revise. For some students, this could be a set of colourful index linked revision cards, for others it might be mind maps and for some may even be their school text-book with highlighted text. In fact it’s essential when it comes to revision.
But some students take this as the “be all and end all” to revision, just because they’ve spent hours writing these beautiful colourful notes. Revision resources have to be used once they have been created. Aim to have all resources ready at least 4 weeks before the exams. There are many ways to use revision resources. You can:
Major changes have been made to the 2013 SATs exams for Key Stage 2 pupils in the UK. This year is the first time that children will be doing the spelling, grammar and punctuation exam, and the first year in which there will be no writing paper. Here are some basic facts you need to know:
1. In all state primary schools in the UK, SATs exams are held in May.
2. Children in year 6, will be assessed in Maths and English (spelling, grammar, punctuation and reading) externally. Levels 3-5 of the national curriculum will be tested. There is an additional level 6 paper for children working above level 5.
3. English writing will be assessed by your child’s class teacher throughout year 6 based on the work your child completes in class.
4. English speaking and listening will be assessed by your child’s class teacher.
5. There are 3 Maths tests, mental maths, non-calculator paper A and calculator paper B.
The results are usually out in July and are often shared with parents in end of year reports. SATs exam results are used by schools to measure performance and the average year 6 child is expected to get a level 4b in Maths and English. The teacher assessments are passed onto high schools for them to put children into ability groups in year 7.
What are the implications of these changes when it comes to preparing your child for the exams?
How can you help your child to prepare for the exams?
Where do you start?
As a teacher and a parent, I would start by finding out what level my child is working at. You can speak to your child’s class teacher about this. I should warn you that some teachers may come up with comments like “your child is working at a level 4c”. Unless you are a teacher or are familiar with the grading system used in schools, this doesn’t really tell you much. Try to get more specific feedback which you can work on. For example, if you want to help your child with maths, then ask the teacher which topics you should be revising to improve the grade. If you can get the teacher to put this in an email to you or to just jot down a few bullet points, then it’s easier to refer back to it to see if you are covering the right topics. There’s no point in guessing what your child should be doing because if the works too easy then your child isn’t learning anything and if it’s too hard then you’ll end up getting frustrated and losing patience. The key is to cover topics at the right level for your child.
Once you have determined what level of work you should be doing, then it’s time to practise the skills needed to improve. Doing 20 minutes three times a week is better than doing an hour on one day. As with revision, repetition is important and you should go over the same topic many times. Sometimes your child will understand straight away, whereas at other times it may take weeks to conquer a subject. I remember teaching a child about equivalent fractions, and thinking that the child would never understand. He would turn up to lessons having forgotten what I had taught him the previous week. It was frustrating but we persevered, and eventually, it clicked!
English skills need drilling as well. What I mean by drilling is practising. With the introduction of the new spelling, punctuation and grammar exams, this is now even more essential. The skills needed to improve in these areas need to be registered in a child’s long-term memory. I’ve seen many children who get 10 out of 10 in their weekly spelling tests, but spell incorrectly when using those same words in a sentence. One of the reasons is that the spellings have been crammed and learnt for the test, registered in the short-term memory and then forgotten. Long term memory can be improved by repeated exposure. So to help a child remember a spelling, I would get him/her to learn them, use the words in sentences, use the words in stories, put the words in alphabetical order, think of rhyming words, draw pictures to illustrate the words or write out the words in different colours.
Punctuation and grammar have to be learnt in such a way that they become a habit. It should be learnt so that the child doesn’t have to be reminded to use capital letters and full stops and if they do forget, then there’s a niggling thought in the back of their mind that something is missing from the sentence.
I’ll leave you with links to sample papers and mark schemes for the new style SATs tests introduced for 2013.
Exam results are out this week, and I’m hoping the 40 or so students I helped this year have achieved the grades they aimed for. I get a lot of calls from panicking parents and students who don’t know what to do when they fail their GCSE English and Maths exams. It’s not the end of the world. Here’s a guide to what you should do next if you get a “D” grade or below.
Most people think of a fail as NOT getting a grade “C” because this is the minimum grade expected of students if they want to go into further education. In fact, getting that all important “C” in English and Maths is so important that universities can refuse to give you a place even if you’ve got A* s in all your other subjects.
So a lot of students have to re-take their GCSEs. I have taught students taking their GCSE’s for the first time and those who are re-taking. Students re-taking their exams face the following problems:
Students often have fewer lessons when retaking because they are at college and often have a busy timetable dedicating more time to the new subjects.
They are either over-confident and get complacent. They think they will pass because they’ve done it all before. They have all their other subjects’ work to do as well and tend concentrate on those.
They can get too negative and start thinking that they will never pass. Some get a mental block and continue to fail….
Students are very rusty – the last time they did maths or English was at least 3 months ago.
Students quite often GET THE SAME GRADE again!
To avoid all of the above, retake the exams as soon as possible and be prepared to do more work!
GCSE ENGLISH RE-SIT
If you do not achieve a “C” grade pass in English language, then you can re-sit the exam in January 2013. The exam is on 10th January 2013.
As a general guideline, if you got a “D” overall then you can re-sit in January. Anything lower than that means that you have to repeat the whole year and retake the exam in June next year. You can re-submit your controlled assessments and speaking and listening assignments from year 11 if they are good.
If you want to re-sit in January then you’d better get your skates on! I’ve calculated that there are only 18 teaching weeks left. First you will have re-learn all of the course, then make sure that you know what you need to do to get a “C” grade and finally get in plenty of exam practice. If you do mock tests and past papers, then these should be marked and graded so that you know where you are going wrong. You can either mark them yourself or get them marked by a teacher. If you are re-sitting in June next year then you have more time, but you also have more work to do.
GCSE MATHS RE-SIT
The GCSE Maths re-sits are in November. There are 2 papers, paper 1 is on 6th November 2012, and paper 2 is on 8th November 2012. The results will be published in January 2013. There are only 11 teaching weeks left, so don’t waste any time.
It is important that all the main exam topics are covered several times before the exam, but if you are short of time, then prioritise the topics you need to know to pass the exam. A good way of doing this is by doing a mock test and looking at the results to see what you know and don’t know. Then work on what you can’t do.
Don’t just revise ‘favourite’ topics – this won’t be enough, something must be changed this time around.
As with GCSE English, get in plenty of exam practice and get used to working under timed conditions. Always mark the papers or get them marked and monitor how you are improving.
My blog article on understanding your examination results slip will help you to work out how close you were to a C grade.
Nobody wants to retake exams, but if you do find yourself in this situation, let us help you pass. Book a free assessment and we will show you the way.
When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, I have to spend at least a couple of lessons going over work they should know. Sometimes I have to go down a level of work because the child has forgotten the basics. Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN“.
Children have too much time on their hands during the summer and they forget some of what they learn during the school year. Avoiding this can save time, and for children who have exams coming up, this can be the difference between a pass and a fail. Academic summer schools can help, as long as the work is tailored to your child’s needs and they have a target to aim for.
How To Avoid the Summer Brain Drain
Past experience has taught us that parents want a more structured approach to their children’s summer learning. They want to see proof of progress. Parents want to take advantage of the free time available during summer and are looking for more than just a child care provider.
The Kip McGrath Luton Summer School will run every Tuesday and Wednesday in August from the 1st August 2012 to the 29th August 2012. Classes are from 10.00 am. This year, the format of these 2 hour classes will be the same format as normal term time Kip lessons, but with a little added extra to cater for your child’s specific needs.
The three programmes that will be running are the 11+ and Common Entrance Programme, the GCSE Maths and English Programme and the Kip Summer Booster Programme.
To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in the online form at the end of this article.
If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.
The 11+ and Common Entrance Programme
The 11+ exams will be in November 2012 and common entrance exams will be in either December 2012 or January 2013 depending on which school your child will be going to.
Kip McGrath Luton will be offering intensive summer courses in 11+. The courses will familiarise the students with all the types of questions and teach them strategies and techniques to raise their chances for success. Children will be tested before and after the course to monitor progress. It is recommended that children attend the Tuesday and Wednesday classes for this programme. We will cover:
GCSE Maths and English Programme
This programme is open to all year 10 and 11 students and any year 9 students who are sitting their exams early. Many schools enter all year 11 children for early entry GCSE English and Maths exams in the November before they leave school. This means that when children start year 11 in September, they have just less than 2 months in which to prepare for the exam. Children (and parents) panic when they realise this and often it is too late to get help. Please my blog post on this topic to get a more in-depth view.
The summer break is an ideal time to work on key skills needed to pass exams. As well the academic content of the GCSE subjects, we will also teach your child how to answer exam questions and how to revise. All too often children lose valuable marks in exams because they have mis-read the question or not answered it fully. Some children need to be taught how to revise and we will teach them different ways in which they can remember what they have learnt.
Summer Booster Programme
This is our most popular programme designed to give your child that extra boost before going into the next academic year. All children from age 5 to 16 can attend. The added extra options are:
To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in the online form below.
If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.