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.