Tag Archives: exams

GCSE results

Congratulations to all my GCSE English Language and English literature pupils who  have all got good grades this summer. From the news it appears that nationwide there have been some nasty surprises for some pupils with tougher marking for GCSEs – particularly in English.

While there is an argument that a tightening up has been long overdue, it does seem to me to be singularly unfair to do it mid way through the course for many pupils.  It is claimed that marking in January, for example, was less stringent than that of this summer. As discussed in earlier posts, the difference between grades can be substantial in terms of effects on university entrance and career prospects. There is no doubt in my mind that many pupils who have received a D this year would have received a C. As regards my own pupils, some who received a C for English Language would almost certainly have achieved a B in previous years. Is that fair when they are competing for university places with people who were marked under a less demanding regime?

Results so far;

English A level  1x B

English Lit GCSE  2 x A,  2 x B

English Lang GCSE 2 x A, 2 x C


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Au revoir Woking


For 3 years now I have been travelling back to Woking once or twice a week to teach certain pupils. They’ve mainly been the younger siblings of pupils I used to teach and I haven’t wanted to abandon them mid-way through GCSE or A level courses. This summer all of them took exams and came to the end of their respective courses so I have finally felt able to say goodbye to the weekly trek back. It was a 50 mile round trip and although I packed several lessons into each visit it still probably wasn’t that sensible from an economic point of view.

So now I shall be concentrating on building my client base in the Wokingham/Reading/Eversley areas and hoping that pupils are spreading the word!

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Celebrating success

It’s all too easy as a parent to get caught up in a cycle of constant nagging and criticism as you try to get your offspring to achieve their educational potential. I once tore a strip off my son, aged about 9, for having failed to turn over a school exam paper thus coming bottom in his French exam. A fellow teacher pointed out that the page he had completed was faultless and that was what I should have focussed on. The disappointment he felt was probably enough to prevent him ever repeating that mistake again! So I do speak from experience!

As a teacher and tutor it’s important to praise as well as criticise – it’s finding the balance that’s the tricky thing! Some pupils can take harsh criticism; others need confidence building and lashes of encouragement. With certain pupils in the past I have torn up work in front of them when I felt that they were not putting in the effort and were seriously underachieving – and it worked. However, there are many students where that approach would be totally counter-productive.

All we can ask of our youngsters is that they try their best and reach their potential. Then we must celebrate that success – even if their achievements don’t match our hopes and dreams.

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Need help revising?

It’s only just over a month until exams start so you should have started revising now. Many students have no idea how to go about organising their revision or even how best to revise.

I give some hints under my posting All Work and No Play which may be of help, but some students need more assistance. A couple of hours private tuition may be just what you need to set up a revision plan specifically designed for your needs. The problem with using one of the plans that you can find on sites like BiteSize, for example, is that they don’t take into account your strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps you are fairly confidant about An Inspector Calls but quite clueless about Of Mice and Men? It would be a waste of time to divide your revision time equally between the two texts. This is a simplified example, but I’m sure you get the idea.

So why not call me to book just a couple of lessons to set up a personalised revision plan?

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More Exam Techniques

The following advice applies not only to English exams but also to history, RE, Geography or any exam with several written questions to tackle.

So which question to answer first? Don’t forget there’s absolutely no rule that says you have to start with question 1.

If there are 4 questions to answer, first of all decide which ones you are going to choose. Then rate those questions in terms of how confident you feel about answering them. Let’s imagine you’ve decided on questions 1, 3, 5, and 7. You are very confident about answering 7, fairly confident about 3, less so about 1, and not at all confident about 5.

Start with 3. The reasoning behind this is that your first answer will get you into the swing of writing, warm you up, as it were. You still want a question that you feel pretty good about, however, to build your confidence.

Next do 7 – your favourite. You should be fully warmed up and writing well by now.

Then do 1 and last of all 5. The chances are that you will have less time for your last answer and that doesn’t matter if it’s one that you know less about and for which you potentially will earn less marks.

Following on from this you can see that timings for each question are important. Most teachers advise taking off, say, 10 minutes for checking and then dividing the remaining time by the number of questions – assuming they are all worth equal marks. (Naturally if some questions are worth more marks you will need to adjust your timings accordingly.) However I would urge you to be slightly flexible on your timings. It is worth allowing an extra 5 or even 10 minutes on a question that you feel you can answer well and therefore gain good marks and deducting that 5 or 10 minutes from a question that you are struggling with. The aim is, of course, to maximise your marks.

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Revision Tips for Parents

If your children are heading for exams there are a few things you can do to help:

  • make sure they have a quiet dedicated space in which to revise
  • ensure they’re not disturbed by siblings
  • encourage them to make a revision plan
  • occasionally check they really are revising – not just on their Playstation/Nintendo or gazing into space
  • encourage them to take regular breaks from revision – at least 10 minutes for every hour of work
  • insist on one complete evening OR one day at the weekend revision free
  • feed them lots of healthy, additive-free food to increase that brain-power
  • offer to help with testing (but don’t insist!)
  • make sure that they have all the equipment they need for the exams well in advance
  • most important of all – reassure them that you only expect them to do their best!

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Exam Techniques

Got exams coming up? No matter what the subject matter is, exam technique is all important. Here are our 5 top tips for successful exam technique:

1. Read the whole paper through from start to end before starting to answer any questions

2. Work out your timings – make sure you know when you need to move from section to section

3. Work out in what order you will answer the questions – you don’t have to start at section 1!

4. Plan each answer in quick note form before you start.

5. Be careful with timings. If you have 5 questions each worth 20 marks – it’s no good writing an almost perfect answer to question 1 (which might get you 17 marks) and have no time to start on question 5 (zero marks). Do a little less on question one (15 marks) and spend time on question 5 (10 marks) … and do the maths. You’ll get 25 marks instead of just 17.

Good luck – and remember to breathe

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