A-levels

A-levels, study strategies

How To Study For Tests: Earn An A* On Your EOU Tests


No Comments

Learning how to study for tests is a key skill that all students need to know if they are going to be successful in their A-level courses. In A-levels, end of unit (EOU) tests are used by a teacher to assess how much the students know about a given topic in the course. They are administered and marked by the teacher every three to four weeks. If the student does well on the test they are praised for working hard and meeting or exceeding their predicted grade. If they don’t do so well on the test the teacher may suggest attending subject tutorial once a week or place them on an academic contract.

As a parent, how is your child doing on their EOU tests? Are they passing their EOU tests with their predicted grade or higher? Do they feel confident when studying for and taking their EOU tests? Or, are they failing their EOU tests? Do they feel as if studying for the tests is a waste of time because they don’t know what concepts will be on the tests?

If you are interested in helping your child earn their predicted grade or higher on their EOU tests then keep on reading!

Tip #1: Preparation: Notes And Homework Sets

how to study for tests

The first step your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests is to be prepared for their EOU tests. Being prepared for their EOU tests means that they are organised, have a master set of notes and understand the homework sets for the module.

They need to be organised which was a concept was discussed in detail in the blog post Six Form Essentials: How To Help Your Child Get Organised For Their A-Levels. In brief, they need to have an A4 lever arch folder, college ruled paper, plastic sheet protectors, tabbed dividers, coloured pens and pencils, a calculator and a school planner.

They need to have a master set of notes for the unit. Creating a master set of notes was a concept that was discussed in detail in the blog post How To Take Notes At A-Level To Earn An A*. In brief, they need to have a detailed set of notes based on the specification for the unit which allows them to complete homework sets and past paper questions to a high level of accuracy without referring to their textbook.

And they also need to understand their homework sets for the unit. Scheduling time to complete their homework set which was discussed in detail in the blog post A-Level Success Tips: How To Manage Your Workload. In brief, they need to understand their homework set for the unit. This means that they understand and explain the concept being tested in each question on the homework set.

If they aren’t prepared for their EOU test now is not the time for your child to start with day one of the course and try to get caught up with their organization, notes and homework sets. Rather, they should focus on completing a master set of notes and understand the homework set for the unit. If they don’t understand their homework set it is imperative that they see their subject tutor as quickly as possible to learn the concepts being tested on their homework set.

How To Study For Tests: Tip #2: Revise By Question Type

how to study for tests

The second step your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests involves having a strategy for completing past paper questions. Most students complete packs of past paper questions by answering the questions in sequential order. They then make a note of what questions they answered incorrectly when marking their work and repeat the process. The issue with this method is that they are not practising a template for a model answer and practising what they understand rather they are reinforcing the incorrect way of answering a question until they complete a pack of questions and mark their work.

A better approach is for your child to complete the questions strategically by answering the questions in order of decreasing point value. Your child answers all of the six-marker questions in the question pack and repeats the process for the five-marker questions and work their way through the pack answering sequentially lower point value questions until they had answered all of the questions in the pack.

If they run out of time they change pen colours and keep working until they have answered all of the questions in the pack. They then mark their work using the mark scheme and update their notes to include any keywords or definitions, concepts or strategies for answering questions.

The reason that this approach is so effective is that allows the student to model correct answers for each of the types of questions. It also allows the student to get into the habit of answering the large point questions first on the exam. And it allows them to become more relaxed on the exam by quickly earning their predicted grade on the exam.

Tip #3: Use The Mark Scheme To Guide Your Revision

The third step your child needs to take is to use the mark scheme to guide their revision for the EOU test. Too often, students complete packs of past paper questions with the mark scheme open which gives them a false sense of security about the content on the test. They believe that they know the course content when actually they don’t know the course content. Or they don’t understand how to use the mark schemes effectively in their revision.

The use of mark schemes in a student’s revision for the tests has been discussed in detail in the blog post A-Level Mark Schemes: 5 Ways They Can Be Used To Earn An A*.

When using a mark scheme to mark their work your child should complete the following three tasks:

  • Check the mark scheme for keywords or phrases which are printed in bold and are commonly known as Quality Of Language (QOL) and update their notes to include these terms.
  • Check the point value for question in the mark scheme and make sure that their answer contains enough concepts, i.e. one concept per point to earn all of the points that the question is worth.
  • Check that they have the concept in the answer in the mark scheme in their notes. This will allow them to maximise the value that they get from using mark schemes in their revision plan.

If they follow these steps your child will see a rapid increase in the grades that they earn on their EOU tests. This is because they will be engaging with the mark scheme in what is known as active learning rather than just reading the mark scheme in what is known as passive learning.

Tip #4: Think Like A Teacher

how to study for tests

The fourth step that your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests is to think like a teacher when they are studying for their EOU tests. Students often wonder what is on their EOU tests and how they should best revise for their tests. Sometimes they are surprised to see a concept on the test and wonder if they have been taught the concept in their lessons.

Thinking like a teacher allows a student to bridge the gap between the course specification, their notes, their homework set and their EOU test. Students need to keep in mind that the test is timed and so there can only be so many questions on the test. With this in mind, their teacher has to choose the questions carefully when making the test to make sure the test is levelled for the average student in the class and covers all of the major topics covered in the unit.

When revising for their test, your child should keep the following three points in mind when reviewing questions.

First, they should check to see if the question is checking their understanding of a major topic that is listed in the course specification for the unit. If it is then it’s a type of question that is most likely going to be on the test. Also, if the question keeps appearing in the pack of past paper questions they are completing where maybe small changes have been made to the question then this is another strong indication that this type of question will be on the test.

Second, is the question a synoptic question? A synoptic question is a question which includes two concepts in the question and requires an understanding of each of the concepts and the relationship between the concepts in order to answer the question. It is a favourite type of question for teachers to use on exams because it allows them to test the student’s understanding of two related concepts without using too many points on the test.

Third, is the question a challenging question? When a teacher makes a test they have to be able to differentiate between the A* and the A students. To do this they normally include one question on the test that requires a higher level of mathematics ability or a deeper understanding of a complex concept. When revising for an EOU test look for questions that fit these criteria and make sure that you understand them as they will probably be on the test.

If your child follows these three simple rules when studying for their EOU test they will see a marked improvement in their test scores because they will be thinking like a teacher.

Tip #5: Complete Past Paper Questions Under Timed Conditions

The fifth step your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests is to complete past paper questions under timed conditions. A lot of students complete past paper questions under non-exam conditions when revising for their EOU tests. They complete past paper questions without keeping an eye on the time with the thought that they are better off learning the material and that they will complete some past paper questions under timed conditions at a future date. The issue with this idea is that most students don’t tend to complete past paper questions under timed conditions because they run out of time studying for their EOU tests.

A better idea is to always complete past paper questions under timed conditions. If your child runs out of time completing the pack of past paper questions they should change pen colours and keep on working until they have completed the pack of past paper questions. After they have marked them and updated their master set of notes they need to complete the next pack of past paper questions more quickly while maintaining a high level of accuracy.

The idea is to be able to complete a pack of past paper questions in 90% of the allotted time. So, if they have 60 minutes of past paper questions your child should be able to complete the pack of past paper questions in 54 minutes. If they practice answering past paper questions in 90% of the allotted time on the EOU test they will have a few minutes to spare at the end of the test to check their work. And they will not feel as if they are working under time pressure on the test.

How To Study For Tests: 5 Strategies To Earn An A*

In order to earn their predicted grades on higher on their EOU tests your child needs to complete the following:

  • Be organised and have a set of master notes for the module.
  • Study by question type.
  • Use the mark scheme to guide their revision.
  • Think like a teacher
  • Complete past papers under timed conditions.

If they complete these five steps discussed in this blog post your child will earn the highest grade that they can on their EOU tests.

A-levels, time management

A-Level Success Tips: How To Manage Your Workload


No Comments

As a parent do you wish that there were meaningful A-level success tips that you could pass on to your child? Like many parents, you may notice that the transition from GCSEs to A-levels can be a challenging time for your child due to a number of reasons. They may have to travel to a sixth form college on their own and navigate the local public transportation system during the morning rush hour. They have a get used to a schedule where they are not micromanaged by their teachers like they were in their GCSE courses. And they have to adapt to a new learning environment where the teacher teaches the concepts in a discussion-based format and they consolidate their learning by completing packs of past paper questions as part of their homework set.

A lot of students struggle to transition to A-levels from their GCSEs during the first term of their A-level courses. The primary reason for this is that they don’t know how to handle the workload associated with being an A-level student. They are expected to learn how to handle the workload as they are learning how to navigate the local public transportation system, learning how to manage their time, learning how to study effectively and learning the course material!

As a parent, you realise that there is a lot of pressure on your child to be successful in their A-levels. After all, their place on their university course depends on the grades that they get on their A-level exams. Learning how to manage their workload is something that all sixth form students need to master if they are going to be successful in their A-levels.

This blog post contains five A-level success tips to help your child manage their workload. If you want to help them learn how to manage A-levels and how to manage their workload then keep on reading!

A-Level Success Tips: Is Your Child In A Reactive or Proactive State?

A-level success tips

When discussing how to handle their workload with your child the first step you need to take is to determine whether your child is in a reactive or a proactive state. If your child is in a reactive state then they will be experiencing negative stress which is unhealthy for them. They will feel overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to accomplish in their A-level courses. They will feel that they don’t have enough time to complete their homework sets. And they will feel that they don’t have time to prepare for their EOU tests.

If your child is in a proactive state then they will be feeling positive stress which is healthy for them. They will still have the same deadlines as the child who is in a reactive state but they will feel as if they can handle the workload of the A-level courses. They will feel that although they are working hard at their studies that they have enough time to complete their homework sets. And although it’s normal to feel nervous about taking exams they will feel that they are prepared for their EOU tests.

As a parent, in order to complete the first step, you need to determine whether your child is in the reactive or proactive state and explain to them that it is possible to move from the reactive to the proactive state. This can be accomplished by planning out their time more effectively.

Help your child manage their workload by completing this A-level success tip:

  • Explaining to them the difference between a reactive and proactive state.
  • Explain the difference between negative stress (unhealthy) and positive stress (healthy).
  • Determine whether they are in a reactive or a proactive state.

Long Term Planning

A-level success tips

The second step you need to take with your child is to help them plan their time more effectively. This can be accomplished by helping them with their long term planning. To start with they will need a paper planner or a calendar which they can purchase either online or from their local stationery store. Or they can print one off from the internet.

It doesn’t matter what type of planner they have or where they obtain the planner as long as they have the ability to plan three or four months into the future. The reason why they need to plan three or four months into the future is that this is the typical length of a term. School terms normally last between 12 weeks (3 months) or 16 weeks (4 months).

The first task that they are going to accomplish is to write down all of the events that they know are going to occur during the term. For example, they would record vacation days and the beginning and end of the half-term vacation. And they would record any days of school that they are missing due to school-sanctioned events. These may include medicine academy events, engineering field trips or university open days.

A quick win at this point in order to foster a positive relationship with your child’s tutor is to let them know in advance when they are planning on being absent from school. This can easily be achieved by making a note on the planner on the seventh day prior to the event happening that your child will email their tutor and let them know that they plan on being absent on that day. Teachers also plan their school term and they really appreciate knowing in advance if a student is planning on being absent so they can move EOU tests or practicals.

Help your child manage their workload:

  • Help them obtain a planner either from the internet or their local stationery store.
  • Help them record any vacation days and the start and end of the half-term vacation.
  • Help them write in their planner the dates of any events that they plan on attending during the term.
  • Help them make a note on their planner to email their teacher seven days in advance to let them know in advance of their absence from class.

Medium Term Planning

A-level success tips

The third step you need to take with your child is the medium-term planning. This involves planning out each month of the three or four-month long term plan in as much detail as possible. Have your child ask their teacher when the due dates are for the assessments in their course. This includes items such as EOU tests, practicals, quizzes and homework sets. Most teachers plan either a half-term or a term in advance so they will probably be able to tell your child when these events are occurring each month.

If they can’t tell your child the exact dates these events are occurring then have your child ask them the frequency at which they are occurring each month. For example, they may tell your child that since the class is covering a topic once every three weeks then they can expect an EOU test once every four weeks. Or that the practicals occur once every three weeks.

The idea is that your child obtains as much information as possible about the assessments occurring in their courses and writes these dates into their planners. This way they are not worried when the teacher announces these events. Rather they were expecting them to occur and they had planned ahead in their planners to be ready for these events.

Help your child manage their workload:

  • Have them ask their teacher for the due dates of any recurring events such as EOU tests, practicals, quizzes and homework sets.
  • Have your child write these events into their planner for each month of the term.

A-Level Success Tips: The Three Day Rule

A-level success tips

The fourth step you need to take with your child is to help them implement the three-day rule. The three-day rule is what allows your child to transition from the reactive state to the proactive state. Although this is a simple rule to follow it is one of the important steps out of the five steps mentioned in this blog post. It is one of the A-level success tips that you definitely want to explain to your child.

Let’s assume that your child is given homework by their teacher which is due on Friday. Your child would immediately write the due date of their assignment into their planner. They then count back three days from the due date and make a note that they will start their homework set on Tuesday.

As soon as they receive the homework from their teacher they read through the questions on the homework and make sure that they understand the questions. They also make sure that they understand the concept being tested in the homework. If they are unclear about anything in the homework they ask their teacher for clarification and help to understand the concept before they leave college for the day.

On Tuesday (3 days out) they complete their master set of notes for the topic. To help your child create a master set of notes read the blog post How To Take Notes At A-Level To Earn An A*. On Wednesday (2 days out) they complete their homework assignment. On Thursday (1 day out) they review their homework assignment to make sure that they have answered all of the questions correctly, place it into their day folder and put the folder into their book bag.

By implementing this rule your child is not working into the early hours of the morning the day before the assignment is due. They are not feeling as if they don’t have enough time to complete the assignment and understand the concepts on the homework set. They are not feeling negative stress! Rather they are completing each step of the three-day plan in a timely manner each day.

The three-day rule is a suggested amount of time that your child should be spending on their assignments. It is a flexible rule and can be adapted as your child works through their course work. For example, if they find that they need four days in order to complete their A-level chemistry homework the next time they are given homework in their A-level chemistry class they budget four days to complete the homework set rather than three days. And they update their planner accordingly.

Help your child manage their workload:

  • Help them understand the three-day rule.
  • Help them understand that the three-day rule is flexible.

Short Term Planning

The fifth step you need to take with your child is short term planning. This involves implementing the three-day rule in all of their courses and for all of their assignments. If they implement the three-day rule for all of their courses they will have a detailed plan for what they need to accomplish each day. Each of the A-level success tips mentioned in this blog post is important in their own right but your child needs to especially implement this one in order to be successful.

If they know about the assignment from their long term and medium-term planning they can easily implement the three-day rule for each assignment by counting backwards from the due date three days and completing their notes on day one, the assignment on day two and checking their work on day three.

If they don’t know the due date of the assignment from long term and medium-term planning but rather are given the assignment in class then the rule still applies. As soon as they are given the assignment they make a note of the due date in their planner and count back three days to start the process of the three-day rule.

Since they have completed this process for all of their coursework they will have populated each day of their planner with specific tasks that they need to complete for each of their courses. For example, they may have to read a given number of pages of their textbook for their A-level history class, complete a past paper for their A-level physics class and revise for an upcoming EOU test for their A-level chemistry class. To help your child create a revision plan for their EOU exams read the blog post A-Level Chemistry Revision: 5 Study Skills Used By A* Students.

Help your child manage their workload:

  • Help them implement the three-day rule for all of the assignments in all of their courses and write down what they need to complete each day in their planner.
  • Help them stick to the plan and complete each of the tasks they need to complete each day on their planner.

What Happens If Your Child Is Overwhelmed With Work?

find a tutor

If your child is in a reactive state and is overwhelmed with work you can help them transition to a proactive state. You need to talk to your child and explain that it is possible to move to a proactive state in two easy steps. First, they need to put in some extra work and effort in order to get caught up with their course work. Second, they need to spend about an hour and complete their planning for the course and implement the three-day rule.

Hopefully, you have found the A-level success tips mentioned in this blog post to be beneficial and will explain them to your child. The workload at A-levels can be daunting for your child as they transition from GCSE to A-level. However, with careful planning of their time and sticking to a schedule they can have a successful A-level experience.

A-levels, study strategies

How To Take Notes At A-Level To Earn An A*


No Comments

Learning how to take notes is one of the sixth form essential skills that every A-level student needs to know so that they can earn a high grade in their A-level courses. However, learning how to take notes is a skill that a lot of A-level students don’t know because they were never taught it as part of their GCSE coursework. So they attend their A-level lessons and try to capture the ideas being taught in the lesson by rapidly scribbling down what is being written on the board by the teacher which has a negative impact on their course grade.

As a parent of a child who is starting their A-levels you can help them learn how to take notes in their A-level courses. You can help them fill the gap in their knowledge by teaching them how to take quality notes so that they capture the ideas being taught in the lessons. This is a skill set that they will use both in their A-level and in their university courses.

If you are interested in helping your child become more successful in their A-level studies then keep on reading this blog post.

How To Take Notes: Paper or Digital

When thinking about what note-taking strategy to use in their A-level courses your child needs to think about whether they want their system to be paper or digital.

A paper note-taking system involves college ruled paper, pens, coloured pencils and a ruler. It doesn’t involve them writing down notes in a spiral-bound notebook as this will not allow them to effectively organise their notes after their lesson has finished. At the end of each lesson, your child puts their notes into their day folder and takes them home with them. 

A digital note-taking system involves the use of a tablet such as an iPad and a note-taking app. Your child needs to check with their teacher to make sure that the use of a tablet is allowed by the teacher as some teachers allow and other teachers don’t allow the use of technology in the classroom. Typing their notes on a laptop using a word processor such as Microsoft Word or mind mapping software is not going to work because they will not be able to keep up with the lesson. What your child needs is a tablet so that they have the ability to write on the screen when they are taking notes. 

Both paper or digital note-taking systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Paper note-taking systems are cheap to purchase, flexible and easy to set up and maintain. However, if they are not maintained properly they can quickly get out of control and just become a stack of papers. Digital note-taking systems are more expensive to set up, easier to maintain and easier to organise. However, they are not as flexible as paper note-taking systems and may not be ideal in all circumstances.

Help your child pick a note-taking system:

  • Help them decide whether they want to have a paper or digital note-taking system.
  • Help them set up their note-taking system.
  • Help them keep it organised on a consistent basis.

How To Take Notes: Capture The Ideas Being Taught In The Lesson

At GCSE level, your child’s lessons were content-driven. The teacher typically headlines the topic at the beginning of the lesson, completes a few sample questions on the whiteboard and checks for student understanding. The students copy down the notes on the whiteboard into their exercise books and then complete a worksheet that reinforces the concept being taught in the lesson. Homework is another worksheet or a few questions from the end of the chapter which consolidates what they have learned during the lesson. The lessons are extremely structured and the concepts are taught at a slower pace so enough time is allocated for each of the students to complete their assignments. The note-taking skills your child needs involves copying down what has been written on the whiteboard into their exercise books. 

At A-level, the lessons are idea-driven and it is assumed that your child will learn the content during their own time. The teacher headlines the sub-topic in the specification that will be taught in the lesson. They then discuss the associated concepts being taught in the lesson using PPT presentations as a teaching aid along with handouts which are handed to the student during the lesson. Any key points from the lesson are written on the whiteboard by the teacher as they are talking with the students. Towards the end of the lesson the students complete sample questions and check their answers against a mark scheme which is displayed on a SmartBoard.

What is important to understand is the different teaching style that is used to teach a GCSE course and an A-level course. A GCSE course is content-driven whereas an A-level course is idea-driven. Because each course has a different teaching style it requires a different note-taking system. The note-taking system used by your child in their GCSE course will not work in the A-level course.

What is needed is a mind shift in the way that your child approaches their note-taking in their A-level courses. They need to understand that the intention of their note-taking in A-level courses is to capture the idea or concepts being taught in the lesson whereas for their GCSE courses it was to capture the content of the lesson. Once they understand that there is a different teaching style used in A-level courses you can help them pick a note-taking system that works for them.

Help your child understand the different teaching approaches used in their GCSE and A-level courses and how this influences their choice of note-taking systems:

  • GCSE courses are content focused and A-level courses are concept focused.
  • The note-taking system they used in their GCSE courses is not going to work in their A-level courses.
  • They need to choose a note-taking system that allows them to quickly capture the ideas being taught in the lesson rather than trying to capture all of the content of the lesson.

What Type Of Note-Taking System Is Best For My Child?

There are many different types of note-taking systems that your child can use to take notes. Two popular systems include the Cornell Method and Mind Mapping. Both of these methods are favoured by A* students because they allow them to capture the ideas being taught in the lesson by the teacher quickly and easily. If you need more explanation of what is involved in using either of these note-taking systems then make sure you click on each of the links. 

It doesn’t matter which note-taking system your child uses to take notes in their lessons. It isn’t a case of one system is better than the other or that one system works for everyone. Rather, what is important is that your child tries different note-taking systems, finds one that works for them and their style of learning and then perseveres with it until taking notes becomes second nature to them.

Help your child pick a note-taking system that works for them:

  • Help them learn about the Cornell and Mind Mapping note-taking systems.
  • Help them try each note-taking system and decide which note-taking system works for them.

Master The Art Of Note-Taking

Once you have helped your child determine what note-taking system they want to use in their A-level courses you need to help them implement it. You need to be their accountability partner and encourage them to focus on creating a master set of notes! There is an art form to taking notes where the objective is to capture ideas taught in the lesson, ideas presented in a textbook and ideas presented in class handouts and create a master set of notes. It can be broken down into five separate steps. Read through these steps and make sure that you understand them before you teach them to your child:

1. Read the section of the textbook assigned by your teacher and take notes. This is best completed using the SQR3 method. First, survey the textbook looking at chapter headings, sub-headings, tables and figures. Write down any questions that you have about what you have read on Post-It notes and stick them into the margins next to the text. During lesson make sure that your questions are answered by your teacher. After the lesson, read the section of the textbook and note how many of your questions were answered by your teacher or you can answer after reading the text. 

2. Read through the resources you received in the lesson and write any questions that you may have on Post-it notes and place these in the margin. Make sure that you get these questions answered by your teacher at the start of your next lesson. Highlight any key terms and definitions and important ideas.

3. Read through the notes that you made during lesson. Ideally, this should be as soon as possible after your lesson has ended. If you can’t read your handwriting or if you are unclear about something in your notes then see your teacher for clarification before the end of the day.

4. Create a master set of notes using your note-taking system using the notes and questions from the textbook (step 1), the highlighted areas from the resources (step 2) and the notes you made during the lesson (step 3). Use the specification as a guide to help you do this. Each sub-heading in your notes (Cornell method) or strand (mind mapping method) should correlate to a sub-topic in the specification for your course. 

5. Test your notes! When completing your homework you should be able to complete your homework by only referring to your notes and not using the textbook or other resources. If you find that you can’t do this because some of the concepts or ideas are not present in your notes you need to add notes on these concepts or ideas to your master set of notes.

The idea is that your child creates a master set of notes as the course progresses throughout the term. After they have completed their set of notes they complete one of the following two tasks. If they are using a paper note system they scan their notes in case something happens to the originals. Then they place their notes in plastic sheet protectors and file them in the appropriate section of their lever arch folder. Or if they are using a digital note system they back up their notes on a cloud drive just in case they lose their tablet.

Help your child master the art of note-taking:

  • Be an accountability partner for them and encourage them to maintain their note-taking system.
  • Help them create a master set of notes using the five steps to create a master set of notes.
  • Help them organise and back up their notes.

Practice The Lost Art Of Note-Taking

Effective note-taking is a skill that can be can be learned and is one that can be improved through practice. Ask your child to practice taking notes in various situations where their grade is not going to be impacted. For example, have them take notes when listening to a podcast, watching a documentary or when being a guest in a different class at school. 

Although setting up and maintaining a proper note-taking system is a time-intensive effort for your child it saves them time in the long run. When they are studying for their EOU, UCAS or final exams they will have a comprehensive set of notes they can use as a reference. They will not have to re-read the textbook, re-read handouts and other resources they obtained from their teacher and wonder why they highlighted certain sentences. They will not have to look at scribbled notes in a spiral-bound notebook and wonder what they meant months after they were written in the lesson. 

By taking the time to create a master set of notes your child will notice that they will be able to recall ideas and topics more easily because they wrote a master set of notes. This is because creating a set of notes helps consolidate what was learned in their lessons and commit it to short term memory.

Help your child practice the art of note-taking:

  • Ask them to practice taking notes in a situation where their grade is not going to be impacted.
  • Discuss with them that although it takes longer to create a master set of notes they are saving time in the future because they will not have to re-read their textbook and other resources they were given in the lesson.
  • Effective note-taking is a skill that they can use in university.

In order to see how effective note-taking strategies are linked to revision plans used by A* students read the blog post A-Level Chemsitry Revision: 5 Study Skills Used By A* Students.

A-levels, time management

Sixth Form Essentials: How To Help Your Child Get Organised For Their A-Levels


No Comments

As a parent are you thinking about how you can help your child get off to a great start in their A-level courses? You want to stress the importance of education but don’t want to micro-manage them. You want to give them independence in how they approach their school work but you want to see them be successful. You can achieve this by helping them with one of their sixth form essentials which is getting organised for their A-level courses.

You can show them how to organise their workspace and folders so that they can easily find the resources that their teacher gives them. You can help them organise their time so that they are completing their homework assignments, lab reports and studying for topic tests with a structured approach. And you can show them how to have a school-life balance so that they don’t get burned out with their studies.

So, if helping your child get organised for their A-level studies is something which interests you then keep on reading this blog post.

Sixth Form Essentials: Help Them Organise The Resources Their Teacher Gives Them

sixth form essentials

One of the main differences between GCSE’s and A-levels is the volume of information that your child will receive from their teacher. In A-level courses, isn’t the case of a slow and steady teaching pace using a few worksheets that have to be completed by the end of the week. Rather, it is the case of a fast-paced approach where your child is receiving handouts, sample questions to complete in class, homework sets, past paper questions, old practice exams and lab assignments on a daily basis. If your child doesn’t have an organizational strategy in place at the beginning of the course they can quickly become overwhelmed with paperwork which could impact their final grade.

The best practice to organise all of the resources they receive from their teacher is to use one A4 lever arch file for each section of your child’s course. For example, because there are three sections in A-level chemistry, they would have three lever arch folders. One for Organic, one for Inorganic and one for Physical chemistry along with the necessary divider tabs and sheet protectors. As soon as they receive a resource from their teacher they place it in their day folder. And as soon as they get home they hole punch it and file it in the appropriate A4 folder.

Although organizing their resources using lever arch folders is an excellent organization system, students today are also organizing their resources digitally using a scanner app on their smartphone which is connected to an air drive. Once they receive a resource from their teacher and before they submit their completed homework assignments they scan them using an app on their smartphone and save the file to the appropriate folder on their air drive. Most schools offer a free subscription to Microsoft Office 365 which includes a 1 TB air drive, the Microsoft Office suite and a scanner app called Office Lens.

If your child’s school doesn’t offer a free subscription to Microsoft Office 365 then it’s worthwhile purchasing a subscription and installing the app on your child’s smartphone. Or if their school uses Google classroom then purchasing a scanner app for their phone and using Google drive as an air drive. There are many different scanning apps and air drives available for your child’s smartphone. The advantage of using the Microsoft Office suite is that one Office Lens scans a document directly from your child’s smartphone and saves it to their OneDrive.

Once you have established an organizational system for your child the next step is to help them make filing and scanning their paperwork part of their daily routine. Filing and scanning resources should take about 15 minutes per day for your child to complete and should be the first task they complete when they come home from school and before they start their homework. This is because the paperwork quickly mounts up by the end of the week and a well organised set of folders is crucial when they start to revise for their topic tests, UCAS prediction exam and final exam in the course.

One of the major differences between a student who earns a C in A-level chemistry and one that earns an A* is that the student who earns an A* is organised which is one of the sixth form essentials that have to be mastered. They don’t spend their time looking for notes that were scribbled on a piece of loose-leaf paper and then placed in their textbook. They don’t spend time looking for homework sets or sample questions that were tossed somewhere in their book bag. Rather they have a well organised set of folders so that they can easily find the resource that they are looking for and spend their time learning the course material.

How to help your child organize their A-level work:

  • Buy one lever arch folder per topic in your child’s A-level course.
  • Purchase a subscription to Office 365 or a scanner app and an air drive.
  • Help your child scan and file their resources as soon as they receive them.
  • Help them scan their completed assignments before they submit them.
  • Help your child maintain their filing system by spending 15 minutes each day filing and scanning their resources.

Sixth Form Essentials: Help Them Optimise Their Daily Commute

sixth form essentials

A lot of students commute anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half each way to school especially if they live in a large city. This adds up to between one or three hours each day or five or fifteen hours each week. That’s the equivalent of almost either one or two school days each week that they spend commuting to and from school!

Everyone needs some downtime to decompress after school and make a few phone calls to their friends, listen to music, watch a movie or stream a YouTube video. However, A* students know that this is valuable time they can use to study for their course. Because they are organised they don’t waste any time looking for handouts or homework sets tossed in their book bag because they can easily find them in their day folder. Rather, they use their commute time to revise key definitions and concepts using index cards or a flashcard app on their smartphone. They complete their weekly reading from their textbook or a digital copy of their textbook. Or they complete homework questions using the paper copy in their day folder or a digital copy on their smartphone.

A* students also choose their mode of transportation wisely so they can leverage their study time. If they live in a large city they may have a variety of modes of public transportation. For example, bus, tube, train or combination of these modes of transportation. Rather than take the bus which may be standing room only during their commute time they may choose to take the tube or the train so that they can get a seat and get some work done during their commute home.

A* students understand that they need to leverage their time wisely so that they can earn the grade that they want in the course. Its another one of the sixth form essentials that make an impact on whether your child earns an A* or a C in the course. As a parent, you can help your child reclaim this lost time each week by helping them choose a mode of transportation for their daily commute which allows them to get work done during this time rather than being the shortest commute time to and from school. Being able to study between an extra one to three hours each day which is between five and fifteen hours per week can make a large difference in the grade your child earns in their A-levels exams.

Help your child optimise their daily commute by:

  • Choosing a mode of transportation that allows them to study during this time.
  • Plan what they are going to study during this time i.e. revise key definitions and concepts using index cards or complete their homework assignment.

Help Them Organize Their WorkSpace

Besides organising their folders A* students also know that they need to organise their workspace. It doesn’t matter where they study at a desk in the corner of their bedroom, at the dining room table or at the public library. Wherever they study, their workspace is organised.

As a parent, you can help your child with their A-levels by helping them organise their workspace. If they are working at a desk make sure that they have a good light source such as a desk lamp, a bookcase to store their books and folders and a comfortable chair. They will also need a pencil case to store pens, pencils, different coloured highlighters, ruler and a calculator. And they will need an adequate supply of college-ruled paper, a hole punch and index cards.

If they are working at the dining room table or a public library then they will need a sturdy book bag and a day folder in order to transport their work. Although this may seem one of the sixth form essentials which is easy to complete it is an important one because having an organised workspace means that your child will be more productive when they start completing their course work.

Ways you can help your child organise their workspace:

  • Make sure they have a desk in their room with a good light source, a bookshelf and a chair.
  • Make sure they have all of the stationary that they need for the course.
  • Make sure they have a sturdy book bag and a day folder.

Sixth Form Essentials: Help Them Organise Their Time

One aspect of their lives that A* students have mastered is time management. It’s another major difference between students that earn a C on their A-level courses and an A*. It may just appear that A* students are always studying during their spare time between lessons during the day and in the evening time. And they always seem to have their homework set and lab practicals completed and ready to be handed in by the due date.

As a parent, you can help your child be successful by helping them organise their time using a time management system. It doesn’t matter if its a school planner, a day planner or a time management app on their smartphone. What is important is that they have a system that accomplishes two things. First, it captures all of the due dates for homework assignments, lab reports, end of topic tests and exams. Second, it allows them to plan how they are going to complete all of the assignments by their due dates and what they are going to study each day.

The first aspect of your child’s time management system is easy to achieve. Your child gets into the habit of writing all of the assignment due dates that their teacher gives them into the time management system. And avoids jotting important due dates in the corner of their notes during their lessons. The second aspect is a little more complicated as it involves them structuring their time wisely during their study sessions. If you need help showing your child how to do this read the blog post Revision Plan: How A* Students Plan To Revise For A-Level Chemistry for more details.

Ways You Can Help Your Child Organise Their Time:

  • Find a time management system that works for them.
  • Help them get into the routine of writing all of their due dates in their time management system.
  • Help them plan their week so that they can complete all of their assignments.

Helping your child get organised for their A-levels is crucial for their academic success and is something that they may not have been required to do when studying for their GCSEs. A-level courses are taught at a faster pace than GCSEs and your child is required to learn and retain a larger volume of information. Helping your child model the strategies used by A* students such as how they organise the resources given to them by their teacher is one way you can help them improve their grade in the course. Helping them complete this list of sixth form essentials will get them off to a great start in their A-level courses.

A-levels

A-Level Chemistry Revision: 5 Study Skills Used By A* Students


No Comments

In the previous post, “Revision Plan: How A* Students Plan To Effectively Revise For A-Level Chemistry”, the use of an effective revision plan was discussed as a valuable tool to organise your child’s revision time. But once your child has organised their workspace and folders, have planned out blocks of time that they will devote to each subject, have decided to study a Year 1 topic with a Year 2 topic and have decided to revise the content by question type they may be wondering what to do next! And they may come to you as a parent and ask what exactly do they do next in in their A-level chemistry revision in order to study for their A-levels effectively and earn an A* in A-level chemistry?

As a parent of a child about to sit their A-level exams do you know what steps they need to take in order to earn an A* in A-level chemistry? This blog post discusses the top five study skills used by A* students to earn an A* in their A-level exams. All of the strategies are based on the theory of active learning rather than passive learning. This is because A* students know that active learning, where they are engaged proactively with the material, is a better use of their time than passive learning, where they don’t critique or question the material.

Study Skill #1: Mind Maps

absolutvision-364214-unsplash

Mind maps are a great way to quickly recall what you know about the topic and are an essential study skill of your child’s A-level chemistry revision strategy. The advantage of using a mind map is that they allow you to get an overview of the topic and see how all of the subtopics fit together. They are often used by A* students at the beginning of a revision session in order to recall what knowledge they know and how much knowledge they have learned about the topic in a previous revision session.

In order to create a mind map take out a blank piece of paper and an assortment of coloured pens. The coloured pens help you recall information better. Write down the title of the topic in the centre of the page and label the branches of the map with the titles of the individual subtopics. You may have to refer to the specification the first time you create a mind map but with practice, you will quickly be able to generate the backbone of the map in a couple of minutes. Now write down as much as you know about each subtopic using bullet points below the title of each subtopic.

Creating mind maps is a retrieval practice that can be used to revise all aspects of A-level chemistry. For example, it could be used to revise organic synthesis pathways, conditions and reagents. The advantage that it has is an active learning technique that provides an overview of the topic so that students can see how each subtopic fits together like a jigsaw puzzle to complete the overall topic.

Study Skill #2: Index Cards

blank-cards-composition-268351.jpg

A significant portion of the A-level chemistry exam requires the ability to recall definitions of key concepts. Sometimes these definitions are worth a point on the exam and sometimes they are worth up to three points on the exam. A* students know that it’s definitely something that is worth investing their time in when planning their A-level chemistry revision and how they are going to revise for the topic.

To make effective revision cards for memorising definitions, write the word on one side of the index card and the definition on the other side of the card. Make sure that you are using the definition directly from your exam board when you write down the definition. Then highlight any keywords that are required to be in the definition by the exam board with a coloured highlighter.

Students can either use index cards to write down the definition of key concepts or they use an app on their smartphone. Each system has its own strengths and weaknesses. Using index cards allows the students to write down the key concept and definition and highlight the keywords required by the exam board. However, it does require that they carry around an ever-increasing stack of index cards. Using an app on their smartphone doesn’t allow students to manually write down the definition and highlight any keywords, which does take away from the learning process, but it does mean that they don’t have to carry around a stack of index cards.

Whichever system they choose to use the important point is that the students are actively revising key concepts and definitions.

Study Skill #3: Flashcards

beautiful-blond-hair-blue-1326946

Flashcards are a good strategy to incorporate into an A-level chemistry revision plan and are used differently from index cards. Index cards are an efficient tool to use to recall the definition of key concepts. Flashcards are an efficient tool to use to recall the sequence of steps needed to complete a typical problem seen on the exam.

Part of a student’s revision strategy may involve revising how to answer 4-mark calculation questions. Students can either revise these types of questions by completing a series of 4-mark questions one after the other and then checking their work using a mark scheme. Or they can write down the steps that they need to complete in order to answer the question on a flashcard first and then complete a series of questions and check their work using a mark scheme.

Students who write down the steps needed to answer a typical problem they may see on the exam and then complete a series of practice questions are at a distinct advantage to those students who just complete packs of practice questions. This is because they are able to immediately identify the type of question on the exam and more easily recall the steps that have to be completed in order to answer the question. And they are also able to see the links between each step and understand why they have to complete each step so they are less likely to forget to complete a step when answering the question.

Study Skill #4: Teach Fellow Students

A-level chemistry revision

As the old saying goes there isn’t a better way to test your understanding of the topic than by teaching someone else. Although students may complete many past paper questions and feel as if they have a deep understanding of the topic, A* students know that teaching someone else the topic is an excellent way to review and reinforce what they know about the topic. And by having someone else teach them the topic also allows them to review what they know about the topic and to fill in any gaps in their knowledge and understanding of the topic.

In order to take full advantage of this study skill, it’s best to form a study group of between two to three students. Before meeting to revise the topic as a group, each student agrees to thoroughly revise the topic. This is because this technique works best when all of the students have approximately the same understanding of the topic. Otherwise, some students in the group may feel that they are wasting their time having to teach the topic from scratch when they could be completing revision on their own. And they also agree to bring sample questions with them that they have prepared in advance to the meeting. This is because it’s a more efficient use of time to have questions and answers prepared rather than to be stuck on a certain part of the problem or looking for mark schemes on the internet.

Once the group meets, the person or persons being taught the topic completes the sample question under timed conditions. Then the person reviewing the topic answers the question and explains each step of their answer. The person being taught the topic has the opportunity to ask any questions that they may have about the topic as they are being taught the topic. The students then swap roles and the cycle is repeated using a different question.

Study Skill #5: Past Paper Questions and Mark Schemes As Part Of A-Level Chemistry Revision

A-level chemistry revision

The most common approach used by students when studying for their exams is to complete past paper questions. This is an important skill for students to include in their revision plan as it allows them to see the types of questions that they will encounter on the exam and quickly assess what they know and don’t know about each of the topics being tested. However, it’s also the one skill set that most students don’t use correctly when revising for the exam which can lead to disaster on results day.

In order to be used effectively in a revision strategy, the use of past paper questions has to be sequenced correctly in the revision cycle and they have to be included in a feedback loop. In order to sequence the use of past paper questions correctly, the past paper questions should be completed under timed conditions, without the use of notes and after the topic has been thoroughly revised. What shouldn’t occur and it is what commonly occurs when students are revising a topic, is that students complete past paper questions as they are revising the topic with their notes open with the idea that they would have written the answer given in the mark scheme or that their answer was close enough.

In order to gain the most benefit from the use of past paper questions, they must be included in a feedback loop. After completing a pack of past paper questions, A* students mark their work using the mark scheme, update their glossary of definitions, update their mind map for the topic by adding in any information that is missing after completing the questions and update their strategy maps for answering each type of question. Although it seems like a lot of work, it is this slowing down and feeding back information into their notes that allows A* students to earn top marks on their exams.

How To Study For A-Levels Effectively: 5 Study Skills Used By A* Students In Their A-level Chemistry Revision

When studying for their A-level chemistry exams, A* students use the study skills listed below. They understand that it is a better use of their time to revise using active learning techniques rather than passive learning techniques.

  1. Mind maps
  2. Index cards
  3. Flashcards
  4. Study groups where they teach other students
  5. Complete whole past paper questions under timed conditions.

A-levels, tutoring

Find A Tutor: Should I Hire A Tutor From A Sole Proprietor Website


No Comments

In the previous two posts, “Tutor Websites: Should I Hire A Tutor Directly Through One For My Child?” and “Need A Tutor? Should I Go With A Franchise Tutor For My Child?“, we discussed possible solutions to the problem of how to find a tutor for your child to help them earn the grade they desire in their courses. We looked at the advantages and disadvantages of enrolling your child in a franchise tutoring centre so that they can receive tuition. And we also discussed how to find a tutor for your child by hiring a tutor from a tutoring website where for a fee you can download the contact details of teachers who want to tutor in order to earn a supplemental income.

In this post, we conclude the three-part series and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a tutor from a sole proprietor business which owned and operated by the tutor. In your search results from the internet, you may have noticed websites that are not owned by the large tutoring companies but which offer bespoke tuition in various niche markets such as maths, English or science? In complete transparency, EmPowerMind is a sole proprietor business that offers online tuition in A-level chemistry, A-level conversion courses and AP Chemistry. 

Are you interested in a more personalised approach to your tutoring needs than sending your child to a franchise tutoring centre? Are you interested in a more convenient and professional approach to tutoring than having a teacher show up at your home in the evening and on the weekends? Are you interested in how to find a tutor who has a vested interest in your child’s academic success because their livelihood depends on it?

Find A Tutor: Three Advantages To Directly Hiring A Tutor

calculate-calculator-class-5775

The first advantage is that the tutor has a vested interest in your child’s academic success. This is because tutoring franchises are primarily interested in making sure that they meet their monthly franchise fees and mortgage payments for their centres. And teachers that advertise their services on tutoring websites are primarily working for a supplemental income. However, if a tutor has a sole proprietor business then they don’t have a loan against their home like owners of franchise tutoring centres in order to even out the cash flow and they need repeat business month after month in order to be profitable. So you can expect a higher level of professionalism and quality of tutoring for your child.

The second advantage is that the tutor works in a specialised niche market so you are getting quality tuition in one subject area rather than working with a tutor that tutors in several areas. For a tutor to run a sustainable tutoring company they only have time to market themselves and work with students in a given niche market. They only have time to be specialists and not generalists. This is why you see websites for sole proprietor tutoring businesses that are geared towards maths or English tuition rather than the franchise tutoring websites that can afford to market themselves to a more general population. The third advantage is that the tutor can specialise in a specific delivery of instruction that works with your child. For example, the tutor may specialise in maths tuition in a certain geographical area and be willing to work with your child in your home. Or they may specialise in English tuition and work in an online format. As a parent, you have the option to choose which method of delivery you want for your child. Three advantages to directly hiring a tutor:

  • The tutor has a vested interest in your child’s academic success.
  • Your child is getting quality tuition in one subject area.
  • The tutor can specialise in a specific delivery of instruction that works with your child.

Find A Tutor: Three Disadvantages To Directly Hiring A Tutor

find a tutor

The first disadvantage of hiring a tutor directly is that it is more expensive than hiring a tutor from a tutoring website although it is normally less expensive than having your child tutored by a teacher who works for a franchise tutoring company. This is because the tutor who owns a sole proprietor business have their own business and personal expenses that they need to meet each month and their client fees are their sole source of income. And since they are running a business and are not competing with other teachers they do not need to be competitive in their tutoring fees in order to match or undercut the fees of other teachers in order to get clients.

The second disadvantage of hiring a tutor directly is that as a parent you need to verify that the tutor is background checked and is qualified to teach in their chosen subject area. If you work with a teacher that works at a large tutoring franchise or if you hire a tutor through a tutoring website then as part of your fees you are paying for a background check and a credential check to be completed on the teacher. Anyone can create a website and profess to be credentialed to teach in a given subject area so you need to make sure that you have checked the background and credentials of the tutor before you allow them to work with your child.

The third disadvantage of hiring a tutor directly is that they may not have access to quality resources to use in their tutoring sessions. Although franchise tutoring centres are an expensive option and are not the best return on your financial investment one advantage they do have is access to resources to use in their tutoring sessions with your child. The same applies to teachers you hire through a tutoring website as they normally use the resources that they use in the classroom. So, make sure that if you chose to hire a tutor directly through their business website that you check that they have access to resources they can use in their tutoring session with your child such as worksheets, past paper questions, mark schemes and course specifications.

Three disadvantages to directly hiring a tutor:

  • Hiring a tutor directly is that it is more expensive.
  • You need to verify that the tutor is background checked and is qualified to teach in their chosen subject area.
  • They may not have access to quality resources to use in their tutoring sessions.

Conclusion

The private tuition business is a growing market with the global market expected to reach $177,621 by 2026 according to Zion market research. Having to find a tutor for your child can be an emotional process because as a parent you are concerned about the academic progress your child is making in school. And as a parent, you are rightfully concerned about your child’s academic future and whether they will get into the university of their choice. And like most parents, you have probably started a search on the internet for a solution to your problem and clicked on a couple of websites or made a couple of telephone calls.

Hopefully, this three-part blog series has allowed you to explore the three possible solutions when you want to find a tutor to help your child be more academically successful: franchise tutoring centres, hiring a tutor through a tutoring website and hiring a tutor directly through their business website. Each solution has its own advantages and disadvantages which are summarised below:

Advantages

Hiring a tutor through a franchise agency

  • You bring your child to the centre to be tutored which means that you don’t have to tidy up your home for a home visit from a private tutor.
  • Tutoring centres only hire teachers that have passed a background check and are qualified teachers in their subject fields.
  • Tutoring centres tend to follow a systematic program of instruction when tutoring your child.
  • The tutoring centre will give your child progress tests so that you can see the progress that they are making in their studies.
  • Children who attend franchise tutoring centres do make academic progress throughout the academic year.

Hiring a tutor through a tutoring website

  • The teachers have had their background checked and their credentials verified.
  • You get to choose who you want your child to work with.
  • Parents can post reviews regarding their experience working with the tutor or the tutor can ask the parents to post referral to the website.
  • It is a lot cheaper to work with tutors directly rather than working with a franchise tutoring company.
  • The teachers who offer their services as a tutor on tutor referral websites often rely on the extra income in order to meet their financial obligations.

Hiring a tutor directly through their business website

The tutor has a vested interest in your child’s academic success.

  • Your child is getting quality tuition in one subject area.
  • The tutor can specialise in a specific delivery of instruction that works with your child.

Disadvantages

Hiring a tutor through a franchise agency

  • You have to bring your child to the tutoring centre several times a week.
  • The teachers who work at the tutoring centre are paid minimum wage or just above minimum wage for their time.
  • Franchise tutoring companies follow a pre-programmed system of tuition.
  • The cost of the lesson itself.
  • The owner of the franchise is not required to be a teacher and often does not have an educational background. 

Hiring a tutor through a tutoring website

  • The tutor will be making a home visit in order to tutor your child which means that you will have to prepare your home for a visitor and tidy up the common areas of your home.
  • You need to pay the tutor when they are leaving your home after they have taught your child.
  • Although the tutor may have an interest in seeing your child be successful in their studies most of the teachers on the tutor referral websites tutor on a part-time basis with an ulterior motive.
  • You need to consider the quality of the tutoring that you are receiving from the tutor.
  • You need to consider the mindset and professionalism of the tutor.

Hiring a tutor directly through their business website

  • Hiring a tutor directly is that it is more expensive.
  • You need to verify that the tutor is background checked and is qualified to teach in their chosen subject area.
  • They may not have access to quality resources to use in their tutoring sessions.