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Archive for June, 2011

How to get a place at grammar school

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Grammar schools have been around for hundreds of years. Since around the 1800s most grammar schools have required children to take an entrance test to see if they are suitable. Competition has always been fierce to get into grammar schools.  In 1974, Grammar Schools were abolished and the modern secondary school came into existence. But we still have grammar schools that you have to apply for. To get into these schools you have to take an entrance test (sometimes still called the 11 plus/11+). Across Manchester and Cheshire they are several state grammar schools where getting a place is highly competitive. Altrincham Girls Grammar and Altrincham Boys Grammar, Sale, Stretford and Urmston all fall into this category and their entrance tests are fast approaching. If your child is applying for Altrincham Girls and Boys, Sale, Stretford and Urmston then they’ll be taking their entrance test (11+) in September.

The problems with entrance tests tend to crop up when parents don’t know what to expect – 11+ tend not to be your average exam and a seemingly exceptional child can ‘fail’ the tests and not get entrance to the school. The tests are usually made up of three parts – maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Some schools also set an English test.

  • Maths –This test is generally based on more difficult skills learned during KS2, usually at about level 5 standard.
  • Verbal reasoning – These are usually logic problems involving number and word type.  Your child needs to be able to rapidly ‘frame’ a problem (that means understand and conceptualise it). Most ‘state’ schools don’t teach verbal and non-verbal reasoning skills, which is why a skilled private tutor can make all the difference.
  • Non-verbal reasoning – These are logic problems based on shapes, sequences or patterns.
  • English – Some of the schools use comprehension tests, or test fluency and accuracy by asking a child to write a short essay or story. They are looking for good spelling, vocabulary and punctuation, use of language and handwriting.

You can read more about 11+ here.

If you need help with summer tuition for grammar school entrance tests and 11+ then contact us at 121 Home Tutors. We have helped children from across Manchester and Cheshire including Macclesfield, Prestbury, Didsbury and around Withington get into Altrincham Girls Grammar and Altrincham Boys Grammar, Sale, Stretford and Urmston grammar schools.

Want to work with a celebrity tutor?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Ok, we have to confess it’s not going to be Robert Pattinson or Cameron Diaz tutoring you if you call 121 Home Tutors. We spotted an article in the Independent this week  about students in Hong Kong and how their obsession with exams and private tutoring is turning some tutors into rich celebrities.

The education system in Hong Kong is highly pressurised and students are expected to consistently perform to the highest standards.  This is partly because there is intense competition for a limited number of university places.

Because students (and their parents) are so keen to succeed, it has created a demand for more private tutors. In Hong Kong private tutoring is viewed as an investment in education and the best tutors can command hundreds of dollars for each session. Rather than focussing on the kind of one to one specialised tutoring we offer at 121 Home Tutors, students in Hong Kong tend to enrol in tutorial schools (an estimated 100,000 students every year). They are taught by highly paid, self-styled ‘tutor kings’.

One problem with this highly competitive exam culture and tutoring system is that students often take on more tutoring than they can cope with – often 5 or 6 subjects. At 121 Home Tutors we recommend that students limit private tutoring to one or two subjects, usually their weakest because anymore than that creates additional pressure that can cause more problems.

So the question is will education and tutoring go the same way in the UK? Will we become more competitive now the university system is introducing high fees and changing under our new Government?

A poll carried out a couple of years ago  indicated that a fifth of secondary school students have had some form of private tutoring and at 121 Home Tutors we have seen the numbers of students requesting one to one tuition increase since then. We know in some parts of the country there is a great deal of competition to get into independent schools and we often work with students to prepare them for entrance exams. We haven’t seen much evidence of increased competition for degree places except in areas where there is already a longstanding tradition of high entry requirements and a battle to get onto courses (such as medicine). It will be very interesting to watch what happens as the introduction of higher university fees and potential increased competition starts to take hold over the next couple of years.

If you’d like (non-celebrity!) exam and private tutoring in Manchester and Cheshire for GCSE, AS and A2 Level subjects including Maths, English and Science then contact 121 Home Tutors today.

Top tips to help you cope on exam day

Monday, June 6th, 2011

If you are doing your GCSE, iGCSE, AS or A2 then this is going to be a very busy time for you. Exam season is now in full swing and you’ve probably got a calendar full of revision and exams. This month we’ll be focussing on exams and how to get through them, bringing you some top hints and tips from our tutors.

In this blog post we’ll talk about how to tackle exam questions on the day:

  • On the morning of the exam don’t try and revise. You need to focus on relaxing rather than stressing yourself out with last minute cramming.
  • Set off for school/college in plenty of time and before you leave the house do a final check to ensure you have pens and any other equipment you might need (pencils, calculator etc).
  • When you get to where your exam is then listen carefully to the instructions you receive. If you can, sit where you feel most comfortable with some natural light, if you think you might be distracted by outside noise then choose a chair in the middle of the room.
  • Be still for just a few minutes, take some deep breaths and focus on the exam paper in front of you. Try not to panic and before you start writing sit and read through the exam paper – this can be one of the most important things you do in an exam. Once you’ve read the paper take a few minutes to plan (this is especially important if you have 2 or 3 essays to write, you can allocate time to each and this will ensure you stay on track). If you can, write some bullet points that will give you a structure to an answer and if you run out of time the exam marker has some indication of what you were thinking.
  • If you can’t answer a question then calmly move onto the next one and come back to the unanswered questions at the end.
  • Stay positive – if you are in the exam and writing then you are in a better position than if you didn’t turn up. You’ve worked hard all year and if you’ve revised then the information you need is in your head, give it a chance to come out.
  • If you’ve really struggled with a question in the exam (or found it impossible to answer) then it’s a good idea to talk to your teacher about it. It may be that it was a particularly hard question or that your attempt was better than you thought.

Everyone at 121 Home Tutors wishes every student out there the best of luck with their exams. If you need help with exam revision and you live in Manchester or Cheshire (we cover from the Heatons to Hale and beyond) then call 121 Home Tutors today.