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Archive for August, 2013

Choosing a degree

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

If you are getting close to making decisions about university how will you decide what you will study? Are you going for a subject you love? Maybe you’re choosing something  you know you are really good at? Or perhaps something you know you want to build a career in?

We all know the job market is tough at the moment with 2.5 million people out of work. The graduate job market is now fiercely competitive, with those fresh out of university applying for the same jobs as those who have years of experience. Recent reports suggest that students are shunning traditional subjects – like English and Maths – in favour of practical degrees that will give them a better chance of securing a job at the end.

Applications for medicine degrees have risen by 12% in the last five years, while business and management degree students have risen by 9%. On the flip side applications to study English were down by 11% and European languages have dropped by 13%.

It would be great if we had a crystal ball and could predict what the job market would be like in 3 or 4 years time but instead we’ll give you some top tips on choosing a degree that suits you.

  1. Think about what you enjoy – you’ll be studying for at least 3 years so it’s best to choose something that you at least think you’ll be interested in.
  2. Although ‘practical’ degrees can seem like a safer future career choice you never know where a traditional degree like English or languages could take you. There are lots of careers that don’t require a specific degree. If you aren’t sure what job you want after uni then a non-specific degree might be a better bet.
  3. Whatever degree you choose you’ll gain a lot of soft skills that matter in most jobs – analysis of information, ability to present work, acting as a team. Most employers will be looking for those skills as well as your chosen subject area.
  4. If you do want to go into a specific field after graduation (such as law or medicine) then do choose the right degree – speak to a university admissions tutor or someone at your college or school for advice.

If you need academic tutoring or support during your A Levels or when you get to University 121 Home Tutors can help with most subjects (we cover Manchester and Cheshire including Hale, Heaton Moor and Didsbury).



Round up on education and tutoring news

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

We’d just like to say good luck to everyone who is getting their GCSE results today – do call us if you need any help or support.

We post lots of interesting education soundbites on facebook – here’s a round up of what we’ve been reading in the last week.

The Economist discusses ways tutoring (and the success it brings) can be open to all.

The BBC – making it clear what you shouldn’t do when your child receives their exam results. 

We’re wondering if there might be a new reality series – Manchester Celebrity tutor?

Is our educational success determined from the day we walk through the school gate?

GCSE to A-Level – Making the Jump

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Are you/your child in the first year of A level (sixth form) studies? Maybe you have just sat the first A level (AS) module exams?

If your grades are not as expected, then you’re not alone. The jump between GCSE and A Level is, in most subjects, enormous. Most students struggle to adapt in the first few months, especially if they don’t get the right support. AS levels are, for most subjects, more technical and involve a greater volume of work than GCSEs. They are, in general, far more demanding, both in terms of the difficulty of the subjects studied and the approach students are expected to take.

As you may know, students take one set of qualifications in Year 12 (AS levels) and another in Year 13 (A2). A2s “top up” the marks achieved in AS Levels, meaning that you have to do an AS Level in a particular subject before you can progress to the A2. A typical student might choose four or five AS Levels and then take three or four of them on to A2. However, the term “A Level” is still also used in a general sense to encompass both AS and A2 qualifications.

AS Levels and A2s are still ‘modular’ courses in most subject areas, though re-structuring is expected in the next couple of years, but for this years year 12 intake modules can only be sat in June.  For now, module retakes are possible at both AS and A2. However, most A2s involve a synoptic element – in which students are tested on aspects of the whole course in what is usually a more general way. At GCSE the content of a module can effectively be ‘forgotten’ once the exam has passed. This is not true at A level.

Subject difficulty
Obviously, A Levels are harder than GCSEs, though the gap is slightly less than it used to be – one of the reasons the AS/A2 structure was introduced was to give students a stepping stone (in the form of AS Levels) between GCSE standards of difficulty and A2, which is supposed to be comparable in difficulty to the old A Level.

The intellectual “jump” between GCSE and A Level is generally huge, and some subjects cause students more difficulty than others. Chemistry AS level is a good example; GCSE, necessarily, oversimplifies some aspects (otherwise it would be too advanced for the GCSE student!) and at AS level, Chemistry students often have difficulty relating key concepts that appear almost irrelevant to them initially but are in fact vital building blocks to understanding Chemistry as a whole.

Other major subjects where there are quite big leaps are English and Modern Languages. Students of AS Level English will often have to deal with much more difficult texts than they encountered at GCSE, often with mature themes and difficult language. (When teachers talk about “English A Level” they are often referring to English Literature, which is more demanding than English Language A Level and often preferred by universities for that reason.)

There is a big difference in the expectations from A Level students from both a learning and exam perspective. A Level students have their hands held far less than GCSE students, and to a large extent are expected to organise themselves and their learning, read around their subjects to make sure they understand a topic and exercise more self-discipline. As already mentioned, the volume of knowledge required is so much greater, but accuracy and precision is also much more important.

A level exams usually require much more ‘precise’ answers than GCSEs and many of our students moan that their teachers are being very ‘picky’ about details. But, it’s a fact – A level exams require much more precision and this can be difficult for the student to accept at first.

Again, chemistry is a good example. Chemistry students – we hope – quickly become aware of the importance of dots and arrows in mechanisms. But when they are first told where to put dots and arrows and that they must be in precisely the right place, they often think their teachers are barking mad. The fact is that a missing pair of dots or an arrow heading to the wrong place can mean lost marks. In Biology, it’s no longer OK to say an enzyme just fits into a substrate – we must say that the shapes are complementary. The use of such precise language, and key words, is essential.

Another difference with A level exams is that marks can be deducted for wrong answers – especially if a student contradicts a correct answer and in the process demonstrates confusion and/or lack of understanding.

So be prepared for a bit of a culture shock with the transition from #GCSE! If you’re already experiencing this and have not done as well as expected in the first set of modules, don’t be afraid to ask for help – our tutors across #Manchester and Cheshire can help you with your AS and A2 #Alevel studies. Call us on 01625 531 360 or email us:

A Level Results week

Friday, August 16th, 2013

If you received your A Level results this week you might want to have a look at our blog posts on what to do if your grades aren’t what you expected and what happens if your grades are better than expected. We’re here to support you if you need additional tutoring for resits or exploring options.

Fractions for five year olds

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

In the last few weeks there has been a lot of press coverage about imminent changes to the national curriculum, aimed at raising standards within education.

One of the most significant changes at primary level will be the introduction of the computing curriculum, which will see five year olds creating computer programmes rather than learning how to use word processing packages. They will also be taught how to keep their personal data safe on the internet.  The computing curriculum will be backed by up changes to maths teaching with younger children being taught more complex maths such as fractions.

Internet savvy youngsters

Although some of the proposed changes have been criticised these suggestions make perfect sense. Our children live in an increasingly technological world with many careers entirely dependent on the ability to use that tech. The right thing to do is to arm students with the skills they need to succeed in 15 years time when they are looking for jobs.

We’re always looking for tutors with strong digital and technology skills to support primary and secondary students as we feel this will become increasingly important over the next decade. If you’d like to help your children become more comfortable with technology then a private tutor can help – we even have tutors who can help you learn to write a computer programme! If you’d like more information on private tutoring for computing then call 121 Home Tutors today. 

Lorna’s journey

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

If you read our blog regularly, follow us on facebook or twitter (@121HomeTutors) you may have seen us mention Alison’s niece, Lorna, in the last few weeks.

Alison, MD at 121 Home Tutors, wanted to show the journey that Lorna is going through at the moment. A few weeks ago she was sitting her GCSEs at Weston Road High School Stafford, then she went to her school leaving prom and now we’ll wait with baited breath until she gets her GCSE results and decides on her future career path.  Lorna loved school and learning and is thinking about a career in either forensic science or law. She’ll start college in September where she’ll take the first steps by studying Forensic Science.

Keep reading our facebook page to see how Lorna is getting on.