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Do you get the new GCSE grades?

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Have you got your head around the new 9-1 grades yet? It’s a tricky old business if you’ve got used to A*- G grades for the past 30 years! So easy to be at sixes and sevens with it all!

No wonder there has been some confusion, not least because both A and C have two numerical grades – not one. How do they break down?

9 is a super A* grade with only the top 3% of students expected to achieve it. 8 is an A*, whereas 7 translates into a lower A. 6 is a B. C is a 5 and 4. With D as a 3, E and an F as a 2, and G as a 1, it will take some time before we understand these grades back to front.

To C or not to C?

Controversy over what constitutes a C grade has hit the headlines for the past year. Originally, 5 was promoted as being a strong (more desirable) C grade pass.

Education Sec. Justice Greening then stressed that pupils needn’t resit GCSE Maths or English if they achieved grade 4 – leading to the view that 4 was now deemed a standard pass.

Whether this is understood in the wider world just yet remains to be seen. Certainly, future employers in the Manchester and Cheshire areas will need to be educated themselves about how the new system works. But let’s be positive…

Let’s embrace change

Despite all the controversy, numerical grades are here to stay. And while it is tempting to try to compare them to previous years, it is pointless to do so since the exams have changed in nature. English and Literature GCSEs are all closed book exams with no differentiated tiers.

And with Maths – though still offering higher and foundation tiers – there’s no doubt that the higher papers have much more demanding content than ever before.

And while the new exam specs are different to before, it’s better to see them as do-able challenges rather than horrible hurdles.

Your child is more than a number

As ever, it will take at least another year or two before everyone gets to grip with the new numerical system. By 2019, numerical grades will be phased in across all subjects anyway.

Ultimately, for new students just about to embark on their GCSE courses this year, it’s essential to remember that you are more than a number. If you are finding it hard to get to grips with your GCSEs, always ask for help. Of course, our team of top tutors are always on hand…

Why is GCSE English such an important subject?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

English GCSE is a core subject – compulsory for every student. If you don’t achieve a C grade at 16, you have to stay in education until aged 18 to re-take. But why?

1. Communicate your way into the future

Being able to express yourself clearly, hold a conversation, persuade others and think critically are much-needed assets in the world beyond school.

Whether you want to start a business, work for an employer or travel the world, you’ll need excellent English skills every day.

2. Understand people

In the real world, life’s all about getting on with people, understanding how they tick, and using psychology. Studying novels and poetry teaches you all this and more…

Life isn’t black and white: it’s full of grey areas. People, too, are complex. By studying literature, you can fine-tune your empathy and understanding – while opening your eyes to different cultures and thinking.

3. Be human in a digital age

Both verbal and written communication skills are essential in the digital age. Just because using computers and tablets are the norm, you still need to be able to write well – with correct punctuation and spellings. That’s just for starters.

While a relief that you might be able to avoid inflicting your messy handwriting on anyone, you still have to communicate professionally to employers, staff, clients.

You might need to write CVs, letters, blog articles, website content, reports… All of which rely on good, old-fashioned written communication skills.

Pass GCSE English with flying colours

Exam season is hotting up in Manchester and Cheshire. If you’re in the Stockport, Bramhall or Woodford areas – including Poynton and Hazel Grove – call us.

With experienced GCSE and A level English tutors available now, your child can secure their future today…


How To Create Your Revision Timetable

Monday, January 18th, 2016

For many of you taking exams in the summer term after Easter, it’s essential to get your revision underway now.

Now’s the best time to perfect your revision timetable, and to address any grey areas you’ve always struggled with. Leaving this until after Easter will cause panic.

So instead, here are some practical revision suggestions to help you through the spring term:

1. Get mind mapping!

Create a mind-map for each subject, detailing all the key areas and skills you need to know. Now using three highlighter pens, identify the areas you are confident in with one colour, the areas you need to brush up on, and the areas you  really struggle with.

2. Get planning!

Using this information, focus on planning out how you’ll cover those weaker areas. Don’t worry about them, get proactive instead! Can you pin down a teacher to help you with that algebra question which flummoxed you in the mock?

Can you ask if there are any revision sessions planned by departments? Can you arrange a local tutor to take you through those difficult skills your teacher doesn’t have time for?

3. Get practical!

The sales are still on. Buy some new notebooks, pens, index cards and folders to get organised. Keeping tidy revision folders will stop you from panicking. In each one you could write a tick list using your mind maps to help you stay on track.

Plot out all the difficult areas into a timetable/calendar and stick to it.

Get help!

Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t just hope the problems will go away. They won’t… Use the time you have now and over the coming months to give yourself the best chance of success.

With SATs, GCSE and A level tutors covering Manchester and Cheshire from Stockport to Wilmslow, Hale to some areas of Cheshire, that help is just a phone call or email away. Get in touch with 1-2-1 Home Tutors now…

5 top tips for exam success

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Exam season is here again. But are you ready for it? With just weeks to go before sitting your GCSE or A level exams, revision can feel overwhelming.

And if you missed part of the course through illness, or lost confidence after a mock exam disappointment, it’s essential to make the most of any spare time you have.

First, don’t panic! Here are 5 useful revision tips from our team of private tutors across Manchester and Cheshire:

  1. Do plenty of timed practise papers to help you overcome exam nerves. Sit with an egg timer – without tv or music distractions – and practise, practise, practise!
  2. Look over marked mock papers and test questions. Where did you go wrong? Spend longer revising those weaker areas to boost your confidence.
  3. Organise your time. Draw up a revision time table and stick to it! Lots of 30 minute intense revision sessions can be more productive than sitting for hours at a time not getting anywhere.
  4. Use sticky notes for quotes/facts, acronyms and mind maps to help you remember key information.
  5. If you hit a brick wall during a revision session, take a break and come back to it with a fresh mind.

Focused revision now will help you get through the next few weeks still smiling. That’s where one to one tuition with a subject specialist can really help.

Instead of wasting time trying to find answers, we can teach you all the revision techniques you need. For focused exam support with a local GCSE or A Level tutor, call 121 Home Tutors now.

Did you revise over Christmas?

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Last year the Government decided to remove the modular exam approach to GCSEs and A Levels. They also removed opportunities for unlimited resits and instead students sit all exams at the end of the academic year (in June). The aim of the changes is to make learning more rigorous and increase standards at GCSE and A Levels.

This is the first year we have seen the impact of the changes and we’re concerned.

At 121 Home Tutors we have seen a drop in the number of enquiries during the autumn term for GCSE and A Level tutoring. Normally the bulk of our enquiries would come in during this time as students prepared for the exams during the academic year.  There are some students who recognise that preparing ahead is important but we’re worried that as June seems so far away many are in danger of leaving things until the last minute.

Many of our students would have used the long Christmas break to revise for their exams in January. But this year there’s no (or very little) revision to do – for either mock or real exams.

Are we storing up problems for later in the academic year when we’re expecting a flood of panicked students who have left revision until the last moment. One benefit of the January exams is that they revealed weakenesses, which could then be corrected, earlier in the year. There’s now no opportunity to do this and we’re worried it’s leaving some students open to failure. So here are 2 things to think about in the next month…

– Where are your weak spots – look at them now and decide if you need tutoring help.

– When are you planning to start revising? At least think about when that might be and ensure you have plenty of time for all your subjects (and a life!).

If you think you like some help preparing for GSCE revision and A Level exams then drop us a line at 121 Home Tutors.

Be prepared – GCSE and A Level exam changes

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

In the last few months there has been a considerable amount of change in the way testing is carried out for both GCSEs and A Level.

There has been a move away from coursework and module based testing throughout the year. Instead most schools are moving back to one main exam in May and June.  This academic year some students will sit their exams in June instead of split between January and June. But we’re already hearing rumbles that this might be causing some students (and their parents!) a few headaches.

For many students they are panicking about the emphasis being on one set of exams and they are realising there’s an awful lot to learn in one go. They’re smart because they know early preparation is the key to success – but only if you can get past the panic and start to plan. On the other hand June seems very far away and a lot of students aren’t even thinking about exams. But it’s surprising how fast time can pass and if you aren’t prepared last minute cramming can spell disaster.

What can you do to ensure you pass next June?

  • Don’t think as far ahead as June. Instead put your effort into your mocks – this is a chance to really test your knowledge and shouldn’t be a wasted opportunity.
  • But don’t leave things to the last minute – think about revision 6-8 weeks in advance of the exam and create a plan. If you need help with planning or revision then a private tutor can really help.
  • Have a look at our revision blogs on How long you should spend revising and Revision over Christmas. 

If you need help with revision or revision planning for CGSE or A Levels (English, History, Maths and other subjects) in Manchester or Cheshire (covering Heaton Moor, Levenshulme and other areas) call 121 Home Tutors today. 


Religious Studies tuition

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

One subject we get regular calls about is religious studies. We have private tutors who cover Manchester and Salford tutoring in Religious Studies to GCSE level. Parents often call us because it’s not a subject they feel comfortable supporting their child with or don’t feel they have the materials they need to tutor in their own home.

So what do you need to know about religious studies?

  • You don’t have to believe in a specific religion to study RS (sometimes called RE).
  • In the UK all state Catholic, C of E (Church of England) and Jewish schools provide compulsory religious education. It covers a variety of faiths but in most schools does focus more on Christian education.
  • The syllabus for religious studies is agreed by each local authority and there is no national curriculum – your school should be able to show you a plan of what they intend to study during the academic year.
  • As a parent you have the right to withdraw your child (with the schools agreement) from religious education.
  • If you are interested in some of the topics that your child might cover at GCSE level you can find some great introductory information on the BBC Bitesize website. 

If you would like more information on religious studies tutor in your own home call 121 Tutors today. We cover Manchester (including Salford) up to GCSE level.

How long should I spend revising?

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

It’s only a few weeks until GCSE and A Level exams, with many starting in mid May and running until mid June. It’s when our students start to turn their minds to revision. The most frequent question we get from students is when they should start revising. They also want to know how and what they should revise. So we’ve come up with some top tips to help you through the next few weeks.

  • Most schools and colleges don’t finish teaching the syllabus (that’s everything you need to know to pass the exam) until close to exam dates. That can make revision tricky if you want to be very thorough. Sometimes there simply isn’t enough teaching time to cover all the topics in the syllabus. One way you can tackle this is to do some self-learning (or work with the support of a tutor) to get ahead and make sure you know every topic in the syllabus. You may be able to get a copy of the syllabus from school but you can usually get them from a specific exam board (always make sure you are learning the correct syllabus).
  • Self led learning can be tricky for younger students or those who are already struggling and this is where one to one tuition really comes in handy. A tutor can work through the syllabus efficiently to find gaps in knowledge and support your learning in school. You can also try working with a friend, asking for extra help in school or attending revision sessions.
  • One of the best ways to revise is to do lots of past papers. Don’t be put off if you find them hard. It’s a good way to test your knowledge and identify any gaps. It also gives you an idea of the kind of topics (and the types of questions) that are likely to come up in your exams.  It’s great to try and revise everything but without past question papers you might miss key points or how to apply what you have revised in an exam environment. It’s best to decide what’s ‘important’ to revise based on what is likely to be asked of you, rather than what you think it’s best to learn.
  • There is no right amount of time to revise for. Some lucky students appear to be able to quickly read notes they have made and pass an exam with a great grade. The reality is usually that they have been working slowly and steadily throughout the year. It’s best to spend half an hour a day (no more) planning your revision and then spend the rest of your time on a structured revision plan.

We have one to one tutors available across Manchester and Cheshire right now covering all GCSE and A Level topics and syllabuses. Call us today for more information.


Changes to GCSE scrapped

Monday, February 11th, 2013

In October we wrote two blogs about the changes to GCSEs proposed by the Government – changing from the well-known system to a controversial new English Baccalaureate qualification. In some camps the changes were welcomed, with many liking the idea of a more rigorous approach to education at 11-16 and a return to more exams and less coursework.  On the other hand many people felt it had been poorly thought through and that the exclusion of less ‘academic’ subjects would let many pupils down.  Lots of people were worried there would be a return to a two-tiered system that benefited more academically capable students.

Despite all of the controversy it was expected the new qualification would be phased in over the next few years. However Michael Gove, Education Secretary, last week announced a complete turnaround on the EBacc. This qualification will now not be introduced and instead we will see a reform of the existing GCSE system.

You can read more about the changes on the BBC website but the main points are:

  1. From September 2015 teaching for the new GCSEs in English, Maths, Sciences, History and Geography will begin.
  2. Coursework will be kept to a minimum and exams will happen after 2 years.
  3. There will no longer be easier foundation papers, less ‘bite-sized questions’ and the testing of extended writing in English and History.

Our advice remains the same, as students and parents you are unlikely to see much day to day change in what is taught. What your child may need is academic support skills and one to one private tutoring can be useful. If you’d like more information on tutoring at GCSE Level in Manchester call 121 Home Tutors.

GCSEs to be replaced by EBacc – Part Two

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Last month it was announced that GCSEs are going to be replaced by a new qualification, the EBacc or English Baccalaureate. Last week we gave you some information on the changes and what they might mean for your child and this week we’ll continue helping you understand how the changes might affect your child.

Our tutors (and teachers) constantly keep abreast of developments in education and ensure they are aware of upcoming curriculum changes.

In the last few years our tutors and teachers have seen changes to maths, science, English and other syllabuses and changes in the ‘rules’ for sitting exams (as GCSE exams move back to the linear route]. We have also seen the introduction of qualifications such as the new AQA 1/2 certificates and the increasing take up of iGCSEs by independent schools and we have been tutoring students through these syllabuses.

From a tutor’s point of view, the introduction of a new qualification is no more significant than the introduction of a new syllabus – there will be new things to learn and certain things we already know. From a general teaching point of view each academic year brings new ways of teaching, new pupils, new classrooms and a fresh approach to lessons so change is something we are very used to.

When it comes to the actual content of the EBacc we are relatively sure there will not be major changes – there will still be Maths, English and Science etc. And we know what will change will be the approach rather than what is actually taught – so less modules (if any), longer exams, fewer multiple choice style questions and a more stringent academic approach with possibly, harsher marking and higher grade boundaries.  If the plans do go ahead then at least a year in advance (often more) the exam boards will develop their course and exams.

This is then accredited by the exams watchdog, then passed onto teachers (and private tutors) so they have all the information they need to teach. At this stage many teachers will be given additional support and training and use their own experience and judgment to decide how best to support their pupils.

If you would like to talk about one to one tutoring for GCSEs or EBacc in Manchester or Cheshire (Wilmslow, Altrincham, Heaton Moor) then contact us today.