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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…

 

Summer holiday catch-up for GCSE and A-Level students

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Now that the exam season is all but finished, it might be time for your older children to think about how they can use the summer holiday break to get a head start, catch up and/or improve on areas where they haven’t performed as well as they might have wished. This is particularly important for students who have just completed Year 9 who will soon begin their GCSE courses, and for those in Years 10 or 12, who will be moving into the critical final phases of GCSE and A-Level next year.

That said, for students in this age group doing a bit of work and catching up over the summer holiday break isn’t just for those who have failed or underperformed in exams. It is also a great opportunity to get a head start and/or keep information fresher. The summer holiday break is quite long: six weeks or so for state schools, around eight weeks for many independent day schools and even more for many boarding schools. Even bright students often lose ground during this time, getting out of good habits, forgetting key information and neglecting skills that they had developed to a high level for the previous exam season.

Three subject areas most at risk from this ‘slippage’ are Maths, Science and modern languages. There are two reasons for this. First, they are among the most difficult subjects any student will be working on, especially at A-Level. Second, each one combines relatively difficult skills with a large amount of knowledge that needs to be learned.

Maths, Science and languages require the student both to develop skills (e.g., solving complex equations; designing, conducting and writing up experiments; forming grammatical sentences) and learn a great deal of information (formulae, physical laws, names of elements and compounds, long lists of vocabulary and tables of noun and verb forms).

It’s not necessary for students to spend their entire summer holiday revising all this stuff to stay on top of it – everyone needs a break, after all. The trick is to ensure that knowledge, skills and relevant thinking habits don’t just drop to the bottom of their minds for six, eight or ten weeks. As a parent, there are several ways you can help:

  • Travel can make an enormous difference. If your child is learning French and German, consider a visit to one country or the other for a holiday or short break.
  • Think about a visit to the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum in London. These aren’t just resources for younger kids – they contain a great deal of thought-provoking, inspirational material for older students, too.
  • Encourage reading – something we’ve blogged about recently.
  • More engaged students can be encouraged to actually pick up their school books during the holiday and have a quick refresher read. You could give them some sort of incentive to do this.
  • Switch on the telly! Keep an eye on the TV listings for programmes relevant to particular areas of study, and encourage them to watch. There’s also tons of good stuff on YouTube, iTunes U and the web in general.
  • Consider hiring a tutor, especially if your child underperformed in the end of year exams. Summer holiday tutoring doesn’t have to be intensive: a ‘slow burn’ approach to help students reinforce key ideas can work very well. It is a worthwhile summer holiday activity that keeps them occupied

If you live in the Greater Manchester or East Cheshire area and you’d like to find out more about how summer holiday tutoring can help your child – especially in tricky subjects like Maths, Science and modern languages – don’t hesitate to get in touch with 121 Home Tutors. We’ll be very happy to advise you, and, if you wish, put you in touch with tutors relevant to your child’s needs.

Get to grips with English Literature GCSE

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

In our last post we looked at some tips and tricks for success at GCSE English. Today it’s the turn of GCSE English Literature.

It’s important to clear up the confusion that exists between the two subjects. GCSE English is a compulsory subject for school students. It covers a range of skills that are broadly divided into reading, writing, speaking and listening. It usually includes some study of literary texts (usually short poems), but mainly focuses on day-to-day English skills. As we saw in the last post, GCSE English is sometimes referred to as English Language or “straight” English to differentiate it from GCSE English Literature.

Unlike “straight” English, English Literature is not compulsory at GCSE, but because it is so closely related to GCSE English many schools teach the subjects side by side, and enter a substantial number of students for English Literature as a matter of course. Less able students will sometimes not take GCSE English Literature in order to focus on the basic skills needed for a pass at GCSE English.

To clear up a further point of confusion, when colleges, universities and employers stipulate that applicants should have “GCSE English and Maths”, they are referring to GCSE English, not GCSE English Literature.

Your child will almost certainly have the same teacher or teachers for both GCSE English and GCSE English Literature. Any qualified English teacher will be able to teach both. So if, for example, you approach 121 Home Tutors for English assistance, we’ll be able to put you in touch with a tutor who can help your child with both subjects.

What does GCSE English Literature involve?
GCSE English Literature is focussed entirely on the study of literary texts – poems, novels, short stories and plays. This may seem pretty distant from the demands of everyday life, but in fact the subject helps students to develop a range of very valuable skills, and reinforces some of those developed during the study of GCSE English. In particular, studying English Literature is useful for developing close reading skills – the ability to “read between the lines” of documents that will come in useful during a career in law or business.

Your child will study a range of literary texts, and will be tested by a combination of written exams, coursework and – possibly – coursework written under controlled conditions in the classroom. In the past, some exam boards made it possible to complete a GCSE in English Literature just by submitting coursework. These days, the balance has shifted back towards exams. Most boards award final marks based on written exams (usually around 70% of the total mark) and coursework (usually around 30%) combined.

One of the key areas of difficulty students face during GCSE English Literature is dealing with literary texts written prior to the twentieth century. All English Literature GCSE specifications include a pre-twentieth century component, and all require students to study at least some Shakespeare.

Quite a few students – the technically and scientifically minded as much as the less able – find Shakespeare and other pre-twentieth century authors mystifying and intimidating. If you’re helping your child approach GCSE English Literature, there are some strategies you can use to help him or her cope with older texts:

    Remember that Shakespeare and co. weren’t writing in ‘Old English’ – people stopped speaking and writing genuine Old English half a millennium before Shakespeare was even born. Shakespeare’s plays are, in fact, written in early modern English, which uses some different vocabulary and constructions from the English we use today, but is basically the same language.

    The secret to reading books and poems that were written a hundred or more years ago is to take it slowly. It’s only in the last couple of centuries that the majority of people have become ‘silent readers’, able to understand the written word without reading aloud. In the 1600s, the poet John Milton – author of Paradise Lost – was considered remarkable because he could read without moving his lips. Because of this, writers in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries expected their readers to go steadily – they certainly weren’t writing for people who use the silent, ‘scanning’ method of reading that’s common today. Slow down, and everything will begin to make sense.

    A good dictionary is really useful. Go back a century or two, and most books were owned and read by wealthy, educated people. Writing for such an audience, authors didn’t feel the need to simplify the vocabulary they used. As such, some words are quite tough. If your child is struggling with a pre-twentieth century text, working through it slowly with a dictionary can be a big help.

If you and your child are really struggling with older texts – or with GCSE English Literature in general – feel free to get in touch with 121 Home Tutors. We’ll be happy to match you with a suitably qualified English tutor in the Manchester or Cheshire area.

GCSE English – tutor tips for learning

Friday, November 6th, 2009

GCSE English is one of our most popular private tutor requests, with lots of tutors wanted near exam time. Many students love the topic but become overwhelmed when it comes to exam time, this is often because they aren’t sure what the examiner is looking for. So our GCSE English tutors put their heads together and came up for a list of hints and tips for smashing that GCSE English exam.

  1. Read the question – our GCSE English tutors suggest you take five minutes to just sit and read the question, what is it actually asking, who is the audience, what is the genre.
  2. Write for your audience – keep in mind who you are writing for and use the same tone.
  3. Use the question – the answer you give will relate to the question you’ve just been asked, so look at the question and highlight any points you can use to structure your answer.
  4. Make a plan – use your highlighted points to create an argument that has a beginning, middle and end. Then plan each paragraph focusing on one point per paragraph.
  5. Start big, end well. It’s a good idea to start off well, craft a really good opening sentence rather than drifting into it. Know when you should stop writing and plan how you’ll end.
  6. Keep me interested. Try to make your writing exciting and lively, vary the structure of your sentences and the words you use, avoid too much repetition.
  7. Remember what you learnt in class and with your home tutor. Examiners aren’t usually trying to catch you out,  you will have covered the material you need in lessons or with your GCSE English private tutor.
  8. Check and check again – check that you’ve used the right format and for full stops, commas and spelling mistakes.

Help me find a GSCE English private home tutor…