Tag Archive: GCSE

  1. GCSE Grades Explained: A guide for parents and students

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    In England GCSEs are now graded using a numerical system running from 9-1, rather than A* to G – a system that had been in place since GCSE Grades replaced the old ‘O’ Levels in the late 80s. This has caused – for parents and students alike – a fair amount of confusion. Many ask questions, such as: What do these numbers mean? What is a Grade 9 equivalent to? What is a pass at GCSE?

    But, have no fear… TutorRight are here to answer all these questions and more with our handy guide ‘GCSE Grades Explained: A guide for parents and students’.

    So, without further ado, let’s get explaining…

    When and why were GCSE grades changed?

    Before we get started, it makes sense first to explain when and why the GCSE grades were changed.

    The new numerical grading was introduced as part of a wider curriculum overhaul carried out by the Conservative government in 2014 by the then-Education Secretary, Michael Gove. It was perceived that too much emphasis had been placed on GCSE coursework. The reformed examination system sought to make the GCSEs more challenging and to make almost all subjects assessed by final exams taken after two years of study. This replaced the old model of assessment which favoured regular assessments through a series of modules.

    It was argued that the new numerical scale recognised “more clearly the achievements of high-attaining students.” This is because the additional grades created allow for greater differentiation. Essentially, students can now gain ‘higher’ levels of each grade, instead of simply a standard grade. All exams now contain more extended writing, essay-style questions. It was also explained that the move to numbered grades would make it clear to employers that students had taken the more challenging GCSE.

    The new reformed GCSEs were introduced gradually between 2017 and 2019, beginning with English and Maths. By 2020, all GCSEs had adopted the new number graded system.

    GCSE Grades

    What are the new grades?

    The highest grade is now 9, with 1 being the lowest. The U grade, meaning “ungraded”, remains the same.

    The number scale is not directly equivalent to the old letter one. However, the two scales do meet in certain places:

    • the bottom of the new grade 7 is equivalent with the bottom of the old grade A;
    • the bottom of the new grade 4 is equivalent with the bottom of the old grade C;
    • the bottom of new grade 1 is equivalent with the bottom of the old grade G;
    • three of the new number grades – 9, 8 and 7 – correspond to the two previous top old grades of A* and A.

    What do pupils need to pass their exams?

    A grade 4 is a standard pass and a 5 is a ‘strong’ pass. Technically, a student who gets all grade 4s has passed all their exams. However, school league tables are based on the percentage of pupils who achieve a grade 5 or above in English and Maths. Also, bear in mind that many sixth forms and colleges will ask for 5s in certain subjects as an entry requirement – although this varies, and most schools and colleges are quite flexible.

    What is a GCSE Point Score?

    You may have also heard about something called a ‘GCSE Point Score’. Again, like league tables, these are more of a concern for school leaders than individual students, as they are measurements the government uses to judge schools by. However, just so you know, your GCSE Point Score is basically your average grade over all your GCSEs. So, if you took 10 GCSEs and achieved a Grade 8, 5 Grade 7s; 2 Grade 6s, and 2 Grade 5s, your average point score would be 6.5. With a Grade 5 being a ‘strong’ pass, any point score above 5 would be considered strong.

    Finally – in old money – a Grade 7 is the equivalent of a Grade A. A Grade 6 is just above an old Grade B. Grade 5 is between a B and a C; and Grade 4 is equivalent to a Grade C.

    Get in touch if you’d like a tutor to help your child reach their GCSE potential.

  2. Maths Tutors in Warrington

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    One of – if not the – most frequently asked questions we get here at TutorRight is ‘Have you got Maths tutors in Warrington?’. The good news is that our answer is definitely, ‘Yes!’

    It’s the time of year when most Year 11 students sit a set of mock exams for their forthcoming GCSEs. Mocks have always been important, because they are the best opportunity for students to experience a taste of their ‘real’ exams. No amount of practice papers completed in class or at home can really prepare a young person for what it feels like to be in the sports hall with the rest of a year group, sat in rows, completing exams next June.

    The results that students get in their practice exams provide invaluable information for teachers too. It gives them a clear sign of how their students are doing at that moment in time. There is no better way to inform future teaching.

    Mock exams can be something of a traumatic experience for many students though. Not only are they nerve-wracking, there’s also the small matter of what to do if results are disappointing.

    Don’t panic! It’s what the mocks are there for!

    Of course, in an ideal world, every student would do brilliantly at every exam they sit. Yet – sadly – we all know the world isn’t like that!

    If results aren’t as good as you’d like them to be, the best piece of advice is quite simple: Do.Not.Panic.

    Remember that mock exams, although important, are not that important in the grand scheme of things. Put it this way, once you have done your final GCSE exams, nobody is ever going to ask you, ‘How did you do in your mocks?’

    Similarly, although setting out to do badly in your mocks isn’t advisable, it’s important to remember two things:

    1. If you do have a stinker in a mock exam, you probably won’t make the same mistakes again!
    2. Nobody ever got better at something by getting everything right anyway!

    A clear snapshot of where you’re at right now

    Ultimately, your mock results provide you with a clear snapshot of where you’re at right now. 

    It’s often the point at which we get called upon too. The results state how far off you are from where you need to be. It’s no surprise that many parents and young people start asking for maths tutors in Warrington.  We certainly notice a spike in interest and enquiries around the time that students have had mock exams.

    Maths tutors in Warrington available today

    We have local tutors who specialise in Maths, from primary level right through to degree level. As professionals, mathematicians, and educators, our Maths tutors in Warrington will instinctively know how to plot your child’s Maths learning journey over the next few months so that they end up where they want to be… Destination Success!

    Our tutors get called on for GCSE exam preparation more than anything else. But remember we have specialists who will tutor students at any stage or age. 

    Would you like to join the TutorRight team?

    As we’ve already mentioned, as the mock results roll in at schools around the area, we see a big increase in enquiries for Maths tutors in Warrington. 

    We’re always on the lookout for new tutors to join the team! Simply complete our quick Tutor Registration Form to get the ball rolling. You will always be in complete control of how many students you take on. We will treat you professionally and pay competitively. 

    Get in touch

    If you think your son or daughter would benefit from some extra support in their Maths, we’ve got you covered. Get in touch if you’d like to arrange a Maths tutor in Warrington today!

  3. How to write Fiction like a Pro and improve your English GCSE Grade

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    Descriptive writing is a permanent fixture on all GCSE syllabuses and is an important part of the KS2 and KS3 curriculums too. Many students find it one of the most daunting aspects of any English course. Creative writing isn’t something that comes naturally to a lot of people. Because of this, any tips and tricks that you can learn along the way will always be helpful.

    So, how do you write fiction like a pro and improve your English GCSE grade?

    Avoid the common English GCSE Pitfalls and Mistakes

    The first step towards success in writing fiction is to be aware of what the common mistakes that students make are. By far the biggest pitfall is to try to put too much in. We are taught, right from primary school, that a good story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Of course, this is broadly true. However, trying to write a whole story in the two or three sides of A4 you might cover in a GCSE exam answer is unrealistic. 

    One of the biggest mistakes is that students try to cover too much time in their descriptive writing. Some of the best descriptions will focus on minutes of action, rather than hours, days, or even weeks. 

    It is generally better to focus on a short space of time but to describe that moment in more descriptive detail than to try and cover a longer period of time.

    Less is More

    Following on from this is the old adage: ‘less is more.’ Furthermore, although it’s a bit of a cliché, it’s also worth remembering the saying ‘quality over quantity’ as well. Exam questions often give guidelines for word counts for descriptive pieces, such as 450-500 words. Perhaps the optimum length for an English GCSE descriptive writing response is around the three pages of A4 mark.

    However, this really comes with an important caveat – word counts are only guidelines, they are not actual requirements. No GCSE mark scheme expects students to have written a certain amount. Similarly, no GCSE mark schemes instruct examiners to penalise students that don’t meet those guideline word counts.

    Some students see all the blank pages in their answer booklet and think they need to fill as many as possible. Wrong. In fact, in doing so, students invariably penalise themselves. 

    Why? Well, it’s simple really. Descriptive Writing is typically ‘Section B’ of an English GCSE exam. Although there is no requirement to do so, this means that the vast majority of students will attempt this section last. There’s nothing wrong with doing this. Indeed, on balance, it is probably complete the paper in this way.

    Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar

    But it’s worth remembering this: Section B – the descriptive writing section – is the only part of the paper when a student’s spelling, punctuation and grammar is specifically assessed. When are you most likely to make mistakes? At the end of an exam. 

    What often happens is that students who are desperately trying to fill all the pages only succeed in one thing – making more mistakes. And the more mistakes you make, the harder it becomes for an examiner to award a high mark.

    So, less really is more. If you only manage a paragraph or two for your descriptive writing piece, it’s never going to be enough. However, one and half sides of well-written description will nearly always be better than three or four sides of mistake-laden work. If the only thing an examiner can criticise is the fact a piece is a bit brief, it won’t be too costly.

    Setting, Character, Action

    If you want to write fiction like a pro, it’s worth thinking about what makes great descriptive writing. In general, it can be broken into three simple categories: setting, character, and action. No complete story will engage purely because of its setting alone – but a detailed description of a setting to build atmosphere and to set the scene can be vital. 

    Ultimately, it’s what happens to the characters in those settings that interests readers more than anything. Again, in a complete whole story, there needs to be some action at some point. However, for the purposes of a GCSE descriptive writing response, it’s best to focus on the description of character and setting, rather than the action.

    For more top tips on how to write fiction like a pro and improve your English grade, an English tutor can give you the individual support you need.

  4. How can I revise GCSE English Language?

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    There’s a common misconception (especially among Year 11 students) that you can’t revise GCSE English Language…

    But we’re here to smash the myth!

    It’s true, it is more obvious what you must revise for English Literature. These are the novels, plays and poems that you have studied. So, you can revise plot, characters, themes… you can learn quotes. That’s simple enough, right?

    But how can you revise for English Language? The exams include unseen fiction and non-fiction extracts that you’ve never seen before. How can you revise something you’ve never seen before? For the Writing section, you don’t know what type of text you will need to write, or what the topic will be – Impossible to revise for, surely?

    Wrong.

    So, how do you revise GCSE English Language?

    Knowledge, Process, Practice

    The key to success for GCSEs (in any subject) is a three-step process: knowledge, process, and practice.

    Knowledge is your skills and understanding of topics. For English, that means your understanding of how writers use language; how they use language features and techniques to achieve effects on the reader: similes, metaphors, personification, etcetera.

    So, that’s the first thing that you can revise. Do you know all the techniques? Can you identify them in a text and explain the effect of them on the reader?

    How do you apply your knowledge?

    But knowing stuff only gets you so far; it’s what you do with that knowledge that counts. How you apply your knowledge is the process. And what you really have to do with your knowledge for GCSE English Language is to answer exam questions.

    So, a major part of revising English Language is to develop your understanding of what each question is asking you to do. You need to be confident about which skills you need to show for each question and what the assessment objectives are. It’s important to know what the examiners looking for. For example, information retrieval, language, structure, comparison, etcetera.

    The good thing about exams (if there is a good thing!) is that there should be no surprises when you open the exam paper. Choose any question from a paper, and if you were to put the exams for the last 5 years side by side, you’d notice that the questions are virtually the same – almost word for word. Only the extracts themselves are different.

    Focus on:

    What the question is about?

    What are you being assessed on?

    How many marks are available and how long should you spend on the question.

    Practice makes perfect

    Finally, after knowledge and process comes practice. Okay, so practice might not make you perfect in English. But it is the only way you are going to reach your potential. This means that practice questions should be a big part of any revision schedule for English. 

    Revision needs to be active rather than passive. Endlessly reading through revision notes (even if they are the best revision notes in the world) will be next to useless. You need to be doing something with the notes – and the best thing to do is to practise exam questions.

    If you think a private tutor could help, get in touch with the TutorRight team for more information.

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