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English is one of the first subjects to come under the microscope. Whether in pre-tests, 11+ or 13+ Common Entrance Exams, all children need to feel confident with their reading and writing skills and be able to transfer this knowledge across the subject spectrum. Grammatical errors stick out a mile so let's iron them out ahead of time and make sure they stick for life.
11+: Schools will vary in their requirements and it is always worth checking with them directly on the detail. As a guide, the English papers at 11 plus will be divided into three sections: a passage to read and answer questions on to assess comprehension, a grammar section to test punctuation and parts of speech, and then a composition section to show off their creative skills. Senior Schools may choose to examine with just two of these papers.
13+: For Common Entrance, our tutors break down the reading and writing elements into manageable exercises. Children develop skills at their own pace and, as confidence grows, they start to experiment effectively with all kinds of written language in their creative expression. Exercises in grammar and syntax ensure that each individual has a strong foundation for continued learning. Through reading extracts from an assortment of poetry, prose and plays, the aim is to encourage a genuine interest in a diverse range of literature and language. Our tutors place deliberate emphasis on enjoyment in each session; work is purposeful and a pleasure.
GCSE: English provides the foundation for success in all IGCSE subjects and almost all students attending independent schools will study for two qualifications: (1) English Literature and (2) English Language. Prep School Tutors have extensive experience of teaching towards both qualifications for numerous exam-board specifications. Armed with this knowledge and an understanding of their student’s learning style, Prep School Tutors are able to tailor their support sessions, helping to cover the content of the courses but also to help practise the examined skills as set out in the relevant assessment objectives.
In general terms, English Literature requires students to study a selection of prose, poetry and drama texts and demonstrate an understanding of a ‘writer’s craft’. A Prep School Tutor will ensure that their student has a robust understanding of their set texts, revising content where necessary in an interactive and engaging manner. Similarly, students will develop their ability to write sophisticated and logical commentaries on the effects of language, critically analysing the construction of meaning within their set texts with flair and individuality. Writing tasks are often performed in ‘real-time’ whereby students are provided with instant feedback from their tutor on the content and style of their writing using collaborative online tools. The skills honed through these collaborative writing exercises can then be confidently applied to exam-style, timed writing exercises and supervised coursework tasks.
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Maths is an essential life skill. Senior Schools look at Maths results as a key indicator of a student's potential academically. Let's grasp the nettle and get those number skills warmed up ready to take on any assessment in our path!
11+: Maths papers will generally home in on ‘the big four’ (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), and include questions on fractions, percentages, shape, area, graphs, money, measurement and time. The purpose of the examination is to identify those with mathematical potential, who can think logically; maths puzzles and logic problems are useful but Prep School Tutor specialists can provide more focused, effective methods of preparation for 11 plus.
13+: Maths can give some children the fear but, step-by-step, our tutors make the most problematic of problems manageable. Once confident that the foundation concepts are in place, tutors guide their students on to through the more challenging Common Entrance topics. This encourages them to self-assess and to become increasingly adept at applying their mathematical knowledge when both interpreting and solving word problems, which is the dominating question style for Common Entrance Mathematics. We encourage students to reason and form logical conclusions about unfamiliar mathematical concepts as they make the leap up from 11+ to success at Common Entrance and beyond.
GCSE: Mathematics is the building block of our society; without maths we’d have no architecture, engineering, medicine, science or technology. Our lives would be considerably poorer. Is it any wonder then that virtually all students in the UK study mathematics to at least GCSE?
In fact, a good pass in GCSE/IGCSE mathematics is often a requirement for further study, allowing access to Sixth form and University. For those students wishing to take a maths related subject at a more advanced level, GCSE mathematics is crucial and our tutors will help to address any difficulties now before they impact on later studies.
Greater emphasis than ever before is now placed on problem solving, interpreting results in a real life context and formal mathematical proof in the GCSE can be daunting for some. Our tutors know the best ways to encourage students to set out their reasoning logically and communicate their answers clearly thus gaining those crucial extra marks so often lost in exams. Building confidence is key to success and our aim is that students will be motivated to take on the challenges set before them and be fully prepared for the new style GCSE exams.
A final point worth noting is that, while many Independent Schools follow the Pearson Edexcel IGCSE Mathematics A syllabus, it is always worth checking with the school as the Edexcel GCSE exam contains an additional non-calculator paper.
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Why are there so many apostrophes and what’s all this accent business? Singing and dancing in French is fun but suddenly needing to write can be a shock to the system. As vocab steps up and verbs creep in, Prep School Tutor will ensure that, whether in the run up to 13 plus Common Entrance exams, Scholarship or GCSE, learning is manageable and conjugations are no longer daunting, but rather just another piece of a growing jigsaw of language to play with. Prep School Tutor soon guides tutees to build impressive sentence structures, going beyond the realms of survival language towards a far more flexible and far reaching form of communication.
Lost? Don’t be! If you have missed out and feel behind your peers, we have a Fast Track programme to suit you. A great many children start French in Year 7 with no previous knowledge but still manage to shine by the time the 13 plus Common Entrance comes along. Also, for those who have studied French but perhaps not been overly engaged, this is the moment to make absolutely sure that the foundation is in place and the groundwork is complete.
GCSE: Most private schools work towards IGCSE as opposed to GCSE but, not to worry, our teachers tutor both. For IGCSE, the exam boards are either Edexcel or Cambridge OCR so worth checking with the school. In either case, the aim is, essentially, to have more fun in France! As a student learns to use language more effectively, they feel confident and more independent abroad, chatting in the boulangerie on one level, reading articles and watching a film on another. The first step is exam success, then doors open.
The course includes various cultural aspects which most children take a natural interest in, if only as a breather from grammar! The topics chosen for the reading and writing papers are designed to be suitable for the students with ‘personal life’ and ‘education’ a continuation of 13+ Common Entrance in part. Though these themes feel familiar at the outset, there is little room for complacency. To reach those top grades, students need to mature linguistically and develop a deeper understanding and complexity in their written and spoken communication. Let us help!
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Science is a really popular subject with most children at the outset. They know something about mini beasts and love the magic of a puff of smoke or electric current to liven up the school day. Beyond the basics, some elements can be pretty complex and need unravelling. Prep School Tutor has some really excellent Science teachers. Do have a browse or ask for recommendations.
11+: Schools that include a Science paper as part of the 11+ Common Entrance will likely use the ISEB Common Entrance papers. These assess energy, movement and forces as well as material behaviour, life and living things and the environment, Earth and the solar system. There is a growing trend for Science to be an integral part of an assessment day. A number of schools invite the children to attend a Science lesson during their visit. As well as the academic side, those observing are looking for classroom skills, such as listening, being involved in group work and social interaction with peers.
13+: Scientific ideas and explanations can be interesting, enthralling even but, when it comes down to the detail, is it all slightly baffling as well? Prep School Tutors encourage every child to be confident in their understanding of Science and to recognise connections across the disciplines of Chemistry, Physics and Biology. The tutors instil an enjoyment of the subject through their own passion, motivating their tutees to discuss and explain phenomena, think beyond the detail given and so draw their own conclusions. Ultimately, with guidance, each child can learn to apply their experimental and investigative skills with confidence and find for themselves their own eureka moment!
GCSE: The Science Curriculum at GCSE offers a wide variety of syllabuses, ranging from Combined Science at GCSE, Single and Double Award International GCSE, through to the three Separate Sciences at both GCSE and International GCSE (IGCSE).
Private schools use both GCSE and IGCSE qualifications, and understanding what is needed for each exam can be daunting. The range of skills and knowledge needed for Physics, Chemistry and Biology also vary greatly. Not only are there the facts and formulae to be learned, but pupils also need to interpret data, analyse information, use mathematical skills to solve problems, comment upon practicals and experiments, explain results, describe processes, suggest solutions, write accurate answers - all the while demonstrating their scientific knowledge and using the correct scientific language. Phew! If all this seems too much, then don’t worry, experienced tutors can help pupils to cut through the confusion and concentrate upon what is needed.
By breaking down subject areas into manageable sections, tutors can guide pupils through the subject knowledge and can explain how to spot what each question is actually asking. Then, pupils can learn how to give their answers in a way that will score the most marks. Importantly, tutoring can help pupils to not lose marks, whether through inexperience, careless mistakes or lack of exam technique.
Tutors are very aware though, that too much emphasis on exams and grades can destroy pupils’ interest and motivation in Science. The best learning happens when imagination is sparked and pupils ask “how” and “why”. Science tutoring can be inspirational as well as informational and all tutors try to make lessons not only educational, but also enjoyable. With the right approach, tutoring for Science GCSE can help remove exam pressure and achieve great results.
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13+: Latin, Greek, both even? Fostering an interest in the Greeks and Romans is one thing but navigating through the 13 plus syllabus of grammar, syntax and vocabulary can be a headache without some support and guidance. There are three possible levels for Classics at Common Entrance, as well as a more specialised scholarship level. Children who have studied for longer and feel more confident are stretched whilst those with less depth of learning are assessed separately. Our tutors ensure that children reach their level of potential. If there are gaps in knowledge for whatever reason, our specialists can fast track children who wish to take the higher tier papers. Tutors are also experienced in preparing children for Scholarship exams and school specific Classics awards.
GCSE: Latin is an extremely highly-regarded GCSE and one that still catches the eyes of university admissions tutors. Whether subsequent studies lead candidates into the Arts or the Sciences, anyone who has studied Latin to the age of 16 will be able to testify how useful a knowledge of this beautiful language has been to them, whatever their experiences of learning it at school might have been! Although the exam specifications are refreshing in that they do not tend to change hugely from year to year (the advantage to studying a dead language) some of the more challenging grammar points can be difficult to master in a large class working through them at pace.
Our tutors know that, without an extremely strong and confident knowledge of the basic rules of grammar and syntax in Latin, it can be hard to comprehend, let alone master, some of the trickier concepts introduced at GCSE. For this reason, we quickly find the point at which candidates lost their confidence and, using a carefully selected library of online textbooks and interactive resources, we introduce and practise each new concept at a pace that suits the individual learner. Much of our Latin teaching makes explicit the connections between Latin and many European Modern Languages, including English, and this is often a lifeline for those struggling with the retention of vocabulary. Our tutors are conversant with the OCR, Cambridge iGCSE and Eduqas (WJEC) examination specifications and can support whatever literature option a candidate’s school has chosen for them.
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13+: History fascinates us on a personal level as well as a global level; there is just SO much to learn about though! Our tutors inspire a desire to learn more by making sessions fun as well as instructive and purposeful. They encourage curiosity in their students to question what went on in the past and how different events have influenced the present day. Children are helped along the way with learning tricky facts - dates, battles, pros and cons - but also, and importantly, shown how to analyse source material and to draw their own historical interpretations. Children are guided in how to read the question and answer the question asked, rather than trying to dodge the bullet with their own memorised anecdotes. The 13 plus Common Entrance syllabus for History can seem among the weightiest to manage; fear not, our tutors can clear the way to effective, confident learning.
GCSE: How would the world be different if the gates of the farm at Hougoument had not been shut against Napoleon’s infantry at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815? Would we be discussing Brexit if there had not been a break in the early summer storms off Normandy on the 6th June 1944? If Tim Berners-Lee had not been working on the Cern project would we have the World Wide Web?
All of these questions are impossible to answer definitively, but it is important to understand their significance.
However, the sheer amount of information and learning required for studying history can make it a daunting subject. This is exactly where Prep School Tutor can save you precious time and point you in the right direction. We can also remind you of the basic exam techniques which will maximise your chance to collect all the marks available.
For those students tackling theme papers, for example on the very topical subject of migration and empires since medieval times, or on monarchy and democracy there is the need to think of the big picture across the ages. This is where the experienced tutor can reduce the legwork and help you see the overview without having to do endless research.
A question on whether religion was the main factor in causing migration since medieval times will also reward you for writing about economic reasons for migration. But the real challenge will be explaining how reasons changed, for different groups at different times, or stayed the same, or were quite varied and rarely uniform. Being able to quote some examples from across the dates given in the question will also be useful. Once again, the tutor will be able to advise on the sources to use and speed the process to a successful conclusion. Do get in touch and see how we can ease the way to exam success.
‘A people without a knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.’
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13+: Geography goes far beyond quiz questions like, ‘What’s the capital of Bolivia?’ 13+ Common Entrance Geography aims to stimulate a real curiosity in the world around us, introducing children to different societies, cultures and environments. However, there is rarely quite enough class time to develop every idea fully. Some children may need more than a few minutes of map work practice to grasp the essentials, whilst others may need concepts expanded and glossary terms explained in more depth or in a different style before embarking on their own fieldwork enquiries. If there is a Geography project to tackle or a presentation to make, Prep School Tutor specialist 13+ tutors can assist with the detail, advise and help refine and tweak the end product to ensure that the tutee feels confident in their knowledge as well as their delivery.
GCSE: What is the world’s smallest country called? How many great lakes are there? What is the ring of fire? These are all great questions, but GCSE Geography is so much more than just the recall of geographical facts. GCSE Geography is an exciting course that balances the physical side of geography with the human side, whilst examining the battles between the man-made and natural worlds.
Our tutors are experienced in the teaching, marking and tutoring of the GCSE Geography assessment, across all exam boards. Geography is a thrilling yet challenging subject, where learning the techniques of how to answer a variety of questions, not just what you know, is crucial to achieving the top grades. Our tutors can help you with this challenge, guide you and prepare you for every type of question; whether it be the study of Ordnance Survey Maps, the comprehension of data tables and graphs or the evaluation of proposed environmental projects, you will be fully prepared for the rigours of this brilliant subject.
President Barack Obama said “The study of geography is about more than just memorizing places on a map. It’s about understanding the complexity of our world, appreciating the diversity of cultures that exists across continents. And in the end, it’s about using all that knowledge to help bridge divides and bring people together”. Let our tutors help you use your knowledge so you can achieve your full potential in this exciting world we live in.
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When did anyone last discuss the purpose of our being? Religious Studies provides a unique and valuable forum to explore contemporary issues and world religions. Lessons in the classroom are often discussion led but it can be difficult to then consider the influence of beliefs, values and traditions, for example, in an essay for homework. Our specialists guide their tutees to select and organise knowledge related to a question asked and to include relevant forms of analysis, evidence and explanation in their answers.
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Tacos, tortillas, churros y chocolate! Spanish has immediate appeal but not only for its scrumptious culinary delights. Spanish is a wonderfully phonetic language where words on the page are often written as they sound. How helpful! This is a massive bonus for those who find the more illusive spelling patterns of French, for example, somewhat of a minefield. The grammar side does get increasingly complicated at the more advanced stages but Spanish is definitely considered easier at the outset, particularly for those with a foundation in French or Latin. Spanish is growing ever more popular as both a first and second language choice for Common Entrance. Furthermore, a great many pupils prefer Spanish to French for GCSE and recognise how widely spoken this language is, not least in the USA. A growing number of Preparatory schools are offering a second language club in Spanish and encouraging their students to take the 13+ Common Entrance Exam.
13+ For 13+ Common Entrance, just like with French, there is the possibility of opting for Level 1 or Level 2. At Level 1, the past tenses are not needed in any paper but, for Level 2, the Speaking and Writing sections have more open-ended tasks, which allow children to show off a range of tenses. If this is the primary foreign language, then the expectation from most senior schools would be for Level 2. However, if taken as an extra language at Common Entrance, a Level 1 could suffice. These details are always worth checking with the target school or ask us and we can do this for you. GCSE Spanish (I)GCSE is a great choice! Learning Spanish encourages students to develop lifelong skills, which can be applied to other areas of learning, such as analysis memorising and drawing on inferences.
In terms of exam preparation, Prep School Tutor has experienced teachers who cover all exam boards. They tailor their sessions to cover the course content and also, naturally, to practise exam skills. Prep School Tutor will help students to develop their ability to communicate in an interactive and engaging manner, through five prescribed topic areas. The active skills of writing and speaking can be practised in real time, so students gain instant feedback from their tutor on the content and accuracy of their language skills. Tutors can make suggestions to enrich communication directly and at an appropriate level for the individual. This immediate feedback will engage the student, stretch them towards their full potential and help build their confidence quickly. Reading and listening (considered more passive skills) can easily be practised effectively as well with instantaneous highlighting and annotation along the way to guide the eye and keep learning colourful!
Tutors have past papers but also a pool of reading and listening resources from diverse origins to keep the pitch and the right level and topic relevant but to avoid overlap with what is being studied at school. Tutors will integrate invaluable cultural references along the way which, as well as being a necessary part of the course, add a rich flavour to studying Spanish which motivates students to develop their own passion for the language and the diverse cultures of Spanish speaking countries. Prep School Tutor has excellent Spanish tutors. They offer beginners Spanish all the way through to A-Level. Have a browse and see what you think.
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Mandarin is the world’s most widely spoken language and an ideal language to learn with 1.3 billion native speakers and practically no grammar! Well, there are the 56,000 characters to get the hang of but, if up for a challenge, it is absolutely worthwhile! This language is becoming ever more useful both as an impressive subject to make a student sparkle for university entrance and as a valuable tool for a competitive edge in the business world later on.
13+: The Common Entrance syllabus has tiered papers: Level 1 and Level 2. Topics mirror those in French and Spanish, for example, with school, home, hobbies, daily routine and personal description as favourites. Some children, who finish their exams in the Spring Term, might enjoy and benefit from a short course in Common Entrance Mandarin towards Level 1, for example. We can offer this in a flexible way and, at the same time, open the door to a Mandarin option in Senior School.
GCSE: It is tough to start a Mandarin Chinese GCSE course from scratch when entering Senior School and many public schools have a prerequisite of a certain number of hours studied in order to take the Mandarin option further. Our tutors can plug this gap and make sure that enough material has been covered ahead of Year 9 entry. Equally, we are able to continue to offer support through GCSE or IGCSE.
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There is a growing trend to include verbal reasoning as a part of almost every assessment. Schools use the results as a guide to potential, so it is worth having a handle on what to expect on the day. Don't believe anyone who says that it is not possible to prepare!
11+: Verbal reasoning (VR) for pre-tests and 11 plus is comprised of up to fifty different question types including, for example, letter and number codes, identifying word endings and beginnings, odd one out exercises, analogies and number sequences. The more practice, the better, as some papers can be long and time management is as much a concern as ability.
13+: Verbal Reasoning (VR) is not usually a requirement for 13+. However, for candidates coming from schools that do not prepare for Common Entrance, they may sit the school's own papers. One of these may well be verbal reasoning.
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NON VERBAL REASONING
Non-verbal reasoning looks easy at the start; the examples given before the assessment begins are usually straight forward enough. Scratch beneath the surface, though, and these assessments can prove to be pretty tough as the questions quickly increase in complexity. Schools look at the scores gained as an indicator of a student's academic potential, so it is worth practising before the assessment day for a student to feel fully prepared and confident. Don't believe anyone who says it is not possible to prepare!
11+: Non-verbal reasoning (NVR) - both for pre-tests and 11 plus - is a more visual assessment with questions based around shapes, patterns, symmetry and sequences. Some children find these light relief after the challenges of more wordy English and maths papers. However, others find these papers less clear. Either way, practice with the types of questions remains key to success. Prep School Tutor can provide practice materials and help children to identify the different types of questions used, and understand where patterns lie. Achieving familiarity with these types of questions can quickly build a child's confidence and help them to avoid panicking when they see some question types not covered as part of the normal school curriculum.
13+: As for verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning (NVR) is not used for 13+ Common Entrance, but can be a component for candidates sitting a school's own equivalent papers for 13+ entry. Tasks are on visual assessment with questions based around shapes, patterns, symmetry and sequences. Some children breeze through, but others find these papers less than clear. Practice can make all the difference and give candidates confidence in what can be a highly stressful situation.
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The idea of an interview with a headmaster can be daunting for youngsters. A great deal can hang on that first impression: the words, the gestures, reading the situation and knowing how to respond. Prep School Tutors can help with targeted sessions, homing in on the types of questions to expect, the style of appropriate response and the all-important body language. Prep School Tutors can provide valuable feedback for candidates and help them to refine their interview techniques. Be it for 11+, 13+ or scholarship, confidence comes with practice.
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11+ and 13+
ICT and Computing is a developing area of the national curriculum and children of all ages can sometimes struggle with coding and learning programming languages. Using desktop applications, such as databases and spreadsheets to handle data, is still an important skill and some children find using formulae and building relational databases tricky. Prep School Tutors offers help in all areas of ICT and Computing so that children can gain confidence in using applications whether on desktop computers, laptops or mobile devices.
The Cambridge (I)GCSE Information and Communication Technology syllabus (0417) has quite a broad reach and has been developed to enable learners to gain and demonstrate a wide range of skills across a spread of applications. The qualification is ideal for those wishing to use the skills gained from this qualification in future study or work environments. As well as learning how to use a number of desktop applications, learners also study the impact of technology on society, including social, economic and ethical uses - particularly relevant in today's highly evolving technological environment.
The qualification is assessed through a mix of practical and theoretical units and focuses on learners' abilities to develop applications to solve a range of problems. Applications utilised include word processing, databases, spreadsheets, web authoring software and presentations. Learners are expected to take account of an end user's needs and develops solutions that are fit for purpose.
Learners are not expected to use any particular Office package; any hardware or software applications can be utilised for the purposes of completing tasks and assessments. So long as these resources allow the tasks to be completed and allow the learner to demonstrate the required skills.
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