Everything you wanted to know about IB

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is a two-year curriculum for high-achieving high school students. The IB Diploma Programme is the most widely offered IB program in the United States. 945 high schools are authorized to use and teach the IB diploma curriculum.

Why should I consider the IB Programme?

International Baccalaureate programs are offered and recognized worldwide. The idea is that students in a variety of different countries will learn the same curriculum during high school. When it comes time for students to apply for college, institutes of higher education will know exactly what an applicant’s high school curriculum entailed. They’ll also know that the student has met college entry requirements.

Within the United States alone, over 1,600 colleges have policies that recognize the IB coursework that students completed in high school. For some institutions, qualifying grades on IB exams are enough to bestow college credit, while at other institutions, qualifying grades may not provide credit but may allow students to skip ahead past introductory-level classes.

Classes are offered at two levels: standard level (150 hours of instruction) and higher level (240 hours of instruction). In a given year, students must take three or four higher-level classes, and the remainder must be standard level. The classes generally cover the same material, but higher-level classes may delve deeper into some of the covered topics or include topics that are beyond the scope of a standard-level class. For example, Language A: Literature at the standard level covers 10 literary works, while the higher level covers 13.

In addition to taking classes from the six core subjects, students are also required to complete three other requirements:

  • The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) is a course that requires students to reflect on what it really means to learn, how we as a human race learn, and how we know what we know. It culminates in a verbal presentation and a 1,600-word essay.
  • The Extended Essay is a 4,000-word essay on a self-directed research project. Students have the freedom to choose a topic that interests them, provided it is related to one of the six core subject areas.
  • Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) is required but not graded. Students perform a variety of projects involving creative thinking, physical activity, and/or volunteer service. The IB curriculum intends for students to develop both inside and outside of school.

At the end of the school year students are subject to an exam period, during which they are tested over everything they’ve learned in each of their IB classes.

Exams are graded from 1 to 7, and exam grades for classes in the same subject area are averaged so that at the end of exams, students have a score ranging from 1-7 for each of the six subjects. These are added together to give an overall IB score. The TOK and the Extended Essay may add a combined 3 points to a student’s total score. The highest possible IB diploma score is 45, but students who earn at least 24 points, do not have any failing scores, complete the entire curriculum, and meet other eligibility requirements are granted an IB diploma. A score of 1 is a failing score; students with a 1 in any subject will not earn an IB diploma.

Does it make any difference in terms of university entrance?

The key element in a university application, is for the admissions tutor to be able to assess the level of academic attainment that the applicant has achieved to ensure that the university’s minimum criteria are met in the appropriate areas for a particular course of study.

The admissions tutor will also be seeking to understand how the applicant has grown in a wider sense and his or her developing attitudes towards independent learning, social responsibility, team work etc.

The beauty of the IB Diploma is that it covers all of these aspects and offers credit for them against clearly stated criteria for success in obtaining the diploma. Some argue that the IB Diploma requires the student to develop a stronger sense of time-management which is also considered good preparation for university study.

You can’t go past the most obvious point in the IB’s favour – the international aspect.

The IB Diploma Program is recognised by all leading universities, which instantly puts you on the world stage and contextualises your application.

Regardless of where you sit your IB exams, the results mean the same thing, and they’re understood by admissions officers.

However, it’s important to understand that recognition doesn’t necessary equate to value. and IB means more to US universities than it does to UK universities, so how much this “pro” weighs for you will depend on where you want to study.

UK university applications in for a shake up.

The dreaded part of any university application for many students has been the personal statement. Social mobility experts have said that personal statements were “barometers of middle-class privilege”. This 4000 character essay which gives students a chance to advocate for themselves and demonstrate their achievements is going to be removed and replaced. Some speculation is that this may be replaced with a video message from the students although this has yet to be confirmed by UCAS. There are some other interesting changes ahead as well.

The proposed change will affect those applying in 2024 for start in 2025 and is a significant breakthrough in equalizing applications and making them a fairer process for all, the personal statement have been seen by many as the barometers of middle class privilege disadvantaging applicants from poorer homes who are not able to employ consultants to fill in the application form on their behalf. With top private schools employing dedicated professionals to support students through the entire application process including editing and constructing the personal statement. It is little wonder that students with less access to these are finding the system more challenging.  The personal statement is considered important to give students a voice on why they really want to study the course so instead of being open essay style, there will be 6 key areas to complete: Motivation to study the course; Preparedness for the course; Preparation through other experiences; Extenuating circumstances; Preparedness for study; Preferred learning style.

In terms of reform for UCAS and UK university applications these steps are seen as a way of leveling the playing field for all students. Under the research project “reimagining UK admissions” UCAS interviewed over 1000 students and noted that the biggest pain factor for all applicants was the personal statement, there was also a request to have greater transparency on entry conditions and how offers were made. While universities were finding comparing different references becoming increasing difficult as they were so different in approach.

The space for references will be changed in an effort to redress the imbalance by replacing the free text for references with three structured questions for all undergraduate applications which will include, a general statement about the school or college, any extenuating circumstances which may affect the students performance in exams, and a outline of any circumstances specific to the applicant that a university should be made aware of.

There will also be an “entry  grade” report which will give a profile of grades which have been accepted onto entry of a course over a five year period. This will help students understand if their GCSE grades are enough and their A level grades are relevant for their future aspirations. UCAS is undertaking some incredible projects to help students understand the significance of their post 16 choices. Their post 16 career quiz has helped many students understand the relationship between careers and higher education courses.

UCAS is moving with the times and has committed to making ongoing changes not a one-off reform. they recognize that as digital capabilities evolve so these must be incorporated in their application processes. We can look forward to some interesting changes ahead, made through consultation with the stakeholders of which students are recognized as key. One thing is for sure the dreaded personal statement will become more user engaged and less dreaded over the next few years which has to be good news for students of the future.

Why are study skills so important and how do you master them.

How to become a Grade A student


We all want to do well in the future, and you know you need to have a great set of results to make it happen. Hopefully, you are willing to do whatever it takes to get those great grades to get started.

Getting great results is not about the cost of your school, or the size of your brain or having amazing teachers. It is about YOU and your routine. A weekly routine that is repeated until your exams is all that’s needed. It is about consistency, self-discipline and the determination to stick to it.

This routine will make you a straight-A student. As you move through school the amount of learning increases as does the importance of what you need to learn. Everyone starts talking about revision, but what is it? The official dictionary definition is to “see (or read) again”. So the key implication about revision is that you have already pre-learned what you are trying to revise.

The purpose of revision is to be able to remember all the knowledge you need for your exams and to practice the skills you need for your exams until you are perfect. Exams are about remembering information and more importantly knowing how to answer the questions using the information you have remembered to get the maximum amount of marks.

To be revision ready when the exams start you have to put the work in earlier in the year. Then actively planning your revision to use your time really effectively.

The first thing to remember is that no exam will ever test you everything you have learned and not everything is known. So you need to find out what your exam could cover. The list of this is found either in the exam specification or the syllabus and these terms are used interchangeably.

1. So how do you get a definitive breakdown of the knowledge and skills that you need to pass a school level exam, so that you can be methodical in the your approach and ensure that you have ticked off the list and will walk into your exam confident.

2. Make sure you check the knowledge you need as well as the skills e.g essay writing, mathematical formulae, statistical techniques to analyse data. You do not need to print the entire specification, just the part that shows the content and knowledge required.

The main exam boards that you will be studying from are likely to be a combination of the following.

3. Be careful to choose the correct qualification taking note of whether is an International GCSE or not. The first point of your success must be to know which syllabus (exam board specific) that you are following. Some teachers will provide you with this as well, but if they don’t you can download it.

4. On the exam board sites there are also past exam papers and mark schemes. Use these past exam papers like your life depends on them, there are only so many questions that can be asked, so it is likely that similar questions will repeat over the years.

Once you have the list of contents and exam papers you are on the right path for success, If you know eveything on the list by the time you take the exam you will have set yourself up to get a great grade.

From the information you have collected for each subject from the list above you can now identify your strengths and weaknesses. If you have taken class or module tests and just got through with a mediocre 50% score, take heart it is a pass, but it also means that there is 50% of content that you still don’t know, what happens if its this 50% that is tested in the final paper? You will always have that one teacher who does not inspire your learning, is new themselves and may literally only be one step ahead of you in the text book – it happens, but their teaching level does not have to be your learning level or the final outcome of your exams.

How can you identify your strengths and weaknesses?
Most of the time you will just have a gut feeling about the things you find easy and hard. Get some red, orange and green pens or highlighters. If you are not sure about how you feel about a topic, go back to your notes on that area and have a look at your assessed work see what your marks were and and does this equal the grade you are targeting. If they were below, mark them as red, if they were above mark them as green and if they were equal to your target then use orange.

When you are planning out your revision your priority will be to learn the things you have marked in red: your weaknesses. When you have finished these you move onto the orange ones and then finally you can review the green marked topics. By doing this you will be focusing on your areas of weakness which are the areas that you are most likely to lose marks on in your exam. Hopefully your areas of weakness will change as you work through your revision list as you focus on them they will turn into strengths. Keep revaluating strengths and weaknesses as you go along.

Once you get into revision season time its of the essence. This means that is you are really struggling with something you need to seek help rather then work it out on your own. Talk to teacher or book a tutor and then move onto something else that you can progress on your own.

How important are your GCSE grades?

Do these exams matter?

Your GCSE results are a very important part of your academic journey. The results you get can affect the following:
The sixth form you attend.

Entry requirements for school and college sixth forms vary – ranging from four to five C grades (that’s between a 4 and 5 under the changed GCSE grading system), with perhaps Bs in the subjects you want to study, through to at least six GCSEs at grade A for the most selective colleges.

The qualifications you take next
Some sixth forms may say you can’t do a particular subject unless you’ve got at least a grade A (at least a 6 or 7) in that subject at GCSE. If your grades are mostly Cs (4 or 5), studying A-levels or Advanced Highers could be off limits altogether; a sixth form may offer you a vocational (ie a more practical and hands-on) course such as a BTEC Level 3 qualification instead. Currently, most Universities accept BTECs although these are likely to change in 2023 to reflect the new T Qualification route.

Your eligibility for a university course and the university you apply to
Some of the top academic universities (Russel Group for example) will ask for very high A-level grades – AAB or higher – for most courses.

Because of the assumed connection between your GCSE and A-level results, it’ll be down to you to prove you’re able to achieve top grades. Grades B and C (or a 4 to 6) at GCSE are suggestive of Cs and Ds at A-level – which won’t be enough to get into some universities.

The more competitive the university and course, the higher the number of high-achieving students with top GCSE marks applying.

Your career prospects.
A career-related degree may also have subject-specific entry requirements: Engineering courses such as chemical engineering you’ll usually need A-levels or equivalent in chemistry and maths, and physics for other engineering courses, which in turn means you’ll need to have good GCSE grades in science and maths.

Competitive courses like medicine may ask for a whole suite of good GCSEs. The University of Birmingham’s medical school, for example, specifies ‘normally, applicants must offer A* grades in each of English (either English Language or English Literature), mathematics and all science subjects. Integrated Science (double certificate) is acceptable as an alternative to single sciences. Overall GCSE performance will be considered.’

Social work and Secondary School Teaching won’t consider you without at least a grade C (or 4 or 5) in maths and English language at GCSE.

Nursing and Primary School Teaching requires a grade C (or 4 or 5) in GCSE English, maths and science.

And when it comes to employment right now – for that weekend job while you’re doing your A-levels or a part-time job at uni – your academic grades will go on your CV, too.

Learning through Play

Learning through play is so valid today. Every single child should be encouraged to play and the great part is they do not need expensive toys to do so. In fact, the simpler the toy the better for their imagination. Play fuels curiosity, it sparks creativity and inspires a lifelong love of learning. Children who play pick up all kinds of skills to thrive today and lay the foundations of a happier, healthier life tomorrow.

Play unlocks essential skills, not least fine motor skills. Our world never stops changing and if a child is given the opportunity to think, negotiate, adapt to new rules and try again when things don’t go to plan, they will develop skills that will last a lifetime.

Play is also good for mental health, children who are exposed to lots of play opportunities have more resilience and well-being that they carry from early childhood. We must never forget that when a child receives a gift they will find the box that it comes in equally engaging and I can remember loving large cardboard boxes that through triggering my imagination could be a car, a house, a castle, a spaceship or essentially just a safe space.

Play is for everyone and is how children learn naturally which is what makes it so powerful and why it is so important to make room for play. From an adult perspective, unfortunately, the best play is messy, it is explorative but most of all it is led by your child and is a journey of discovery and fun.

The great thing about creative play is that doesn’t have to cost a thing. Children do not need a specific level of ability or a dedicated space and they most certainly do not need an expensive set of toys to learn playfully. Make-believe, telling a story, playing hopscotch, and a game of tag, are all ways children show us how they feel while practising self-control, cooperation and creativity. Often it’s when children are not using expensive toys they express themselves the most. Give your child some pens, old boxes, glue and sticky tape and watch as their imagination runs wild and they create toys on their own. For a child everyday objects are playthings. My son’s favourite toys used to be 3 or 4 saucepans and my rolling pin, he used to bash away believing he was playing tunes to his favourite songs (thankfully Baby shark hadn’t been written then).

Studies show that playful learning helps disadvantaged children catch up to their more advantaged peers – in areas from maths to motor skills. So, when we invest our time in playful learning with our children it can have a broad impact. Play is a lifeline when a child has a crisis and it can bring out the child’s superhero in a crisis. Even just clapping along to songs can create togetherness, and a sense of normality even in countries affected by war and disaster.

Here are some super easy (and cheap) ideas for play.

Home Drum Set – Pans and spoons.
Place the pan’s open end down with lots of different sizes and encourage your child to bump the pans with wooden and metal spoons. They love the noise and you can get them to tap out rhythms’ to their favourite nursery rhymes.

Learning outcomes an understanding of different noises made by different materials, rhythm, motor skills and coordination. Being able to hit the object we are looking at is a learned skill.

Sock Theatre
Have you ever sewed/stuck or drawn buttons on an old sock? Then allowed the sock to be the focus of your story. Kids love the stupidity of their simple friend and will quickly lose themselves in conversation giving it an identity and allowing their imagination to take them to new places. A quick google and you can get all kinds of ideas, they can range from 2 eyes to hair, mouths noses etc. In my opinion, keep it simple.

Home made best friend
Engage and invent adventures with your own sock puppets

Learning outcomes: Storytelling and role play as well as being great for fine movements need to make the puppet move. The fine movement required to wear a puppet helps with dexterity and using fingers to manipulate the puppet improves fine motor coordination. Young children love a game of “peek a boo” and a sock puppet is great for this. Children love to have conversations with their puppets and these verbal interactions encourage language development. If your child is shy, the pet puppet can become their voice. If your child puts on a puppet show it will help to increase their self-confidence. Additionally, skills in storytelling and sequencing stories will develop.

Sock sports winger
You may remember the playground fun of putting a tennis ball in a sports sock and holding one end as you bounce it between your legs, over your shoulder and head off the wall behind. There was something a bit scary and fun at the same time. It took lots of energy and coordination but was super cheap and always full of laughs with school friends.

Learning outcome: coordination and motor skills.

Cloud Dough with essential oils.
A great activity for young children is play dough, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive nasty smelling shop bought one, you can make your own. Either salt dough with flour and water or cloud dough with hair conditioner and cornflour which I love as you can also add essential oils and it is so soft you just want to play with it.

Learning outcome: It develops fine motor skills, it is calming and encourages creativity. Using and making things from the dough enhances hand-eye coordination, strengthens small fingers, hands and wrists teaches dexterity and control.

Cardboard boxes/dens
A big box can be a safe space, with four walls to colour, a car, a spaceship a castle and is literally a play toy for a long time. They can be made into dens which could also include blankets, furniture, sofas etc. Children absolutely love making dens and making up stories of hiding from animals, witches etc.

Learning outcome: Imagination, motor skills, problem-solving, dexterity.

What’s the English Baccalaureate?

I keep getting questions about the EBACC – so here is my answer!

The current English Baccalaureate is not a qualification in itself, but a particular group of GCSE subjects that are usually looked on favourably by universities.
The existing English Baccalaureate – or EBacc – isn’t a qualification. Put simply, it’s a way for the government, and parents looking at school league tables, to measure and compare how many pupils in a school are getting grade C or above in certain academically-focused GCSEs.
These subjects also happen to be the ones most regularly asked for by college and university courses.
You don’t need to have studied all of these to go to university, but having your GCSE mix steered towards English BAC subjects will help keep your options open:
• English
• Maths
• the sciences (including computer science)
• history or geography
• a modern or ancient foreign language.
What the Department for Education? (DfE) says
The English Baccalaureate – though not a qualification in itself – is a measure of success in core academic subjects; specifically English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language.
These are subjects most likely to be required or preferred for entry to degree courses and ones that will keep the most doors open. The English Bac aims to reverse the long-term drift away from students taking the likes of history, geography, French, Spanish and other modern languages.
Universities usually look for specific grades in Maths, English and Sciences but these subjects are compulsory for you to take anyway.

It’s up to you to decide whether to take one or more of the optional subjects. On the plus side, taking a mix of these will ensure you can be more flexible in your university course choices later down the line – especially if you’re not sure what you want to do yet.

But if you feel you’re weaker in these subjects, don’t feel that you must take them in order to go to university.

Top tips for writing your university personal statement

When approaching the first draft of your personal statement, write simply and honestly. Believe in what you are saying and it will stand out.


# Top Tip 1

Create two lists
Write down one list of what you know and like about the course you would like to study and why you know it is the correct degree choice for you. The second list should focus on why you are the ideal student for that course and university. Use these lists to help you produce a more personal statement. (Remember your PEEL paragraphs, yes you finally get to use them for real).

#Top Tip 2

Thoroughly research your subject choice
Admission tutors will read your personal statement to help them evaluate whether you are right for the course. Research the university’s values you should feel confident to share why you want to dedicate the next three years to your chosen course.

#Top Tip 3

Be original
You know why you got excited about the degree the moment you read the course information or when you attended a Q&A with one of the lecturers during an open day. Use your personal statement as an opportunity to share your enthusiasm.

#Top Tip 4

Don’t use unsupported clichés
It’s a good idea to try and stay away from clichés as a rule, but if you do think that one will work in your favour make sure it’s supported. If it is the truth that you have wanted to study something from a young age then you may want to include this kind of statement. But what is more important is that you explain how this has inspired you to study supporting subjects and dedicate time to hobbies or interests that relate directly to what you would like to study at university and how this will help you.

#Top Tip 5

Be aware of using the word “passionate” (along with a few others)
If you are applying to university you must be passionate about your subject. Thousands of students will use this word at least once in their personal statement, so not using the word “passionate” will instantly set you apart from other applicants.

Other words and phrases to avoid include:
Sparked my interest, burning desire, fascinated me, from a young age!


Your personal statement is in reality the only thing on your application that will show the university what type of person you are and persuade them to take you on their course. They need to know you will bring something to the course, complete the course and be fun to teach. So everything you write must underline your strengths in being a completer.

If you are unsure about anything – just ask!


When french mathematician Laurent Schwartz was in High school, he started to worry that he wasn’t smart enough to solve math problems. Still, he went on to win Fields Medal, the highest award in mathematics.

Some students have a similar feeling. They sit down to take math tests and feel their heart beating faster and butterflies in their stomach. It may be happening with your students too.

There are many reasons why a child may struggle with his/her self confidence. It happens more often in subjects like mathematics which are generally considered to be brainy and tough.

Why is Self-confidence Important?

In today’s world, there is no place for those who lack self-confidence. Self-confident people can judge their position in any environment, be it their schools, workplaces, or the community where they live.

They use confidence as a ladder to improve their position and excel in whatever they do.

People can grow and succeed only if they live in a positive atmosphere where they receive constructive feedback.

However, if people live in a demotivating environment where they are constantly compared to others, never rewarded for their efforts, and seldom encouraged to do something outstanding, their self-confidence is hampered. 

Children are our future, so it is imperative to educate them well and guide them on the right path.

  • Every child must be helped to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Children should be taught to speak confidently and with dignity.
  • Children should learn to be honest with themselves and others.
  • Children need to develop a positive outlook on life.
  • It is essential to make them believe that they can improvise themselves in order to achieve the things they want, faster and easier, thereby enjoying life.
Why Do Children Struggle with Math Confidence?

Struggling with maths can affect a child’s overall self-esteem and social life. Maths anxiety causes poor Maths performance and also evokes maths anxiety.

Without a strong mathematical foundation, students experience maths failures and it embarrasses them.

It has been observed that generally, students develop a negative attitude towards Math from their family members or peers who have fear of Math.

Students may also dislike the subject if they have insensitive maths teachers. If children find an answer to their ‘why’ and ‘how’ related to various mathematical concepts, they develop a proper conceptual understanding of the subject.

Developing a mathematical mindset is critical for every child. Solving any real-life problems requires an analytical and mathematical mindset which in turn will set up a child for lifelong success.

What makes maths difficult for children?

When we start maths with children it is a very visual process – 1 block equals the number 1 If I have 5 apples and I take 3 away how many will I have, and the principles are good, but what if the child never really understands that the number 1 actually equals 1 unit! As they move through their maths they will remember their number bonds but this basic understanding of the value of the number remains unsecured. As long as a child stays in KS1 and KS2 the maths is pretty visual and the child can make an attempt at it, but when it comes to their times tables this is where we can see the first real evidence that the number itself has no meaning. When education relied on rote learning there was less obvious evidence of this, but in todays mapped out exploratory learning pathways, understanding the meaning of numbers is critical.

If a child is showing cracks in their maths early on in primary school then when they get to year 6 and moving into year 7 we will really see maths becoming a major problem as maths moves away from any visualization at this point. Have you ever looked at your child’s maths to see if they really understand the difference between hundreds, tens and units?

If they are showing signs of struggling with maths now, it is really important to implement intervention early before they lose their confidence and becoming good at maths slips out of their grasp. Out of all the subjects a child studies maths is actually the easiest as it is always right or wrong, it has a set of clear rules to reach the answer and is never subjective.

Mathematical proficiency has five strands:

  1. Understanding: Comprehending mathematical concepts, operations, and relations—knowing what mathematical symbols, diagrams, and procedures mean.
  2. Computing: Carrying out mathematical procedures, such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers flexibly, accurately, efficiently, and appropriately.
  3. Applying: Being able to formulate problems mathematically and to devise strategies for solving them using concepts and procedures appropriately.
  4. Reasoning: Using logic to explain and justify a solution to a problem or to extend from something known to something not yet known.
  5. Engaging: Seeing mathematics as sensible, useful, and doable—if you work at it—and being willing to do the work.

The most important feature of mathematical proficiency is that these five strands are interwoven and interdependent.

If your child is struggling with their maths, speak to us to support them now. Our team has really made a difference to so many children in achieving maths proficiency.


To support students and teachers preparing for GCSE and A-Level exams in 2022, the exam boards are required to provide “advance information” for most subjects.


If you’re taking GCSE or A-Level exams in the summer of 2022, then you need to know about something called ADVANCE INFORMATION. It’s been a really tough time recently for students – particularly the current Year 11s and Year 13s, who have never sat public exams before. So, to help students whose education has been disrupted during the pandemic, the government have told exam boards to provide some special exam guidance to teachers and students for 2022. This guidance is called ADVANCE INFORMATION.

The purpose of Advance Information is to help communicate to students and teachers SOME, but not all of the aspects of the GCSE and A-Level specifications that will be assessed in the 2022 exam papers. And we stress SOME, not ALL. So why is advance information being provided? Well, as it stands, for nearly all GCSE & A-Level exams in 2022, there won’t be any changes, or modifications to the usual structure of the papers. There are a few subjects where there will be changes. But for most, NO CHANGE For example, they’ll be no changes to how many papers you sit, how many questions are set, how many marks for each, and how your answers are assessed! Now, in many ways that’s a good thing – since the exam papers you will sit will look just like the ones that have been using to practice. So, you’ll be able to use past papers really effectively – they’re a great way to get used to the question format AND DEVELOP YOUR EXAM TECHNIQUE.

Instead, Advance Information is intended to help you focus some, BUT NOT ALL your revision on some key topic areas and themes. So, how’s it going to work? Well each exam board will provide Advance Information in different ways, and it will also vary by subject! The exam boards are required to publish the Advance Information for all of your subjects by 7 February 2022. Now this is important! Advance Information is intended to SUPPORT your revision and to help your teachers structure their lessons once the course specification has been completed and your are into revision mode.

Advance Information is NOT DESIGNED to tell you which questions will appear in the exam papers! The exam boards have to make sure that the Advance Information does not allow students to ‘QUESTION SPOT and use pre-prepared and memorized answers! So, WHEN should Advance Information be used? Well, you’ll be able to use it as soon as it is released. Once the information is available, you’ll be able to see, along with your teachers, which parts of your specification are worth the most focus But, don’t forget, Advance Information won’t necessarily be the same. For some of your subjects, you might be told what the topic focus for the high mark or high tariff questions might be. If your subject has quantitative skills, like Economics , Business Psychology or Geography, you might be told which quantitative skills, or which research methods will be examined. The key will be to listen to your teachers and take their advice on how best to respond to the advance information for your subject and exam board And of course all our subject teams will be looking at how we can help you make the most from advance information.

Why I should revise for my GCSE English exam

Many students find GCSE English Language a difficult subject because they feel that they can’t revise for an English exam.  The key to understanding any English exam is to fully understand what the assessment objectives are and how to achieve them through your answers. Once you understand this format you will be well on your way to getting a high grade in your English Language GCSE. The article below is going to unravel what each assessment objective is and how to achieve it through your answers.

Success in GCSE English Language is all about understanding the assessment objectives like the back of your hand. You need to know what they really mean and how you can work with them when you answer your exam question.

AO1 – is all about how you extract information from the text

AO2 – focuses on analyzing language and structure

AO3 – wants you to show that you can compare and contrast texts

AO4 –  requires an in depth evaluation of the text

AO5 – measures your creative writing

AO6 – is all about your vocabulary and grammar.

So let’s look at each of these objectives:

  1. Understanding AO1 is the difference between getting an 8 and 9 – it is the simplest assessment objective and is used in the questions below on your paper. It isn’t a high number of marks but these few marks can make a difference between an 8 and a 9.

This is used in the following papers

AQA: Paper 1, question 1 & Paper 2, questions 1 and 2

Edexcel: Paper 1, questions 1 & 2; Paper 2, Questions 1 & 4

To achieve AO1 you have to read the given texts and extract the information that is relevant to the question. You don’t have to provide in-depth analysis you just need to show evidence so the question is pretty straight forward.

Common mistakes: Don’t give overly long quotations. You only need to include the relevant words or phrases otherwise it looks like you are being vague and not and you don’t really know which information to extract. E.g. if a metaphor has been used to describe something, do not write the whole metaphor out again, just say what it is actually describing. So is a writer describer pterodactyls as ‘flying tents’ if you wrote that they were ‘flying tents’ you wouldn’t get the mark. If the questions says explain you can’t just use the quote as you need to explain what it means. Always take time to ready the question properly.

  • AO2 for GCSE English is all about taking examples of language and structure from a the extract and analyzing their effect. Nearly all schools use an anacronym P.E.E which simply means Point, Evidence, Explain. To achieve the higher grades you have to look beyond the surface meaning of the text which is hard. You could use the following questions to help you when you are analyzing a text:

WHY did the writer use this specific word?

WHAT is the writer trying to convey?

HOW does this make the reader feel?

What are the connotations of this language?

Does the structure reflect the content of the extract?

Is the writer making a reference and why are they doing this?

This will be used in

AQA: Paper 1, question 2 and 3 and Paper 2, question 3

Edexcel: Paper 1, question 3 and Paper 2, questions 2, 3, & 5.

Common mistakes to avoid when answering AO2 questions is giving surface level analysis and forgetting to comment on language and structure, or using standard phrases like “creates an image”

  • To nail that grade 9, AO3 is very important, you will need to look for similarities and differences across two pieces of texts. You should try and write an equal number for both texts to show a balanced piece of work. You need to try and work variety into your comparisons, so try not to over analyze adjectives in each example. Use these questions to help you when compare and contrast two pieces of text:

What is the writer trying to convey?

How is the tone different or similar?

Do the writes use particular literary techniques and what is their purpose?

How will the readers interpret the text?

What emotion is the writer trying to create and how do they do this?

This will be used in the following questions:

AQA: Paper 2, question 4

Edexcel: Paper 2, question 7b

  • Understanding AO4 is almost as essential as AO3 in your English Language Exams with AO4 question you will be given a statement relating to the extract and you need to give a response and state how far you agree with it. (Edexcel you will have to evaluate if the writers aim was achieved). These questions are all worth 15 marks or more so it is really important that you know how to answer them if you want to get a 9 in your exam.

There are 2 main things to evaluate; you need to assess the source in relation to the statement and consider the writers methods. If you follow your P.E.E structure, what the source shows and how it links to the statement will be your point but you still need to evaluate it after your example. The writers method will be your evidence and then you must evaluate it,

With these questions there aren’t any rules on what methods you can analyse, meaning there are lots to choose from, so it can be really beneficial to make a mind map when you are revising all the different literary techniques.

This will be assessed in the following papers:

AQA: Paper 1, question 4,

Edexcel: Paper 1, Question 4 and Paper 2, Question 6

  • Don’t neglect AO5 as this the assessment objective for the creative writing task.  The creative writing part of the English Language exam is hugely important and is worth half the marks on the paper (Edexcel paper 2 AO5 makes up 24 of those marks). Creative writing can be daunting for some as there is now no extract to follow, its whatever you decide to write about but with the correct practice and preparation the creative writing questions will be a lot easier to tackle. There are many techniques to use for creative writing so if you are really struggling think about texts you have analyzed in your class already and the creative skills that they have used. It is important to use structural techniques as well as language if you want to push your marks up. Students who get the highest grades in their exams will have to be able to craft a piece that will get a response from the reader. You will need the examiner to be able to see clearly what you done so try and achieve this with language techniques like pathetic fallacy or hyperbole.

The exam papers that will include these questions are:

AQA – Paper 1, question 5, Paper 2, question 5

Edexcel: Paper 1, Question 5 or 6 and Paper 2, Question 8 and 9

  • AO6 is the assessment objective for the creative writing questions and it assesses the candidates range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect with accurate spelling and punctuation.

This mark is dedicated to your vocabulary and grammar and is worth 16 marks in your final creative writing question. So, to get your grade up this mark is essential. A useful tip is write down the various forms of punctuation and tick them off as you use them, ensure you use as many as possible. Try and boost your vocabulary, use a few long words. Try and use words you can spell as you don’t want to lose marks for poor spelling.

This will be assessed in the following questions:

AQA – Paper 1, question 5, Paper 2, question 5

Edexcel: Paper 1, Question 5 or 6 and Paper 2, Question 8 and 9

Why is non verbal reasoning important?

Non-Verbal Reasoning is not generally taught in schools. In fact there’s very little to actually teach as it is not an academic subject.

For most parents the 11-Plus, Non-Verbal Reasoning is the stuff of nightmares! The main problem is that children will not have been taught the subject in class time at primary school and it is highly likely that parents have never been taught it either.

Non-Verbal Reasoning tests for the Eleven Plus are akin to intelligent tests and some of the questions presented to the 10-year-olds would be a challenge even to Mensa members.

This type of test is meant to help determine the innate ability of children and thereby assess their suitability for secondary education at a fast pace. The tests are designed to be tutor-proof – a somewhat clumsy term often used in the world of education to imply that it is difficult to prepare children for the type of question they will be faced with.

Non-Verbal reasoning tests were designed to try and differentiate between children from diverse educational backgrounds. To make the point in an extreme way the idea was that the same test could identify potential when given to a child from a very good educational background or a child who has had very little education. The tests deliberately use very little English so no real comprehension ability is needed to understand what to do.

In practice of course no test is perfect and Non-Verbal Reasoning tests are useful in helping to identify potential but are never used exclusively. Schools also want to make sure that children have very solid core Maths and English skills because otherwise they simply cannot progress well at their chosen secondary school.

So Non-Verbal Reasoning is used in combination with other test forms.

What’s included in Non-Verbal Reasoning tests for children

The essence of Non-Verbal Reasoning is that it tests a child’s logic and observational skills by giving them collections of shapes and patterns; they then might need to find the odd one out, or two shapes which are most similar to each other or to find a missing shape in a series from options given. Children need no particular Maths or English skills to answer the questions although an awareness of shapes symmetry and reflection is useful.

One hope for the designers of Non-Verbal reasoning tests was that they could not be coached for. In fact as in all tests some preparation does help, although because there are no core skills to learn (vocabulary or times tables for instance) preparation is of limited use.

Non-Verbal Reasoning preparation overview

The best results are delivered by doing some work to understand the different question types and then doing some example questions and papers. The largest improvement can be made by improving speed and accuracy, understanding what is required is the easy part. Most tests differentiate children through the sheer number of questions they ask rather than the difficulty level. Most families find that their children can score very highly in rapid time. However families also find their children reach a plateau which is difficult to overcome.

Here’s an example of a easy question:


Which shape is most unlike the others?

 Answer D – In all the other figures the black shape is in front of the white shape


When trying to spot patterns one of the things I recommend is to count the number of sides, lines or shapes presented to see if there’s a link.

2) Look at how the first two figures are changed, and then work out which option would look like the third figure if you changed it in the same way:

NVR Counting

Answer C – The number of sides of the white shape becomes the number of points on the black shape. The number of small lines becomes the number of sides of the white shape.


If a question has arrows in it the first thing I would recommend is to look for a pattern in the direction that they are pointing.

3) Which shape is most unlike the others? 

D – because the arrow is pointing away from the circle. All the other shapes the arrow is pointing towards from the circle

Shading & Line types:

Always look for a pattern in how the lines and shading may change.

4) Look at how the first two figures are changed, and then work out which option would look like the third figure if you changed it in the same way:

Answer D – The large and small shapes swap shadings. The outline of the large shape becomes dashed.

Order & Position:

Check to see how a shape is positioned in relation to the other shapes.

5) Look at how the first two figures are changed, and then work out which option would look like the third figure if you changed it in the same way:

Answer D – The shape at the back moves to the front and the shape at the front moves to the back. The two shapes at the top swap shading.


It will make life easier if you know what a 45 degree and 90 degree rotation looks like. Also, when a shape is rotated, check the direction, whether it’s been rotated clockwise or anti-clockwise could be the key to the correct answer. The direction is irrelevant for a 180 degree rotation.

 6) Work out which option would look like the figure on the left if it was rotated:

Answer A – The figure is rotated 180 degrees. Option B has been rotated and reflected. In option C, two of the arrows are the wrong length. In option D, the diamond is missing and two of the arrowheads are wrong.


Imagine placing a mirror where the line (mirror line) is drawn. What would the object look like when peering into the mirror? Initially, you could use a small mirror when working on reflections as a learning aid.

7) Work out which option would like the figure on the left if it was reflected over the vertical line. 

Answer A – Option D looks almost identical, but the white rectangle is smaller than the original shape. Option B the black arrow has moved to the front of the rectangle and in option C, the black arrow is in the original position and has not been reflected.


This relates to the position of shapes either in front of or behind another shape.

8) The first figure below is changed in some way to become the second. Choose the figure on the right that relates to the third figure in the same way that the second relates to the first. 

B – The top and bottom shapes disappear leaving the middle circle. The stripes from the top shape move to the bottom and the checks from the bottom shape move to the top.


You can see with a glance that option A cannot be a rotation of the shape on the left, therefore, eliminate it and I would recommend crossing it out. When pressed for time, and believe me they will be, it’s easy for the brain to become frazzled and confused when confronted with several options. So, cross out the options that are incorrect so that there’s less to consider and you won’t have to give it a second glance or five! 

9) Work out which option would look like the figure on the left if it was rotated:

Answer C – Option D is a reflection.

What’s our approach to NVR?

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, which is  why we use the following method:

  • We take time to demonstrate what they should be looking for. For example, shapes, counting, rotations, pointing, elimination, etc. 
  • Students will then practise this skill before moving onto the next.
  • Once this process is complete we will then practise questions that are a combination of the areas below, as they are now in a stronger position to answer these correctly.  

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