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My Tutor Tip 4: Get Revising with an Exam Timetable

Thursday, 28 December 2017


When you want to do Maths revision or memorise any subject creating a timetable can be super helpful as it gives you a plan on how you are going to revise.  Taking some time to create the plan of action and then (of course) implementing it can keep you on track.

How to Revise: The Timetable

Drawing up a Timetable


Creating a revision timetable can be as simple or as complex as you like.  It could be created by you or someone else.  It is however a highly personable thing.  I would probably advise keeping the timetable simple for two reasons.  Firstly when it gets more complex it is trickier to follow and secondly you don't want to be running around and not actually getting anything done.

You don't need a highly complex system to create a timetable of learning.  You could use a free program like Google Calendar or even build it in a Word document.  However you could use an application also that is downloadable to your phone.  This website makes a couple of suggestions (click here). 

Step 1: Subjects For Your Test

Pictures of Different SubjectsTo start with, to create a basic timetable you need to work out how long you have between now and your exam and how many subjects.  If your subjects are all equally weighted (as no subject is more important than the other in terms of final mark) and you have multiple subjects split the time you have equally into subject areas.  I would suggest building in break times, meal times, socialising times etc.  For example, if it your birthday and you have a birthday party you are not going to feel like studying during, right before or after.  You need to take these things into account.  It is part of life that we have events happen and if we can build in time to limit their impact this is helpful.  Please note some events are also unforeseen.  For this reason although somewhat rigid a timetable also needs to be flexible.  If necessary you need to be prepared to change.

Step 2: Study Topic Times

Finger Pointing at Stars

So at this stage you should have a timetable split into subjects (e.g. Maths on Monday, English on Tuesday).  It is an overview not specifically going into topic areas.  Next I would suggest creating a list of all the topics you need to know for the exams in each subject (e.g. angles in Maths).  Revision guides are great for this as they often provide short crib notes and a subject overview.  I wouldn't just rely on these books for revision though as often they just give a brief overview.  I would also explore curriculum documents and topic checklists which your tutor (like myself - if you're on a tutor hunt visit my tuition pages to find out more) or your teacher can help with.  If you search on the internet you should be able to find checklists.  For example an Edexcel topic checklist for Maths GCSE is available on TES's website for free.

Step 3: Exam Solution Planning With Topics

Traffic Light
Next I would go through the topic list for each subject and go through with a red, orange and green highlighter (traffic light colours).  Red means you have no clue what this topic is about and urgently needs revising.  Orange means you feel semi-ok at the topic and green means you feel you have a good understanding.  The idea behind this is what you don't have a clue about gets studied first and what you feel more confident with last within your revision.  If you are finding this tricky you could use a revision textbook or practise papers to help you find your weak areas.  Please note a paper though only includes a sample of topics.  Also, although you may feel confident in a topic (e.g. fractions) and not confident in another you still want to revise all topics for a subject to make sure you really got it.

Now add your topics to your timetable allocating enough time for each.  Remember to leave time spare time for revision of your revision topics (you ideally want to look at topics more than once) and some time for practice papers.

And that's it your timetable is created!  Next steps is making sure your crib notes are in order and to actually revise. 

Remember intention plus action equals manifestation so if you create a timetable but don't revise there is no point to the timetable!  Planning and revising are both required.

My Tutor Tip 3: Revision Techniques (Part 2)

Wednesday, 27 December 2017


This is a continuation from my previous blog post on revision techniques linking into homework help and exam support.  Previously we talked before about how to revise and where to revise.  I would like to now look at when to revise.
How to Revise
How to Revise: Working and Long Term Memory
We all know the stories of Joe Bloggs, the student, who decided to stay up last minute and cram for his exam because he wanted to go out partying the night before and every night before that.  It is a typical University story.  Is it the best way to revise?
Firstly, I'd like to talk about memory.  Please note I am no expert on the subject and these are just some of my thoughts.   There are lots of different sorts of memory.  Memory for ordered lists, memory for images and amongst these different sorts of memory is working memory and long-term memory.  Long-term memory are the things we remember and never forget.  They are stored away so securely in our brains we just need to recall them.  Working memory is where we hold information temporary and can recall it usually in the short term.  For example, you may want to remember today's shopping list and you accurately do but in a week's time you have no recollection of what that shopping list was.  Some people have very good working memories and other people have better long-term memories.
Consequently, you’re probably wondering what is my point?  Well, Joe Bloggs, may have an excellent working memory and may work best recalling the information this way for the exam by storing it for a short time and then never remembering the information again.  Furthermore, Joe Bloggs may have special educational needs or a disability that prevents his long-term memory from working.  So, although most would disagree, perhaps cramming before an exam could, actually, boost someone's marks even if by just a few points.
However, the general argument by professionals is not to cram for your exams and to be well prepared in advance creating a study timetable for yourself with regular breaks with plenty of time to learn your information in advance.  Some even suggest lots of repetition.  The reason for this thinking?  It pushes what you are learning into long term memory.  Additionally, one could argue there is just too much material to learn and store in working memory especially when you reach SATS, 11+, GCSE etc.  Leaving your learning to the last minute is simply not a good idea.
Revision Techniques
Revision Techniques: Time Management
The general advise for revising is to revise in 45-minute slots with regular breaks and this is the reason why I also recommend 45-minute tutoring slots with a private tutor (like myself).  Studies have been done that show people work optimally for around about 45 minutes.  It can differ between people; some people can concentrate as little as 30 minutes and others up to 60 minutes.  To discover your optimal learning time, I recommend setting a timer whilst you study and stop it when you feel you can't take any further information in.  This is likely to be your optimal learning time.
In addition, some people work better at different times of the day.  For example, I usually have a slump mid-afternoon.  Some people are night owls (working better at night) and others are larks (working better in the morning).  Consequently, thinking about when you learn best is also important to consider when building a revision timetable.
Also burn out is not very good.  The saying "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" could not be truer.  Revising all the time is also not healthy.  Our brains need time to regenerate and revive.  A piece of advice I read and I try to remember when I am learning, working etc. is that successful people know to look after their health.  If you need to sleep then sleep.  If you need to eat, then eat.  Your no good to anyone run down and tired.
If you’re looking for homework help, online tutoring or more revision tips visit RK Tutors website.

My Tutor Tips 2: Revision Techniques (Part 1)

Tuesday, 26 December 2017


So it was actually my brother who suggested writing a revision technique post for students.  Personally I was never very good in exams.  I remember having a panic attack in my Spanish GCSE for the speaking part and the teacher recording it.  Anyway, my brother words hit home that a good revision tips guide may be super helpful for students.

Be Prepared

The number one tip I have is being prepared.  The more prepared you feel the less anxious you are likely to be in your exam.  It is normal to feel a certain amount of nerves but it is managing and controlling them that is actually half the battle.

Some studies have found that actually revising in the type of situation or place where you are going to sit your exam can actually boost your results.  This is why you may sometimes see someone revising in a hall where an exam is going to be.  However, this can actually be a little too far for some people.  Whatever you decide I would suggest making sure you know the location of the exam before you sit it and familiarise yourself with the root there.  Also making sure you have all the exam equipment you need before the exam is important as well as knowing how to use things like calculators etc.  For more on this see my previous post on exam technique (click here).

How to Revise

It is also suggested by many that you should work in silence when revising.  After reading a few books on learning and from personal experience I actually think this is not true for everyone.  For example, when I am learning I like to have classical music playing whilst I know some people prefer complete silence and others can even revise with Rage Against the Machine booming.  However, I will say that there have been studies done that suggest music can aid concentration but hinder learning when trying to memorise ordered information.  Music has also been proven to aid depression.  For more information click here.

It is really up to you to find out what study and revision methods work best for you.  I used to revise in a comfy relaxed spot because this worked for me.  Other people may prefer revising formally at a desk for a set amount of time.  Other people may revise best in a library setting.

Just as there are many different sorts of people there are many different ways to learn and this is why I tutor creatively because every person is different.  People can be visual learners, social learners, solitary learners, aural learners, verbal learners, kinaesthetic learners and logical learners (to name but a few).  A social learner may prefer group based learning and thrive around other people.  If this is you, you may find it easier studying with other people.  A solitary learner on the other hand may prefer learning on their own.  They may find it easier to work things out for themselves and be more self-driven.  A visual learner may learn best through what they see and prefer highly visual notes.  They may find picture books or video learning easier to digest.  An aural learner may learn best through what they hear so audiobooks and teacher talk could be best.  Verbal learners may prefer written words and learn by reading books.  A kinaesthetic learner may be the fidgety child in the class who can't sit still and although it may look like they are not learning anything they are learning whilst moving.  Kinaesthetic learners are often mislabelled as ADHD students.  This is why movement through learning is sometimes important for students in classroom settings.  Other learners may be logical and are extremely methodical in their learning.  Logical thinkers like to know every detail to see the whole picture.  For more information on this S. J. Scott has written a great e-book called Novice to Expert.

As you can see learning is not a simple thing and people learn in different ways.  To top this off not everyone just falls into one of the above categories.  People can have multiple ways of learning best.  For this reason revision is deeply personal.  Creating revision notes in the same way for every student is probably not going to work.  Similarly just because your best friend learns best by list doesn't mean you will.  Maybe you’re a video person.

So this is something to keep in mind when you're taking an exam and you have revision time beforehand.  How are you going to prepare your revision material and how are you going to learn it?  Taking your preferred methods for learning into account can help you form great revision notes and make the most out of what you are learning. 

If you are uncertain about how you learn best you can take some quizzes on learning styles (click here).  Please be aware though only you can decide what works best for you and relying on quiz results may not be accurate.

My Tutor Tips 1: Exam Technique

Monday, 25 December 2017


As well as revising for an exam it is important to prepare for an exam with good exam technique.  Below is a list of tips to remember before sitting, during and after an exam.  Hopefully the list will continue to grow.  If you have any advice please feel free to add your comments.

Equipment

Go into the exam prepared making sure you know exactly what equipment you can take in to your exam (pens, pencils, calculators etc.) and be aware of what equipment you are entitled to ask for whilst sitting the exam (e.g. tracing paper).  If you can try to have two of everything (e.g. 2 pens, 2 pencils…).  This way if something breaks or someone forgets their equipment you have a spare. 

When I sat my exams (years ago!) a clear pencil case was required and it is worth finding out if this is still true.  That pencil case shaped like a stuffed toy may look cute but it could put your marks at risk.  A clear pencil case means your examiner knows you are not cheating

In addition, it's worth noting that most calculator GCSE papers now require a scientific calculator.  An ordinary one which is not scientific just will not do.  For example, you may be asked to work a calculation out using sine on your calculator.  Turning up with no calculator could be disastrous but remembering your calculator which is not scientific could be just as bad as it simply does not do what you want it to. 

This being said the exam boards usually now recommend specific scientific calculators and some are even band from being used in the exam.  This is because some calculators have extra memory to store information and calculations which mean some students can cheat (e.g. you could input a formula that is meant to be memorised).  So it is worthwhile finding out which calculator you are meant to have for the exam.  Usually the exam board has a recommendation and your teacher should be able to tell you which one to purchase.  Some schools even sell the calculators.

It is also worthwhile spending some time before your exam getting used to using your scientific calculator.  Nowadays most come with a set of instructions and reading these through and making sure you know how to operate it is really important.  Turning up to the exam and not knowing, for instance, how to calculate an angle using cosine could affect your result.

The other thing to note is where do you write if you run out of space for your working out?  Usually most papers leave space at the back of the paper.  Simply write at the bottom of the question 'please turn to back of paper'.  When you write your working out at the back clearly number the question.  There is nothing worse for an examiner marking the papers and seeing working out but not knowing which question it belongs to.  You can even separate answers by drawing a line between your extra working out.

Let's say you still don't have space for your working out.  What do you do then?  It is usually possible to ask for more paper when sitting an exam.  Simply raise your hand and ask.

Most exams are during the summer these days and this is fine for some.  If you are like me and you suffer from hayfever this is disastrous because you need tissues, have itchy eyes, banging headache and a sore throat.  You can't take your medication because it makes you drowsy and you can't take tissues into the exam.  However, here is the thing, you are entitled to ask for tissues.

Most exam rooms have a clock at the front so candidates are aware of how much time they have left when sitting their exam.  By all means use this clock but you may find it handy having a watch on your desk as well.  You may want to check this is allowed.

OK so your Mum bought you a good luck card and a lucky horse shoe to put on your desk when sitting your exam to know she is thinking of you.  Sweet yes…good idea no.  Don't bring in anything into the exam that you are not supposed to bring in.  This also goes for mobile phones.  I think these are now banned from exams but if you are allowed to have the phone in a bag at the front of the room make sure it is on silent.  There is nothing more annoying than a phone going off in the middle of an exam.  It may even be that your phone needs to be totally switched off.  The same goes for your laptop.

Bags and coats are usually not allowed next to you in the exam and must be placed in a designated area.  Additionally, food and water is usually not allowed.  There may be certain exceptional cases.  For example, a diabetic may need to take food at a certain time.  If you need to take medication, food or drink into the exam you want to confirm this with your teacher well before the exam.

Furthermore some exams require that you write in pen, others in pencil and some computer.  Make sure you know the format your exam will be in and be aware if you should write (and draw) in pencil or pen.  Certain pens are now band from exams.  For example the ones that you can rub out with.  It may be worth finding out if coloured pens and pencils are allowed because this can enable you to show shading and make working out more visual for you and the examiner.  Wherever possible I recommend, for Maths, writing in pencil or with the pens you can erase for exactly this reason; they are erasable.  However, in exam conditions I realise this is not always possible.

Travel

Before you sit an exam make sure you know where it is going to be.  Some schools, for example, don't host the exam and you have to go to a different location.  Some exams can even be on the computer and in some circumstances at home.

If you are unfamiliar with how to get to the examination centre it may be a good idea to make a practice run.  If you have to take public transport make sure you are familiar with how long the journey will take and still leave extra time in case something goes wrong.  If necessary write down the address, telephone number and print a map.

Leaving the extra time also gives you a chance to grab a drink, food and of course go to the toilet.  Go to the toilet before the exam not during if you can.  This wastes time.

Timing

How long is your exam?  You thought it was an hour and you have to pick the kids up.  It is actually 1.5 hours and you didn't know.  Timing in exams is essential.  Make sure your clear how much time is allowed for the paper and when your exam is.  There is nothing worse than turning up for the exam on Friday at 10:00 when it was on Thursday at 11:00.

Some students get extra time for example if you’re an SEND student.  If you're not sure ask your teacher well before the exam so you can be assessed.  Some students get a scribe and a reader.  Make sure you use them and know what they can and can't do in an exam.

When sitting the exam I recommend doing the easier questions first and then coming back and doing the harder questions.  The aim of an exam is to get the highest amount of marks in the time allotted.  If you could get six 1-mark questions whilst your struggling to get a 5-mark question it makes more sense to answer the 1-mark questions first and then go back to the question you were struggling with.

As a general rule allocate your time per question according to the number of marks given.  For example a 2-mark question should take you roughly 2 minutes, a 5-mark question 5 minutes.

You should leave 5-10 minutes at the end of the exam to check your paper through.  Look for mistakes.  Does it look accurate?  Are your answers sensible?  Use estimations to check your answers or if possible a calculator to confirm your working out.  Can you use an alternative method to check your answer and get the same result (e.g. inverse operations)?

Paper questions

So you have gone through the paper and answered every question you know the answer to.  You have even gone through again and attempted most of the trickier ones but there is at least one question on the page that you have no clue how to answer it.  What should you do?

My advice: don't leave any question blank.  You will get marks for your working out even if the answer is wrong and it is better to try than give up.  If you don't understand the question ask yourself can you apply it to a real-life situation?  Put yourself in that situation and it may suddenly click.  You could also underline words and figures to help you decide on what the question is asking.  What number operation is it getting at.  Ask yourself 'What Maths can I do that relates to the question?' and you could try this.

You may know how to answer part of the question but not all of it.  It is better to start and not finish than to not try.  Whatever happens go with your gut.  If it looks like an area question then find the area.

When answering questions you should always be asking yourself have I got enough working out to guarantee marks for the method.  I remember tutoring a student and describing the examiner like Paddington bear.  You don't want him to get lost on the journey so you give him exact directions to the end address.  Show the examiner every step to get to your answer so they know how you are thinking and can follow your working out.  If your using a calculator during your exam include exactly what appears on your calculator screen.  If it is a geometry question and drawing an image is going to help you or the examiner draw it in.

As a general rule if you can't read your handwriting then I guarantee your examiner can't.  You want your paper to be neat and for methods to follow on logically one part from another.  For example, if an examiner can read line by line what is written it is easier than jumping from the top of the page to the bottom and then to the middle.

Make sure you read the question thoroughly and try not to skim read.  When I sat my GCSE exam I skimmed read a geometry question by looking at the picture not the writing underneath and missed the length of one of the sides.  In the last 5 minutes I was scrambling to answer a question I would have found simple if I hadn't skim read.

Make sure you include units of measurement when answering (e.g. minutes, grams, kilometres).  Also watch out for conversions within questions.  It may be a question is only asking for an estimation and there may be a final mark for rounding to a significant figure, decimal place or truncating.  Be aware of this.  Some questions may require a reason as well as arithmetic (e.g. an angle question).  Make sure you include all working out.

Finally when in doubt - ask your teacher.  They are a fountain of knowledge and most teachers if they don't know the answer will find it out.

Maths Resources 1: On-line Dice

Thursday, 21 December 2017


I thought I would supply some links to dice here.

As a substitute Random.org offer a free dice roller (click here) that enables you to roll as many as 60 dice at one time.  I also like this one currently because it is kiddy proof and there no advertisements etc. on the page.  However, visually it does leaves a lot to be desired.  It is a simple random dice with no frills.

Another free dice roller by Teal is available here.  I like this one because it is more interactive.  To reroll simply drag the mouse across the screen.

Teacher LED have a dice roller.  It rolls up to 3 dice and requires Flash to run.  Click here to access.

Curriculumbits.com has an option to roll number and a positive or a negative dice at the same time which may be handy when teaching positive and negative numbers.  Requires Flash.  Click here.

RK Tutors Website Launches!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

RK Tutors is official with its very own website and blog! Watch out for news and blog posts here about RK Tutors.

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