No.1 in Transforming Students’ Grades

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The Story Behind Rock Solid Study

I remember when I was a student at College, 17 years old in my second year of my A’Levels, studying hard in the library. I wanted to get good grades and I spent a lot of my spare time studying. I was relatively intelligent but getting top grades didn’t come easily or totally naturally – you know – how some people seem to effortlessly just ‘get it’, breezing through with A’s fairly consistently in exams or essays.

Well, that wasn’t me. In fact, in Maths, at the end of my first year of my A’ Levels I got a D. It might be a bit over-dramatic to say I was devastated, but I most definitely wasn’t happy. In fact it was more than that… I was worried. Worried that although I was working pretty hard, it wasn’t enough. That was what made me study so hard in my second year. No way did I want a D!!

So, I did the only thing I knew how to: I studied longer and harder. I’d get all my classwork and homework done, but also I went to almost every extra help or revision class at lunchtimes in the run up to exams.

I’d go and see the teacher at lunch if I wasn’t understanding something we did in class, getting them to go through it with me. In Maths I would do extra practice questions or past papers. In Biology I would make extra notes on lessons or create revision sheets from the text book.

So this is how I came to be sitting in the library. At this particular time it was for Geography. I followed the advice of my teachers and did ‘extra reading around the subject’.

What a total waste of time that was. Now, don’t get me wrong the teachers weren’t exactly wrong in their advice, but I didn’t know how to make use of the extra notes I was making from all this reading. I’d look up case studies of topics we studied and write notes on them. But I didn’t know what to do with it. I just kind of figured that simply having this extra knowledge in my brain would help in some way.

So, it came to the end of the year and I ramped up the hours of revision and ‘extension work’, scared of that D in Maths and really wanting at least an A or two in my other three subjects.

The happy ending to this story is that I did do well – I got an A in Biology and B’s in Maths, Geography and I.T. I’ll admit I was a teensy bit disappointed that I missed out on the A in Geography after all that extra reading in the library, but I was certainly happy and relieved (a B in Maths! Thank goodness!) when I got my results.

But, here is my problem with all of this…

I could have achieved these results with a lot less struggle and stress. I could have gotten more sleep, instead of staying up until gone midnight on a ‘school night’. I could’ve spent a bit more time enjoying my teenage years with friends, perhaps taking more time out for my hobbies or just being with my family at home rather than at a desk.

Or, I could’ve still worked my butt off, and achieved straight A’s.

I’m not exaggerating – I know now that it’s relatively easy to jump up a grade or two when you know the secrets of how to effectively answer exam questions and write essays. I have seen students transform their grades with no extra subject knowledge, just by perfecting their exam technique and improving the structure of their writing.

Nor am I being big-headed and I’m certainly no genius. But I do know (in fact I would bet my life on this) that I missed out on easy marks I could’ve got, if only I’d recognised the command words for them and known the triggers to get them.

I’d like to say that I suspected this at the time, but ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ – I just got my head down and carried on slogging away.

Now though, for me and every student I work with, it’s like not only having access to the behind the scenes secrets, but also having a thousand light bulbs switched on, illuminating these secrets and strategies, flashing away for every exam question, essay title or assignment task.

That’s because as a high school teacher, I have rigorously trained in how to write and create rubrics and mark schemes for class tasks, homework and assignments.

As a coursework and assignment moderator I have compared students’ work and seen extremely talented and clever students get lower marks than those with less skill or knowledge, just because they haven’t conveyed their knowledge and skills in the most effective way or haven’t answered exactly what the question is asking.

As a NAPLAN marker I have seen students write the lengthiest scripts and yet get relatively low scores because they don’t know how the marks are allocated or how to access them.

As a GCSE and QCS exam marker I have become an expert in using official marking guides and quickly identifying what does and doesn’t get marks in students’ answers.

All this experience has enabled me to give students the keys to unlock the vault to effortless extra marks that every student could be getting and almost all miss out on.

This is why I have made it my mission to help students achieve their best possible results and enjoy the journey along the way.