Exam resits: your guide to a fresh start

If you didn’t get the A Level or GCSE grades you wanted you might feel as though your dreams are over – but that’s far from true.  With hard work and time you can still achieve the results you need. 

Students like you who don’t give up but pick themselves up and try again show themselves as determined, resilient individuals – and that’s a valuable foundation for the future.

So, are you ready for a fresh start? Here’s our guide to resitting your exams:

Do I have to go back to school?

No – not if you don’t want to.  Not all schools offer the chance to resit exams anyway, so check with your teacher.  You can study at a sixth form college or online.  Search Google to find out what is available locally.  You might decide to resit through an online, distance learning course which gives you the flexibility to study part-time while you work. For extra support with your exam retakes, consider hiring a private tutor.  TutorMyKids can find you a professional tutor to support you in overcoming difficulties and understanding tricky concepts.  A private tutor can help you to exceed your expectations and achieve success.

Do I need to resit GCSE subjects?

The first thing to decide is whether you want to resit a particular GCSE exam.  If you failed Geography, you don’t have to retake the exam.  If you need a certain number of passes, you might decide to study a different subject altogether, and you can!

However, you might have to resit English Language and Maths GCSEs.  You will need to keep studying these subjects until you are eighteen if you didn’t get a grade 4 or above.  The good news is you can study alongside other courses such as A Levels or BTECs, so there’s no need to put your plans on hold.

When can I resit my GCSEs?

You can retake GCSEs in May/June, and you can also resit some subjects in November.  When you choose a GCSE provider they will explain your options.

When can I retake my A Levels? 

A Level resits take place in May/June.  See AQA, Cambridge Assessment International, and Edexcel exam board websites for details.

Do universities still consider students who resit exams?

Yes.  Most universities will not penalise you for retaking exams.  In your UCAS personal statement focus on the valuable experience that resitting an exam has given you.  By trying again you are demonstrating commitment, determination and focus.  Perhaps you’ve been busy with work experience or volunteer work whilst you’ve been studying?  Talk to friends, teachers and parents who can help you identify the positives.

What’s the most effective way to revise?

Revise actively not passively.  Don’t mindlessly highlight passages in notes or textbooks.  Here’s what works:

  • Read a section of your textbook or notes and write yourself some questions.  Without looking at the original text try to answer your questions.  Repeat the exercise until you are confident. Each time answer the questions in a different order. 
  • Read notes just before you go to sleep.  While you sleep your brain processes and consolidates your learning. 
  • Read your notes into a recording device.  Play them when you are doing something that doesn’t require concentration like cooking, cross-stitch, running, or sitting outside in the sunshine. 
  • Give your memory a helping hand by:
    • Using mnemonics thought up by others or by making up your own.  Here’s a science example: OIL RIG – oxidation is loss, reduction is gain.
    • Inventing or memorising sayings. For example, to spell ‘necessary’ remember ‘one collar and two socks’.
    • Using visual cues. Draw charts, diagrams or sketches to help you to recall key concepts.  For instance, to remember the plot of Shakespeare’s Macbeth you might draw a basic flow diagram with labelled sketches of the action. 
  • Do practice exam questions, particularly focus on the types of questions you find difficult.  Although the same questions never come up twice, this helps you polish your exam technique.  After you’ve answered a question compare it to the exam board’s model answer.

How often should I revise?

Every day, but not all day.  Make yourself a structured plan.  Aim to revise for about three to five hours every week day, and an hour or less on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Break up your study time into manageable chunks.  Stop every hour or so – make a cup of tea, watch television for a bit, go for a walk.  Some breaks will be just a few minutes, some will be longer.  Make sure you stick to your daily allotted time though. 

Don’t exhaust yourself by over-studying as that’s counter-productive.  Your brain needs time to rest and consolidate information, and you will feel miserable if you spend too long revising.  Exercise is particularly important (healthy body, healthy mind – it’s true!).  While we’re on the subject, try to resist the temptation to eat too many bars of chocolate and packets of crisps while you revise and find yourself some healthier snacks.

Don’t study too little either, otherwise you will feel guilty and stressed.  If you work part-time and you need to reduce your hours then do it.  If friends pressure you to socialise more than you are comfortable with, be firm.  It’s only a few weeks until your resits are over – it’s worth sacrificing time in the short term to achieve your long-term goal. 

Remember: resitting an exam is certainly not the end of the world.  What you learn personally from this experience will have a positive impact on your future. 

If you would like one-to-one support to retake an exam, get in touch with TutorMyKids and we will help you to achieve the result you have worked so hard to achieve.

What are the pros and cons of homeschooling?

Are you considering homeschooling your child?  If so, you are amongst an increasing number of parents.  According to a BBC report the number of children being homeschooled rose by around 40% between 2014 and 2017.

There are many reasons parents choose to home educate their children including bullying, being penalised for missing school due to poor health, failure to meet special educational needs, the inflexibility of school life, or general disillusionment with the education system.  If you are considering home educating your child, you will have your own personal reasons.  The purpose of this blog is to help you to weigh up some of the pros and cons.

Pros

1.Deeper understanding

The government judges schools on test results.  This can lead to ‘teaching to the test’.  As teachers cram children’s heads with exam-passing information they are in danger of depriving children of the opportunity to gain in-depth understanding of subjects and to enjoy learning.  Homeschooled children can learn about history in historic buildings and museums, science in laboratories, geography out in the field, and literature at the theatre.  They discover that learning is life and not restricted to one room.

 2. Personalised learning

Outside a class of thirty, teaching can be tailored to meet an individual child’s abilities, interests and learning styles.  You can research different methods including Montesorri and Waldorf and find a method or combination of methods that suits your child.  You can nurture your child’s abilities giving them the time and space they need to learn at their own pace – no self-confidence damaging bottom sets!  Your child can be taught through their own interests.  If your child loves cars then they can be taught maths and English around the theme of cars.

3. Focussed attention

Teachers don’t just teach.  They have paperwork to complete – an energy-sapping, time consuming mountain of it! They have government initiatives to comply with, meetings to attend, and so much more.  You are free from these obligations which gives you more energy and time to plan, teach, address your child’s misconceptions, and reinforce learning to ensure there aren’t any gaps.

4. Higher academic attainment

It’s difficult to find UK data comparing the academic achievements of homeschooled children to those in school.  However, data from the USA is available for scrutiny.  A study by Sandra Martin-Chang of Concordia University (2011) suggests that homeschooled children achieved higher academic results than their state schooled peers.

As far as the UK is concerned, the benefits of one-to-one tuition are well recorded.  Although parents may lack teaching experience, the advantages of individualised tuition can outweigh this.  Children who receive personalised support achieve higher academic results, have a greater depth of understanding and are more confident in their abilities.

5. Broader arts education

Arts subjects are being increasingly sidelined in mainstream schools due to lack of funding and the pressure to achieve academic results.  However, learning art, design and music is invaluable for children’s emotional and brain development.  Research has shown that learning to play a musical instrument strengthens memory and enhances spatial reasoning and literacy skills.  Arts subjects are enjoyable, bring a sense of achievement, foster creative thinking skills, and celebrate humanity.

6. Fosters an entrepreneurial spirit

In deciding to home educate your child you are modelling an entrepreneurial spirit.  You are not simply slotting into the system.  You are setting your own goals, and forging a new path together with your child.  You and your child need to be self-motivated and take responsibility for learning.  Read how Richard Lorenzen, founder and CEO of Fifth Avenue Brands says that being homeschooled inspired his entrepreneurial spirit.

7. Improved family relationships

Homeschooling means spending more quality time together so strong bonds develop. You can both learn to ice-skate, explore nature at the park, visit a city to understand human geography, and bring literature to life with a theatre visit.  Learning is a shared, mutually enjoyable experience. 

Cons

1.Cost

If you home educate your child you won’t be able to work much, if at all.  You will also have to buy resources, find money for activities, and pay exam costs.  On the positive side, some activity centres and museums offer discounts for homeschooling groups, and the cost of home educating your child is less than private school fees.

2. Socialising

Home educated children are exposed to fewer world views and generally have less opportunity to socialise with children from different backgrounds.  They will not have to negotiate and learn to deal with conflict to the same extent as children attending state schools.  This can make them less resilient and less tolerant of others.  Although homeschooling groups will give your child opportunities to build relationships with others, it’s still a concern.

3. Parental qualifications

Teachers train for years and they have extensive experience teaching a variety of subjects.  Your local authority will get involved if they discover you aren’t providing your child with an adequate education.  You must be honest with yourself about weak subject areas and address any issues by educating yourself through distance learning or in-person classes, by employing private tutors for your child, or a mixture of both. 

At TutorMyKids we can find you experienced, professional maths, English, science, humanities and language tutors who are qualified to teach from primary to A Level.  All our tutors are proficient in adapting their teaching styles to children’s particular learning styles, personalities, interests and levels.

4. Access to higher education

Home education isn’t a barrier to higher education.  Most universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, will consider home educated students as long as they meet the same requirements as everybody else. 

However, college staff have considerable experience in supporting children to select the right universities and write their applications.  As a parent you will need to fulfill that role which is especially hard if you haven’t been through the system yourself.  You also need to find a suitable reference for UCAS since this would normally be your child’s form tutor.

TutorMyKids A Level maths and English tutors can support your child with the admissions process.  They can write a personal reference, read through your child’s application and provide any guidance they need to help them meet entry requirements.

5. Your work-life balance

When you homeschool your child, home is work and work is home.  You are your child’s teacher and their parent, and it’s not easy to balance the two roles.

You might face opposition from family members and friends who don’t agree with your decision to home educate.  This can be stressful to cope with, and it is important to remember that those people are expressing concerns because they care for your child.

Both you and your child will need some time apart.  For your child, it’s important for their independence, and for you it’s to recharge your batteries.  If you have time to pursue your own interests and see your own friends then you will return to your child happier, healthier and more energetic.

Deciding to homeschool your child is a huge step which requires considerable thought. 

If you decide to make the leap, TutorMyKids can find you home education tutors who will work alongside you to provide an individually-tailored, high quality education for your child.

Why it’s essential to limit your child’s screen time

During the summer holiday, when you’re struggling to get jobs done or you just need an hour’s peace and quiet, screen time can seem just the answer.  The problem is that both you and your child can pay the price.  When a child has spent too long in front of a screen you start to notice that their mood changes.  When the screen is switched off they can become angry, confrontational, or feel too miserable and ‘low’ to focus on a different activity. 

Here we look at the pros and cons of screen time, and consider some ways to limit its adverse effects. 

Good news about screen time:

  • It gives parents time to relax. 
  • Watching television and playing computer games gives children down-time.
  • Children enjoy time on screens.
  • Smartphones and tablets are tools for communication.  Children can see distant relatives on Skype, learn new languages with pen friends from abroad, or make their own videos to share with others.
  • There are educational advantages.  Children can learn languages, maths, phonics, reading and science – almost any subject – via a screen. 
  • Technology is embedded into modern life.  Children will need computer skills when they go out to work.
  • Some apps such as Pokemon Go and Geocaching encourage children to go out and explore when they wouldn’t otherwise. 
  • Computer games can encourage children to be physically active eg. Guitar Hero and Wii Dance.

The disadvantages:

  • Child protection.  Dangers include cyberbullying, grooming, and being exposed to inappropriate material.  It’s vital to have technology safeguards in place and to educate children about internet safety.
  • Mental health issues.  Some studies suggest screen time isn’t detrimental to children’s mental health but others disagree.  The best thing to do is study your child’s moods.  How does screen time affect them?  Remember – screens are addictive (as any adult with Facebook will know).
  • Boredom intolerance. By giving children a screen to stave off boredom we are doing them a disservice (and who hasn’t given a child their mobile phone in a restaurant?).  We are depriving them of learning strategies for coping with boring situations which are, after all, part of life.  Boredom can be a friend.  It’s a stimulus for creativity and it motivates us to make changes to our lives. 
  • Living in an artificial world.  Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and online gaming should not replace face-to-face interaction and real-world friendships.  Friendships are vital for mental well-being.
  • Declining social skills.  Who hasn’t visited a friend who spent the time glued to a screen, texting somebody else?  It’s not behaviour that we want to encourage in our children.
  • Physical injuries.  Too much screen time can cause cell phone elbow, text claw and back and neck problems.  A study carried out by iposture, found that 84% of young adults in the UK experience back pain mainly due to over-use of screens. 
  • Eye strain.  Blurred vision, headaches, dry eyes, and dizziness can be caused by staring unblinkingly at a screen and scrolling too quickly.  New evidence shows that eye strain can trigger nearsightedness.
  • Poor sleep caused by screens in the bedroom.  Games and social media platforms are addictive so your child will be tempted to play late into the night.  Also, light from a screen tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime.

How can you limit screen time?

  1. Don’t allow screen time in the morning.  That’s because children enjoy screen time so much it triggers a dopamine rush, so any activity that follows will seem dull in comparison.  Screen time in the morning kills children’s motivation to do anything else.
  2. Set a time limit.  Guidelines about how much screen time is healthy for children change all the time.  It’s really best to use your own judgement by observing the effect screen time has on your child.  Observe their moods, their eyes and their posture.  As a rough guide, more than an hour at a time is too much.  Use an oven timer if needed.
  3. Set screen time to a certain time of the day.  If children know what to expect and when, they are less likely to argue with you.
  4. Only allow screen time after other activities; whether it’s riding a bike, visiting friends, going to the library, visiting a soft play centre, reading, painting, or playing a board game – it doesn’t matter.  Other activities first, screens second.
  5. Keep screen time out of the bedroom.  See ‘Poor sleep’ above.  It’s also hard to police what children are playing, who with, and for how long, when screen time happens behind a closed door.
  6. Encourage high quality screen time such as:
    • Creating your own films with iMovie
    • Developing coding skills
    • Learning a new language
    • Playing games that encourage physical activity
    • Watching and discussing an educational television programme together.

Screens have a positive and a negative impact on children’s lives.  Screens are part of modern life and we cannot – and should not – unplug altogether. 

Lead by example.  Let your child see that you limit your own screen time.  Keep phones and screens out of your bedroom, don’t text or scroll your phone when you’re playing with your child, and don’t have the television constantly on in the background.  

Think about when screen time enhances your life and when it has a negative impact on your own well-being.  Children learn by observing the behaviour of adults.

It’s essential to limit your child’s screen time – and you can!

Screen-free summer entertainment tips

8 tips for summer holiday learning

10 awesome summer projects for children

Encouraging reluctant readers by taking reading outdoors