Why hire an A Level or GCSE science tutor?

If you are concerned that your child is struggling with their exam course you may be considering whether to hire an A level or GCSE science tutor.

With large class sizes and stretched resources many children fall through the gaps at school and lockdowns have exacerbated difficulties. With complex science subjects falling behind can be disastrous as teachers move quickly between topics to cover the syllabus.

Here we talk about the benefits of hiring a one-to-one science tutor to support your child.

A tutor will pinpoint areas where your child is struggling

The science subjects – biology, chemistry and physics – link together. Within those subjects there are links between topics.

A lack of understanding in one topic area can affect your child’s understanding of topics that follow. For instance, in biology life depends on biological molecules such as lipids, nucleic acids (DNA), proteins and sugars. A child who has not understood the function of these molecules to begin with will struggle with later topics that focus upon each of these molecules in more depth.

An experienced science tutor will find the gaps and focus on them with your child helping them to move forward.

Your child’s understanding of science will deepen

GCSE and A level science exam papers require children to make links between the topics and modules they have studied. Linking questions are part of the GCSE. For example, ‘Compare the transport systems in animals and plants’.

TutorMyKids’ science tutors believe that children benefit from making links between topics because it deepens their understanding. Our tutors encourage children to look back at earlier topics and to make links with what they are currently studying. The benefit of doing this is that it helps children to understand the subject as a whole and to keep earlier learning fresh in their minds.

Children who can link topics and concepts are able to provide more perceptive answers to exam questions because they understand the bigger picture. In school there is pressure to get through syllabus modules and there is not always adequate time to develop this fundamental skill.

Misunderstandings are corrected immediately

It is vital to correct a child’s misunderstanding of any concept at once for the reasons we have discussed above. If a misunderstanding persists it will hinder their grasp of new areas.

Teachers have thirty or more children in a class and it’s impossible for them to correct every child’s misunderstanding on the spot.

A one-to-one tutor is just focused on one child – your child – and therefore they will spot mistakes at once. They make sure your child doesn’t go down the wrong path and have to unlearn whatever they have remembered incorrectly.

A one-to-one science tutor provides detailed feedback

When children provide written answers to questions in class most teachers do not have time to give detailed feedback to every child.

It is not enough for a child to know an answer is incorrect. There are times when they need to be walked through their answers in depth. This is so they understand where they went wrong and the changes they need to make.

A one-to-one science tutor has the time to give your child the attention they require, and their learning will accelerate as a result.

Your child’s concentration will improve

Some aspects of science are laborious; for example, learning the periodic table. In a busy classroom, surrounded by friends it is easy for your child’s brain to wander.

With a one-to-one science tutor by their side, it is not so easy for a child to lose focus – they have got to learn. They are also in their comfortable, informal home environment which helps to improve concentration.

A science tutor will do their best to make any topic as fun as possible with games and hands-on learning, so your child may begin to enjoy themselves too!

Confidence is boosted

Once your child sees their marks improve their confidence will rise leading to a ‘can do’ attitude. Success breeds success!

Hire an A level or GCSE tutor with TutorMyKids

If your child is having difficulty with any science subject do not leave it any longer.

All our science tutors are fully qualified teachers with the knowledge and experience to tailor their teaching exactly to your child’s needs.

To hire an A level or GCSE science tutor, please talk to us today on 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

How can I improve my 2021 teacher assessed grades?

The government has confirmed that students will receive teacher assessed grades this year. GCSE and A level exams will not go ahead in summer 2021 due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.

For those who find exams stressful teacher assessed grades may be welcome, but others might worry that their teachers could award them lower grades than they might have achieved in final exams.

In this post we talk about what steps you can take now to ensure you receive the teacher assessed grades you need and deserve.

What evidence will teachers use to award final grades?

The government has stated that teachers can use evidence of students’ work from any stage in the course to inform their judgement. They must draw upon a broad range of evidence which could include mock exam results, written coursework and test results – the evidence will depend upon the nature of the course. Exam boards will set optional questions that teachers can also use to help them to determine grades.

Teachers do not have to submit grades to exam boards until 18th June. This is so they can gather evidence over as long a period of time as possible to ensure grades are fair and accurate.

For more information about the evidence teachers can use read Ofqual’s, Decisions on how GCSE, AS and A level grades will be determined in summer 2021.

How can I improve my teacher assessed grades now?

From today you need to put as much effort as you can into every online lesson, essay, test and mock exam your teacher sets for you. Make sure you attend every lesson unless you have a very good reason not to do so.

When grades are based on a final exam result it is possible for students to compensate for any weaker assignments they may have submitted by revising extra hard towards the end of the course. In 2021, however, effort must be sustained over a longer time, which takes far greater dedication and focus.

You need to be able to:

  • Manage your time effectively. Create a study routine for yourself and stick to it. Make sure your timetable is realistic and remember that work often takes longer than you think when you’re planning. For tips on time management, see our blog post, Ways to teach children time management skills.
  • Choose the best place to study. Everyone is different – some people like a bit of background music and other people need total silence. If you live in a noisy house it might be worth investing in some noise-cancelling headphones. Find somewhere where you are less likely to get distracted.
  • Balance your time. It is important to get enough sleep, to eat healthily, to spend some time exercising (even a 20 minute walk twice a day makes a difference) and doing the things you love. Spending all day in a bedroom is not good for your mental health and can be counterproductive. See our blog post, 10 stress-busting tips for students.
  • Revise effectively for mocks and tests. In our blog post, Exam resits: your guide to a fresh start we share tried-and-tested revision techniques that really do work.

When will I receive my exam results?

A level and AS level students will receive their results on 10th August and GCSE students will receive their results on 12th August.

Can I appeal if I’m unhappy with my teacher assessed grades?

The government has stated that ‘all students have the opportunity to appeal their grade’.

If you are unhappy with your grade the first step is to talk to your school or college to find out whether an administrative error has been made. Should the school or college find a mistake they can submit a revised grade to the exam board. If the exam board agrees with their decision you will be awarded a new grade.

If your school or college stands by the grade they have awarded you then you can ask them to appeal to the exam board on your behalf. Your school or college will submit evidence for the exam board’s judgement and the exam board will decide whether your grade should change.

In the event that you don’t agree with the exam board’s decision, you can appeal to Ofqual’s Exams Procedures Review Service.

It is important to remember that when you appeal your grade it can go down as well as up.

Will I have the option to resit my GCSE or A level exams in the autumn?

The government has not yet announced whether resits will take place in autumn 2021 for those who are unhappy with their teacher assessed grades. However, it is widely expected that they will do so. For more information see, Ofqual’s Decisions on how GCSE, AS and A level grades will be determined in summer 2021, p. 11-12.

In 2020 60% of students who resat GCSE subjects (excluding English and maths) in the autumn term improved upon their grade.

Would you like support to improve your teacher assessed grades?

Your dedication and hard work over the next few months will ensure you achieve the teacher-assessed grade you deserve.

Our highly qualified, experienced tutors support students to study effectively and efficiently. They ensure students understand tricky subject areas and tailor their teaching styles to each individual.

We offer specialist one-to-one tuition in English, maths, science, humanities and languages. To find out how we can help you, talk to us today: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

How to write an outstanding UCAS application

An outstanding UCAS application is the key to being offered a place on the university course of your choice. Here we offer you top tips to help you write your way to success.

  1. Meet the selection criteria

All universities have selection criteria. These are guidelines that they use to decide whether to offer you a place on your chosen course.

Most of the time, selection criteria can be found on university’s websites. These will tell you what A level and GCSE subjects you need, how many grade points you will need to have, and any other specific skills they look for.

As an example, if you look at the University of Portsmouth’s Biology page you will find ‘Entry requirements’ and ‘What experience you’ll need’ – these are the selection criteria.

2. Get the best grades you can

Exam grades are the most important selection criteria. It is possible that you could be rejected if your GCSE results are not high enough. If you are yet to sit your A Levels then your teachers will supply predicted grades for your UCAS application form.  It is fine to ask your teachers what these grades are likely to be so you can apply for the right courses.

If you do not receive the GCSE grades or A Level grades you were hoping for then it is certainly not the end of the world! Read our blog post, Exam resits: your guide to a fresh start.

3. Make sure your referee is behind you

Your referee is the person who will provide your predicted A Level grades and the person who will persuade the university to offer you a place on your chosen course. Make sure you make a positive impression on your referee. If you don’t turn up to classes, you are often late or you miss coursework deadlines, this will colour their opinion of you.

If your referee plans to predict A Level grades that are lower than you had hoped for then it is worth asking them whether they will raise their predictions if you improve your work from now. Remember to be realistic in your expectations though. If you have been mainly achieving a specific grade all year then this is likely to remain their prediction.

4. Write an outstanding UCAS personal statement

An outstanding UCAS application will always have an outstanding personal statement. In your personal statement you need to say why you want to study your chosen subject, what you’ve achieved in your life and who you are.

The university admissions tutor will need to be convinced that you have the commitment and ability to stick with the course and achieve the best results at the end. University admissions tutors know that students who get involved in interests outside the classroom are more likely to join in with university life and be independent-minded. Students like this tend to find living away from home easier and are more likely to stay the course.

Make sure you know the university’s selection criteria (see above) inside out and that you have read the course description. That way you can link your skills, interests and achievements to what the university are looking for.

Begin by emptying your head of all your ideas and listing them on paper. Consider:

  • Your reasons for choosing the course, which you could relate to your A Level subjects and career plans.
  • Your achievements, interests and experience and how these are relevant to the course.
  • Why you are enthusiastic about the course.
  • How you have the skills needed to do well in the course, emphasising any skills mentioned in the selection criteria.

Write as much as you can and get others to help you if you get stuck for ideas. If you are applying for more than one subject area you will need to emphasise one subject over the other. Make the point that you are interested in your second choice subject but at the same time strongly gear your UCAS application towards your first choice. It might be possible to emphasise both equally but beware of making your application too vague and general. If you really can’t decide which subject to emphasise then go back and really study the course descriptions, asking yourself why you want to choose each subject.

Always be honest on your personal statement. Your referee will read your personal statement and the university will expect you to discuss it during an interview.

Once you’ve made your notes, write your personal statement to the best of your ability. Remember you are likely to be judged on the quality of your writing too. If your statement isn’t long enough talk to family, friends and teachers who may be able to help you with ideas or remind you about achievements. If your statement is too long, remove anything repetitive, irrelevant or an achievement from long ago. You can also save space by taking out ‘nothing’ words such as ‘particularly’, ‘very’, ‘really’ and so on.

When you have written your personal statement always read it aloud. Reading aloud will help you to hear anything that doesn’t sound right. Ask another trusted person to read your statement too – choose somebody who knows you well and has good writing skills themselves.

Leave your finished personal statement to ‘rest’ for a few days. It’s surprising how new ideas will come to you in this time and how you will suddenly see how you can make it even better!

Achieve the best grades with TutorMyKids

TutorMyKids one-to-one tutors help students to achieve the grades they need for an outstanding UCAS application.

Our supportive tutors work at students’ own pace and we make sure that subject areas and concepts are fully understood before moving on. We help students to build their confidence so that they can fulfil their university dreams.

If you think we could help you or your child with forthcoming exams contact us on 01223 858 421 or hello@tutormykids.co.uk

Ways to teach children time management skills

School is very busy and for an adult life can be busier still. Helping your child to learn to manage their time from an early age is equipping them with a useful skill forever.

What are the benefits of learning time management?

The ability to manage time effectively:

  • Reduces stress. There is nothing more stressful than leaving homework or work projects until the last minute.
  • Means more time for fun activities and friends.
  • Leads to better outcomes at school and at work.
  • Increases independence and develops a sense of responsibility.
  • Improves decision-making skills.
  • Brings the satisfaction that comes with completing tasks.

Downtime is important

There are so many after school activities available and children’s homework load can be so heavy that they can feel overwhelmed. It is important that children do not feel overloaded, whatever the circumstances.

Do not fear boredom because it can be beneficial. Children need to be able to let their minds rest and wander for their own mental wellbeing. When children have to find ways to entertain themselves they become more creative and develop the ability to solve problems for themselves. For more about this read, The Benefits of Boredom.

It helps children to learn that effective time management means there is free time to relax, play and just sit for a while.

Learning to prioritise

Effective time management involves prioritising tasks. Children learn to prioritise from an early age through normal daily routines ‘first…’, ‘next…’ and ‘last…’ For example, when you get home from school first you wash your hands and then you have a snack.

Older children begin to understand prioritising in view of longer-term goals. ‘I do my homework before I play a game so that I will pass my GCSE’.

Motivate children to prioritise by encouraging them to think about the reasons why they need to complete one task before another. ‘Why do you think you need to wash your hands before you have a snack?’ ‘Why is it important to finish your maths homework before you play a game?’

Tips for teaching time management

  1. Be a good role model. Show how you manage your own time wisely and that you’re not always missing deadlines or running late. When this does happen let your child see the consequences.
  2. Show your child how you make lists of tasks to complete and tick off. Encourage them to do the same.
  3. Help an older child to create a schedule by giving them a diary or planner that might be in paper form or an app on a phone.
  4. Make sure your child doesn’t over schedule their time. It’s important to have fun and just ‘be’.
  5. Support your child to prioritize activities and make choices. There might be a time clash between one activity and another, or it might be that trying to do two activities on the same day will be too much.
  6. Encourage your child to establish routines. If your child knows what they need to do as soon as they get home from school, they won’t waste time trying to decide what to do.
  7. Limit electronics. Too many hours can vanish in a whirl of social media or computer games. Set time limits and establish rules.
  8. Help your child to set their own goals. If they want to get into a sports team, for example, how much practice do they need to do each day or each week?
  9. Set rules and expectations for your child, but don’t constantly remind them to complete tasks. Feeling the consequences of leaving homework until the last minute, for example, can be memorable. Sometimes your child will genuinely miscalculate how long a project takes to complete – help them to learn from their mistakes.

Is your child studying towards exams?

Our experienced tutors support children studying for SATs, Common Entrance Exams, GCSEs and A/AS levels. We recognise the importance of teaching children not just the subject matter but other skills, such as time management, that will help them to succeed now and in later life.

We offer maths, English, science, humanities and language tuition both remotely and face-to-face, subject to local lockdowns. To find out more email hello@tutormykids.co.uk or telephone 01223 858 421

Going to university? 10 top tips for managing your finances

Going to university or college will probably be the first time you’ve had to manage your own living costs.

On average the maintenance loan is just £540 a month so many students rely on additional funds from parents, a part-time job or a savings account.

Whatever funds you have available to you, we share our best financial strategies to help you get the most from university life without running into difficulties.

  1. Write a budget

Work out your monthly income including student finance, money from parents or a part-time job and any savings you are planning to use.

Next calculate all your essential monthly outgoings – rent, utility bills, phone bills, transport costs, food, course materials etc. You may need your parent’s help to do this in the beginning and there will probably be some guessing.

Then work out how much money is left for non-essentials such as nights out, gym membership, new clothes or any of the usual things you spend money on.

Make sure you give yourself a bit of a buffer. Don’t budget down to the very last pound. Remember unexpected expenses are likely to occur such as repair to a phone or an extra trip home. There are student budgeting calculators you can use to help you calculate a budget.

2. Make sure you aren’t missing out on money

You may be entitled to a grant or bursary you didn’t know about – check the UCAS guide to student finance in England.

3. Have two separate bank accounts

The best way to stick to a budget is to have two separate accounts. You might have a current account and a savings account – consider opening a student bank account (see below).

When you receive your student finance and any other income place it in one account. Have a separate account for your weekly expenses. Transfer money each week by direct debit from your income account to your weekly account.

4. Pay for essentials straightaway

Make sure direct debits for rent, utilities etc. come out of your account at the very start of the term or month.

5. Plan your meals

Before you go out shopping for food plan your meals (Monday – lasagne, Tuesday – chili con carni etc) as this is the best way to make sure you don’t overspend. Never go shopping on an empty stomach.

If you have freezer space it’s cheaper to cook big meals and separate them into dated containers. Read 24 supermarket saving tips for more advice.

6. Resist sales and non-essentials

A bargain is only a bargain if you really need it so avoid Black Friday. Remember that takeaways, gig tickets, new shoes etc. are non-essential expenses. If you pay now with an overdraft, that’s less money you will have next week.

Never impulse buy – sleep on purchase decisions – you may feel differently in the morning.

7. Keep track of your spending

Check your online bank account weekly or use your bank’s mobile app to manage your finances. You can set up alerts to tell you when your balance drops below a certain amount.

8. Be aware of student bank account benefits

Student bank accounts offer all sorts of extras such as free travelcards and discounted cinema tickets. Before you open an account consider which benefits are most financially worthwhile to you.

9. Remember student discounts

When you go out to a museum, theatre, clothes shop, cinema or restaurant you may be able to save money if you take student identification with you as many places offer student discounts. It’s always worth asking if you’re not sure.

10. If you find yourself in financial trouble seek help

Speak to your university or college’s student welfare service as soon as you find yourself struggling. They can give you tailored, confidential advice about any emergency funding available. They can also put you in touch with job services if you need them.

Never be afraid to ask for help. Whatever the situation you find yourself in they will have seen it before and they are there to help.

TutorMyKids would like to say…

We are incredibly proud of all our GCSE and A level students in what has been a strange and challenging year. For those about to leave home for the very first time, we wish you a happy and successful future!

Spotting English Language Features and Explaining the Effect they have on the reader

Key skills for year 10s to master now for the GCSEs in 2021.

Lyn Moulding has been tutoring English language and literature for Tutor My Kids for many years now and has shared these nuggets of wisdom for year 10s to get ahead, especially in this break from formal lessons, due to the Coronavirus:

Language features – adjectives, adverbs, metaphors, similes, personification etc.

A skill that is tested in all four GCSE English language and literature exams is being able to spot examples of language features and explain the effect they have on the reader. The skill of being able to write using examples of language features is tested in section B ‘creative writing’ on English language component 1.

So, it’s really important that you are confident and skilled in spotting, explaining and writing using language features. Why not try the following revision tactics:

  • Make ‘flash’ revision cards or a language features poster. 
  •   Adjectives = describes a noun – the highly polished, antique, pine table

BBC Bitesize lists many language features and provides great examples and explanations

  • Try reading a passage from one of your GCSE texts. Spot the language features and work out the effect they may have on a reader.

A Christmas Carol – ‘as solitary as an oyster’ = simile – oysters remain closed and ‘isolated’ for most of their lives so the simile emphasises just how isolated Scrooge is. 

Context = Oysters were a main component in the Victorian diet.

  • Write a basic story following the ‘mountain plot model’ and then add examples of language features to make the story more interesting and engaging for the reader.

The platform was packed = the platform was a mass of heaving humanity (alliteration)

The more revision you can do now, the easier it will be next year!

It’s never too early to start revising!

If you’re a qualified teacher and/or have tutoring experience, take a look at our For Tutors page, for information on becoming a tutor in Ely or Cambridge.

If you’d like an informal chat about getting a tutor for your children, take a look at our For Parents page or email Rachel Law to schedule a chat.

How to balance extra-curricular activities with academic studies

Whether you are at school, college or university it is very important to get the balance right between academic studies and extra-curricular activities. Your studies are important for your future success but extra-curricular activities enable you to develop an array of social, communication, cognitive and physical skills, as well as contributing to your happiness.

Here are some tips to help you to best manage your time:

Studies come first

This is true no matter what. To make the most of your education, it’s important that you attend your classes and do your best to learn so that you can achieve your goals. Falling behind now will cause you stress and panic later.

Choose extracurricular activities wisely

You cannot do everything. With some activities it is not enough to attend, you also have to practise at home. Pick only those activities that really interest you and stick to two or three at the most. If you do too much it’s not just your studies that will come under pressure. You need a healthy social life and time to relax as well.

Manage your time

To ensure a healthy balance between your academic workload, extra-curricular activities, social life and relaxing time consider making yourself a schedule. This will help you to see whether you are managing your time smartly or if any changes need to be made.


There will be certain times, such as when exams are looming or assignments are due that you must prioritize your studies. Equally, if you have a dance performance you will need to allow time for rehearsals. Think about what is most important to you at this moment in time. If you have an exam, can you stop any extra-curricular activities for a while? If you have rehearsals to attend, can you minimise study time and catch up later? Talk to your parents or tutors if you are not sure what to do.

Stay healthy

Staying healthy is key to keeping your stress levels low and your energy levels high, enabling you to manage your lifestyle.

  • Eat and drink well. A balanced diet and drinking plenty of water is important for you to be able to function on every level. Without good nutrition you will be prone to fatigue and illness. To live a full life you need to be alert and energetic.
  • Sleep well. For more about this, see our post, ‘Why is sleep important for academic success?
  • Keep fit. As well as keeping you physically fit and warding off the germs, exercise is brilliant for your mental wellbeing as it relieves stress. Pick the kind of exercise you most enjoy so that you are more likely to stick with it. It’s a great idea to choose something physical as one of your extra-curricular activities.

Take study breaks

Studying for too long can result in depression and memory loss. It is very important to plan breaks into your study time. For every 45 minutes of study you need to take a ten minute break to recharge. This might be to go for a short walk or just to make yourself a drink.

Breaks actually benefit your work in other ways too. After taking a break you may find that a tricky concept suddenly becomes clear, or that you are more able to see where to make changes to a piece of writing.

Seek advice

At TutorMyKids we understand how important it is for you to achieve a healthy work/life balance. Our tutors can help you to make a realistic timetable that enables you to manage your studies effectively.

Call or email us for a chat: hello@tutormykids.co.uk, 01223 858 421

Why should my child learn grammar?

Grammar is the way in which words are ordered to make sentences. Using grammar correctly allows us to be clearly understood by others. Grammar is also about how the meanings of words can change when they are used in different contexts: Did you feel afraid when you were watching the Blair Witch Project? No, I’m afraid I didn’t. Strong grammar skills aid both verbal and written communication and enable children to expand their vocabulary by discovering new and interesting ways to present information and communicate their ideas.  Here we share some other reasons why learning grammar is worthwhile.

Foreign languages

Learning English grammar helps children to learn other languages.  According to Richard Hudson and John Walmsley in their article, The English Patient: English Grammar Teaching in the Twentieth Century: ‘…to support foreign-language learning explicit instruction is an important part of grammar teaching and is easier if pupils already have some understanding of how their first language works’.[1]

In order to be able to progress in a foreign language beyond primary level it helps if children understand English grammar. For instance, if a child knows what a preposition, a verb or a conjunction is in English they will easily identify the foreign equivalent.  If they understand the structure of simple and compound English sentences, then that skill can be applied to a foreign language too.  

Speaking a foreign language is an invaluable skill and it is now a compulsory part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum. Proficiency in another language opens the door to understanding other cultures and appreciating their literature and their art. It also considerably enhances career prospects.


Poor grammar, spelling and punctuation will lose a student marks not only in their GCSE English examinations but also in other subjects too including geography and history. The earlier children get to grips with grammar the better their chances later.

Career prospects

If you have ever been in a position to open job application letters then you will know that English grammar is important.  How many letters composed by well qualified, talented people have been thrown in the bin because they were poorly written?  It may be unjust, but it is a fact. The job market is competitive and we need to give children every chance we can, and one way we can do this is by ensuring that their writing doesn’t undersell them.  First impressions count.


Grammar supports creativity.  Whilst writing the first draft of a poem or story children write freely and spontaneously.  Afterwards, if they have some grammar knowledge they can return to their work and polish it.  They will know how to successfully convey their ideas to others, portraying the effects and evoking the emotions that they wish.   They will be able to add style, variety and individuality to their work because they can sculpt their raw material – words and sentences.  Grammar is a valuable writer’s tool.

Thinking skills

Grammar develops children’s thinking and investigative skills.  In order to understand it, children need to make logical connections such as classification, causation and time.  When grammar is taught through investigation of children’s existing knowledge it is a good foundation for scientific method.  Moreover, if taught in this way, grammar is interesting and enjoyable.  Children will develop a critical response to some of the ways that language is used every day.

Supporting your child

Anybody who went to school in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s received very little, if any, grammar instruction so it can be helpful to brush up so we can support our children. The best grammar books for clear, concise explanations are children’s books!  Junior Illustrated: Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Bingham and Alex Latimeris a fantastic starting point and very cheap to order on the Internet. 

Useful websites to explore are:

English Grammar Lessons, https://english-grammar-lessons.com/

Grammar Reference, The British Council: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference

If you feel you would benefit more from direct teaching, Cactus TEFL offers an online grammar course designed for those wishing to teach English as a foreign language, but it is beneficial for everybody: http://www.cactustefl.com/ela/

Making grammar exciting for children

Learning grammar should always be fun. Children learn best when they are excited and enjoying what they are doing.  We recommend:

Crickweb, http://www.crickweb.co.uk/ks2literacy.html

Education.com, https://www.education.com/games/grammar/

FunEnglishGames.com, http://www.funenglishgames.com/grammargames.html

Topmarks, https://www.topmarks.co.uk/english-games/7-11-years/spelling-and-grammar

How TutorMyKids can help

Grammar is confusing – the rules don’t always seem to make sense. Our specialist English Language tutors are experienced in helping children to understand this complicated area, raising the quality of their oral and written communication.  To find out more, contact us today: 01223 858 421, hello@tutormykids.co.uk

[1] The English Patient: English grammar and teaching in the twentieth century, Journal of Linguistics, Cambridge University Press, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-linguistics/article/english-patient-english-grammar-and-teaching-in-the-twentieth-century/97B51A21E50FD0960400C42C65CBF1A2

GCSE writing for a purpose: informal letter

In our last blog post we talked about writing a formal letter. Today we help you to write an informal letter by looking at the differences between formal and informal letters and showing you an example of an informal letter.

Formal letters are addressed to people you don’t know – they are appropriate for job applications, letters to newspapers etc. Informal letters, on the other hand, are written to people you know well – friends and family.

Let’s start with an example of an informal letter:

Your friend is considering taking part in a clinical trial to earn some money. Write a letter to your friend to express your opinion.

Dear Lucy,

              When I saw on Twitter that you’re thinking about getting involved in a clinical trial to make some money I was totally gobsmacked! Please don’t do it! I know that money is tight and you’re having problems paying your rent but letting somebody pump your body with an untested drug is really stupid.

              You’re one of my closest and oldest friends and I can’t just sit back and watch you do this without saying something. Why are you risking your health for a little bit of money? I know you think it’s easy money but it isn’t!  Think what the long-term consequences could be for your health! Can’t you just get a job like everybody else? I saw that there were a few people on Twitter encouraging you, but please don’t listen. They don’t care about you; they just want to be entertained at your expense. They will soon change their tune if things go wrong.

              Do you know what you’re getting yourself into? These drugs have NEVER been tested on people, only mice. You will be a human mouse. They even make you sign a contract so you can’t sue them if things go wrong. Does that really seem safe to you? “Just sign here and then I’ll stick this giant needle into your arm.” Sounds great doesn’t it?

              What about the side effects too? Did you think about those? You could have a heart attack or anything. What about your family and your friends? How are they going to feel when you’ve made yourself ill for a bit of money? It just isn’t worth the risk is it? You feel as fit as a fiddle now, but will you when the clinic has finished with you?

              Please just find a job. I know it doesn’t sound that exciting and the money doesn’t seem as ‘easy’ but it’s much better than the alternative. Work in a bar or a club and then you will just get paid to socialise! Seriously, think long and hard before you decide. Long-term health risk vs. quick money – I know what I would choose! Give me a ring to talk about it.

                             See you soon,



The language used in informal letters differs from formal letters. In informal letters we use:

  1. Colloquial words/expressions

Everyday language which includes slang and regional expressions eg. ‘gobsmacked’.

2. Contractions

‘Don’t’, ‘doesn’t’ etc.

3. Abbreviations

Shortened forms of words and phrases  – eg., etc., vs.

4. Clichés

These are over-used phrases like, ‘fit as a fiddle’.

5. Imperative voice

The imperative voice is a command or request – ‘Please don’t do it!’

6. Active voice

This is when the subject of the sentence is the person or thing performing the action.

7. Short, simple sentences and exclamation marks.

Short, simple sentences are used in informal letters. In formal letters sentences are longer and more detailed.

8. Exclamation marks

Used in informal letters, but don’t overuse them otherwise the letter becomes comical rather.


Use informal vocabulary: ‘help’ rather than ‘assistance’, ‘buy’ rather than ‘purchase’, ‘need’ instead of ‘obtain’, ‘thinking’ instead of ‘considering’, and so on.

Use phrasal verbs appropriately

Here are some examples:

Formal: Clinicians did a test.  Informal: Clinicians carried out a test.

Formal: We must eradicate bullying. Informal: We must stamp out bullying.

Formal: We should maintain standards. Informal: We should keep up the standards.

Formal: Let us organize a meeting. Informal: Let’s set up a meeting.

Salutation and valediction

There are differences between the ways you can begin and end formal and informal letters:

Formal: Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Mr Stevens. Informal: Dear Rebecca.

Formal: Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully. Informal: All the best, See you soon, Best wishes or Regards

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GCSE writing for a purpose: formal letter

In our second English Language blog post we talk about writing a formal letter to express a point of view. Here is an example of the sort of question you might see in your exam:

Many people prefer to spend their holidays in Great Britain rather than travel abroad. Write a letter to a magazine editor giving your opinion on this topic.

Here’s a sample answer:

Dear Mr Smith,

              After reading several articles in your magazine which suggest that it is unethical to travel abroad, I felt compelled to express my contrasting point of view. As a child I spent many happy summer holidays in Wales and Scotland and I love rambling in the countryside, but I cannot agree that we should all stop taking holidays abroad.

              One argument put forward is that air travel is detrimental to the environment. However, a single flight abroad just once a year is inconsequential compared to the millions of tonnes of pollution pumped into the atmosphere by coal power stations around the world. I am not a global warming sceptic; in fact I passionately believe that we are facing a climate emergency. My electricity at home is generated by solar power and I vigilantly recycle my waste daily. Considering all my efforts, surely I should be allowed to take one holiday abroad a year?

              Having spent every childhood holiday listening to the rain hammering on a caravan roof I think I have earnt the right to lie on a beach somewhere soaking up the sun, and swimming in a crystal clear (pollution-free) sea. In all honestly, who wouldn’t prefer to do so? According to a government survey one in five people in Britain today are vitamin D deficient. Therefore, a week in the sun is important for our emotional, mental and physical health.

              Spending time abroad also opens our minds. It allows us to meet different people and to experience new cultures. Our horizons are broadened by visiting famous sites like the pyramids, the Statue of Liberty and the Amazon rainforest. Only by experiencing the world first-hand can we truly appreciate its wonders. I’ve learnt about volcanoes from visiting Mount Vesuvius, and Roman history by visiting the Coliseum. Learning from books and the internet just isn’t quite the same. Moreover, many countries rely on tourism. What will happen to their economies if tourism is taken from them?

              I appreciate that air travel has an environmental cost which is why I choose to travel just once a year. Foreign travel makes a huge difference to myself and to my whole family. I will never forget the look on my mother’s face when she fulfilled a lifetime dream and climbed to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge. The memories I have from travelling abroad are priceless, and I would encourage your readers to keep expanding their horizons by travelling both inside and outside Great Britain whenever possible.

Yours sincerely,

Nicola Higgins                              

When writing a formal letter like this you need to include the following:

  1. Addresses

In the top right hand corner write your address and then leave a space before writing the date underneath. The date should be in long form eg. ‘July 14th, 2020’ rather than ‘14/07/20’.

Just below your address, on the left hand side of the page write the name of the person you are sending the letter to, their job title and their address.

For the exam, you can make up both addresses. Make sure you use capital letters for proper nouns.

2. Salutation

This is the greeting. In the sample letter here we’ve written ‘Dear Mr Smith’, but if you didn’t know the person’s name you would write ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

3. Complimentary close

Sign off your letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ if you know the name of the person (as in the sample letter), and ‘Yours faithfully’ if you’ve stared the letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.  Sign the letter with your signature, and beneath your signature write your name eg. ‘Nicola Higgins’.

4. First paragraph

In the first paragraph of your letter clearly state your point of view and use a tone that is more formal than your everyday language. Do not use contractions (don’t, I’m, can’t, it’s) or vague words like ‘good’ and ‘nice’. Always be respectful and polite even if you are writing a letter of complaint.

5. Use persuasive techniques

When expressing a point of view check that you have used at least 6 of the following techniques:

  • Anecdotes
  • Comparison
  • Counter argument
  • Direct address (‘I’)
  • Emotive language
  • Facts
  • Imagery (simile/metaphor)
  • Opinions
  • Repetition
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Statistics
  • Triples

How many different techniques can you spot in the sample letter?

6. Final paragraph

In the last paragraph of your letter restate your point of view as strongly as you can using a persuasive technique and suggest a course of action.

Read the final paragraph of the sample letter. Has the writer’s point of view been restated effectively? What persuasive techniques are used? What course of action is suggested to the editor?

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