Demand from parents has increased year on year for tutors to give children an extra boost towards passing the 11 plus or Common Entrance exams through after school tuition or intensive holiday courses. This has led to an explosion in the tutor market with individual tutors often having waiting lists for their services and names of good tutors being spoken in hushed tones amongst parents at the school gates. Just how does a parent evaluate a potential tutor to make sure that their money is invested wisely?

Make sure that the tutor you are engaging is experienced in the specific area that you are looking for. For example, the Buckinghamshire 11 plus is very individual in its structure, so it is essential to engage a tutor with experience and detailed knowledge, as well as a proven success record, in this area. Likewise the Common Entrance exams, non-verbal reasoning, 11 plus Maths or English, GCSE, A level, IB or Oxbridge, if these are areas in which you are looking for support.

Have you noticed, through asking your child about their teachers at school, if they appear to engage more through learning subjects with male or female teachers? This may be worth bearing in mind in your choice of tutor.

Ask what materials they will be using for the tuition and make certain that these are suitable for your individual objectives.

Ask what teaching styles will be used. Will your child spend most of the time in test conditions sitting test papers, or will the tutor engage with them to make the learning fun and interesting?

Ask for details of a couple of parents who have used their services recently, so you can talk to them to gain references.

Be wary of published ‘success rates’. These are of course an important factor to bear in mind, but it is just as important that the tutoring style and personality of the tutor will inspire and enthuse your child and the way he or she likes to learn. Tutoring should rarely be an extension of the classroom at school. Tutors are experienced in engaging children on a one-to-one or small group basis, so there should be far more interaction within the learning process.

Make sure that they have evidence of an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check, which should have been carried out no more than three years prior to the date you are speaking with them. If they are currently in a teaching post, they will have been checked by the Local Authority or the independent school, before taking up their post.

If engaging the services of a tutor via a tutor agency. Make sure you know which tutor you will be getting and that this will always be the same one, so that they can build a working relationship with your child. Likewise, if it does not work out with the tutor they recommend ask if there is the possibility to change to another one.

Ask yourself whether you think your child is better suited to steady support from a tutor once a week over time or if you feel their personality better suits an intensive course during the school holidays, just before the examination is due to take place.

Monitor the tutoring sessions by popping in once in a while to reassure yourself that your child is engaged with the tutor and that they appear to be enthused about their learning.

A few thoughts about online tutoring or practice tests
Remember that the online market is UK-Wide so the tests may not be specific enough to the test or examination for which your child is preparing.

Consider the format of online tests and tutoring. If the actual test they are preparing for is handwritten or multiple choice using a pencil, ask yourself if completing practice versions online using a PC is reinforcing the right message for your child.

Find a contact number and ring and ask the same questions as you would of a tutor who was coming to your home. Ask to see sample materials, what test or syllabus they are written for and what the refund policy is if you do not find what you have bought to be relevant.

The way your child studies, can have a huge impact on their motivation to learn, their self-esteem and ultimately on their educational outcomes.

Study skills are a critical ingredient for achieving higher exam grades and academic success. They can also prove beneficial for life-long learning.

Generally any skill which increases a child’s ability to study effectively can be classed as a study skill.

Study skills are valuable techniques that can be mastered, usually in a very short time and can have broad applications across most fields of study.

There is a vast array of study skills, which are effective in the process of:
Organising information

Retaining information

Coping with exams

Boosting confidence levels and perceptions of personal ability

They include:
Planning and prioritising your child’s workload

Goal setting – what does your child want to achieve? Are they on-track for success?

Stress management – methods to help your child relax and remain positive

Critical evaluation – reflecting on current progress and past performance. How is your child going to go that extra mile? What extra support or skills do they require?

Efficient note taking – highlighting, using key words

Visual summaries – using pictures, mind maps, charts

Time management –planning and prioritising for assessment, using exam time wisely

Memory skills- how our brains work, mnemonics

Effective reading – reading for a purpose, visualising

Focussing strategies – concentration techniques

Critical thinking – setting your child up to meet the elusive A grade criteria.

Summarising – use of key words

Identifying and maximising on your child’s preferred learning style/s

Flash card summaries – these are invaluable for pre-exam revision.

Illegible handwriting – this makes it very difficult for examiners to read responses and may affect the grade awarded.

Handwriting speed is also crucial in exams if your child is to be able to demonstrate their complete knowledge of a topic under time constraints. Should you be aware of any difficulties your child may have in this area, it is advisable to seek professional advice. Remedial handwriting tuition may solve the problem, if not, access arrangements may be required. One of the most frustrating challenges for a child is being unable to complete an exam – especially when they knew the required answers. It is crucial that your child has every opportunity to demonstrate their abilities.

Revision techniques – how can your child revise productively? Effective techniques have been shown to have a positive correlation on enhanced outcomes in exams.

Coping in exams – Having the right equipment, time management, careful reading of the questions, structuring responses, proof reading answers and keeping calm.

Developing productive study skills can be the first step in increasing your child’s confidence levels, enabling them to plan to improve their performance on assignments and in those all important exams. Effective study skills can help to equip your child with a blueprint for success and the taste of success is empowering!
It is also advantageous for parents to be equipped to assist their child with the exam process.

If you are interested in finding out about this service, please contact us for more details.