Grade Transformation Blog

Grade Transformation Blog

No.1 in Transforming Students’ Grades

Archive for May 2018

The Sneaky Truth Behind Overwhelm

Overwhelm is NOT having too much to do.

It’s NOT about not having enough time.

That’s what we think it is.

But .(newsflash). it isn’t.

And when I realised this, it made a huge difference to how I tackled that oh-so-common feeling of overwhelm. AND of course how I help students tackle it too.

So, let’s get to it. Overwhelm is ACTUALLY:

Not knowing HOW you’re going to get it all done.

I explain everything, including the 2 step system to combat overwhelm using this new definitionin this week’s blog:


I got an email recently from Cassie, a 10 Week Grade Transformation Program Grad and current member of the Grade Transformation Zone.

She said:

“The GTZ video about how to instantly de-stress helped a LOT. I get stressed easily and seeing ways to help de-stress was a lot of help. A lot of people have told me to not stress but that isn’t what I wanted to hear and watching that video was helpful because it provided ways TO de-stress rather than saying ‘don’t stress”.

So I thought that, as we approach the Semester and Half Yearly exams, I’d share a brief overview of one of the strategies that I shared with my GTZ Members.

Because we all have times when we feel overwhelmed, right?

It’s a major stress factor in students’ lives.

And like Cassie said, it’s really not that helpful, just telling someone not to stress.
(We just say that when we don’t know a practical way to help).

What IS helpful is having some actionable strategies to actually DEAL with that stress and OVERCOME the overwhelm.

So let’s start with this:

Overwhelm is NOT having too much to do, or not enough time.

It’s not knowing HOW you’re going to get it done.

Now, that’s not an official definition!

But it’s a description works for me and it can work brilliantly for students – because it gives us a potential solution.

And therefore it’s a much more positive way to look at and tackle overwhelm.


Because if overwhelm was simply not having enough time, then this would be an unsolvable problem. Because we can’t create more time

(although – yes please-  if anyone DOES have that magic potion I’d LOVE it if you could pass it onto me) 😉

Anyway, back on topic…

When it really comes down to it, not having enough time, is often not really the case.

More often, the stress of feeling overwhelmed comes from not knowing how you are going to tackle that to-do list, or how to actually complete some of those tasks.


And so here’s the first step to overcoming overwhelm:

  1. Getting Organised (so that your teen knows exactly what they need to do to accomplish each task, and PRECISELY how they’re going to do it).

So first, break down each task. For example, simply ‘write English essay’ can be a little daunting, so breaking down each component and planning out the main content of each paragraph will make that more manageable. And if the REAL problem here is that they don’t KNOW what those paragraphs need to be, then actually, the first job on the list needs to be ‘go see teacher or speak to tutor to get help on essay’.


      2. Prioritise and schedule what needs to be done when.

Schedule each and every broken down task into the diary.

This way, there’s no more

“I’ve got so much to do, where do I start?”


doing all the easy things first, so that then right at the deadline, the hardest and least-liked items are all left.

And then, stick to that planned list of items for each and every day .

Just follow it and trust that when you get each item done, each day it needs doing, everything will come together 🙂



I’d love to hear from you – let me know in the comments below, on a scale of 1-10 how overwhelmed is your teen feeling in their study right now? What are they currently doing to deal with it?

And if you’re curious to find out more about my live monthly online student seminars and the treasure trove of resources inside of the GTZ (AKA – the Grade Transformation Zone Member Area), then CLICK HERE to check it out 🙂

Until next week, let’s make this a fantastic week.





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Does your teen REALLY understand the subject content?

When revising for an exam or prepping for an oral presentation or speech

(because – yes it is VERY easy to tell when a student doesn’t really understand what they’re presenting in an oral assessment)

there’s a very simple ‘test’ to see if your teen really understands a concept or really knows about a topic. (Plus a sneaky little sub-test too!).

Find out what they are and how your teen can use them!

When revising for an exam, or even prepping for an oral presentation or speech (because – yes it is VERY easy to tell when a student doesn’t really understand what they are presenting in an oral assessment) there’s a very simple test to see if your teen really understands a concept or really knows about a topic.

Here’s the test:

Can your teen teach you about the topic by teaching you or telling you all about it?

(Or if they’re not up for that, and I get that they might not be – then the alternative is that they could record their explanation – like a podcast to teach others about it – and the added #bonus of this is that they then have this recording as a revision resource to listen to later).

But the key thing is, can they talk about it without their notes or their script or the textbook?

If so, great!

(Hold out for my little sneaky sub-test coming up in a second) 😉

But if not, then they don’t really know it yet and need to go back to learning and processing.

Because it’s very easy to think that we’re taking in information and understanding it when we’re reading about it, even if we’re answering Qs about it from a textbook.

But often, when the content stimulus or resources are removed, it can become difficult to vocalise or convey that information when we’re relying only on the knowledge and understanding we’ve retained and digested in those whirring brain cells.

To be able to process it into a different format and in a way that others can understand is a TRUE test of OUR understanding.


And here’s that sneaky little sub-test I mentioned earlier…

If your teen passed the first test of being able to fluently talk about and teach you the subject content, then just to ‘double-triple’ check, ask them a few tightly related questions about it.

For example, if they just explained how circulatory system works, ready for their Biology exam, then ask them something like – “OK, so the de-oxygenated blood, how does that become oxygenated again?”

Something that isn’t just a pure repeat, but makes them re-explain something in a slightly different way or with a different focus.

So that’s the test – the test before the test if you like! – to check whether your teen really knows their stuff.

Leave me a comment below and tell me how you could use this with your teen  🙂 and until next week, let’s make this a fantastic week!

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Competing with Classmates

I vividly remember being sat in a History class and listening to a classmate read out her response to a question that we’d all just been sat quietly answering.

My overriding thought was:

“How does she *write* like that?”

Accompanied by thoughts of

“I can’t write like that.” and

“Well, that just isn’t me – I *don’t* write like that”.

But, if I’d realised back then that I just needed to know and enact some simple yet effective strategies and I could’ve definitely written as well as or even better than Suzanne – ‘A-Grade’ – Baker! 😉

It’s wierd the things we remember right?

For example, I can vividly remember being sat in a History class and listening to a class mate read out her response to a question that we’d all just been sat quietly writing out answers to.

Now this occurred over 20 years ago now and yet I can still remember where I was sat in class and I can remember the other students’ name even though she wasn’t a particularly close friend of mine.

(It was Suzanne Baker, if you’re wondering) 😉

But what I remember MOST of all were the feelings I felt and what I was thinking .

My overriding thought was:

“How does she *write* like that?”

Accompanied by thoughts of

“I can’t write like that.”


“well, that just isn’t me. I *don’t* write like that”.

Interestingly  I WASN’T thinking – “I wonder how I can write like that?”.

It’s kinda crazy, the limits we put on ourselves isn’t it? 🙁


So , there I was, feeling a little in awe, (and a little bit nervous in case the teacher were to pick on me next to read out mine – which didn’t happen, thank goodness!)

but on reflection, what’s most interesting now is that – I was, well,  just… resigned.

Resigned to the fact that, that just wasn’t me.

I simply accepted that I didn’t have the confidence or skills to write in such a sophisticated, high quality way. I figured it was just some sort of natural gift.

Of course, I know NOW (after over a decade of teaching and national and state exam marking, including specifically FOR Y12 state writing tests (which I never would’ve believed I’d be doing if you’d asked me back then!))  with absolute certainty, that it isn’t about who you are or how much of a natural you are at writing.

What it IS about, is essentially putting on a bit of a show or performance for the marker, by putting into action a set of specific techniques, some simple strategies and tricks, so that you can craft amazing responses in whatever genre or style a task demands.


For example, in an analytical essay:

Students should be using longer compound and complex sentences, using fully expanded wording and technical vocabulary that gives a formal and official feel and will give the impression of a confident competent student who really knows their subject and how to convey it clearly.

But then for a blog, a feature article or a persuasive speech:

A more casual writing style is needed, which is achieved by using more colloquial language and contracted words (like it’s instead of it is). Plus it’d be good to use a few short, sharp sentences, perhaps sprinkled with a bit of purposeful repetition as well for impact 🙂


The point is, students need to write in the way the task and criteria demand and there are simple tips, tricks and techniques to do that. 

They don’t need to be a natural writer or a wizard with words and they certainly don’t need to slave over grammar books or read novels cover to cover to catapult the standard of their writing.

If I’d realised this back then, aaaaaaannnd known these key strategies (and of course, how to enact them and when to use them), I could’ve definitely written as well as or even better than Suzanne Baker 🙂


And if you’d love your teen to have aaaaaaalllllll the steps, strategies, tips techniques and tricks to writing like an A-grader, then CLICK HERE to check out my ‘Write Like and A-Grader’ Training.

It’s where I give your teen everything they need – all the tools, explanations, tutoring and examples of how to apply them, so that they become one of those students who can write with confidence and sophistication (and has those skills for.ever.)!



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How many hours should students spend studying?

I recently got this question from a student:

“How much time would you recommend I should be spending on my study each evening or overall each week?”

Now, before I tell you my answer, you might be thinking,

“Well it depends. I mean, what year group are they in, what sorts of subjects are they doing?”

And you’d be right.

There is more to this than just plucking a number out of the air.

BUT although yes, students will be spending more time on homework, revision and study as they move up through high school, these details are really NOT important.

Find out why (and what IS important!) in this video (or scroll down for the written version!) 🙂



Wouldn’t it be great if there were some magic formula that stated:

X hours + Y pages of notes = Grade


(Because you KNOW I love specifics.)

this Q is (sadly) reeeeally *not* about the numbers.

Yes, students will be spending more time on homework, revision and study as they move up through high school, BUT…

We could spend hours on ‘study-type-activities’ that are keeping us ‘busy’ but aren’t actually productive in terms of

  • the learning of content,
  • retention in revision, or
  • preparing awesome essays or assessment pieces.

For example, I’ve seen so many students spend waaayyyy more hours than they needed doing research for an investigation.

I’ve seen way too many students revising in ways that are not anywhere near as effective as they could be, and I’ve seen students waste days and days, not just hours, diligently drafting, editing and re-writing reports and assignments that could’ve been cut down massively if they’d had a clear and proven strategy to start on the right path and be able to craft their response more effectively.


In other words, it’s quality over quantity.


It’s about students gaining and honing the techniques, knowledge and strategies to work efficiently and effectively.

To minimise wasted time and stop doing any unnecessary tasks, and *still* gain the same (or better!) grades along the way.

This is why there are some students who work all hours of the day and night, yet still struggle to get the results they really want, and perhaps are capable of, and others just seem to breeze through getting A’s effortlessly.

Now, that might be a bit of an exaggeration of extremes, but it’s definitely the case that it’s more about efficient and effective study techniques and revision strategies than it is about the number of hours slaving away over textbooks.


>> If you think this could help someone else you know, please share or like this post ?

>> Oh, and leave me a comment below to let me know your thoughts on this ⬇


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