Grade Transformation Blog

Grade Transformation Blog

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Archive for October 2018

Is your teen confusing the examiner?

A confused marker means a potential loss of marks.


Because it’s hard for the examiner to find where and how the mark scheme criteria have been achieved.

Here’s what I noticed about answers that came through to me at the ‘referee marking’ stage and HOW students can avoid this happening to their paper.




* How to NOT confuse the exam marker!

Students need to…

> Get really familiar with the exam paper and the mark scheme (use past papers!) so they know how different types of Qs are worded and set out, and what is required of them in the mark scheme.

In other words, what ‘style/format’ of response is required by the mark scheme?

E.g. does an analysis Q on a specific type of paper/exam require a flowing essay style response, or a series of succinct key points with extended explanations?

BONUS TIP! This can also be a great way to save time in the exam if you know you can get full marks with a more succinct set of points rather than flowing paragraphs!

> Avoid jumping around between points. There is a difference between making links between different points and creating a confusing mish-mash of info!!! Instead, clearly explain the point you are making (or analyse it, or evaluate it!) and then move onto the next (with a linking sentence if a link between them is required, e.g. cause and effect).

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Should Students ‘Hedge Their Bets’ in Exam Answers?

Should students give more options/ideas/examples/*whatever the Q is asking for* than it demands?

E.g. If it asks for two, what happens if they give three?

I’ve covered elements of this before (e.g. the system of ‘positive marking’, how mark schemes were structured in this respect in previous exam marker video diaries) so I’m giving an alternative view on this by considering the possible >>‘opportunity cost’ in terms of time in the exam<<.

Or, more like, (the very common problem of) ‘running OUT of time’ in an exam ?




  • How students’ answers are marked if they give more points than required.
  • Sometimes (and this is what I see most often) mark schemes will use ‘positive marking’ meaning they’ll read all of the response and credit the best parts (e.g. if three points are given, when two are asked for, the best two will be marked).
  • Other times (usually when specific gaps/tables/spaces are provided to fill in, the first amount of required points given will be marked (e.g. in the example above, only the first two points will be marked, the third won’t even be read).
  • Why this can be a way to hedge bets (sometimes) BUT comes with another cost that isn’t directly linked to the mark scheme (but certainly IS linked to their result).
  • Obviously this can be beneficial if the mark scheme uses ‘positive marking’, however there is a cost; that being TIME. Time taken on writing more than was required. And that is taking time away from other Qs in the paper that it SHOULD be allocated to.
  • What exams are really testing as well as subject knowledge.
  • Nope, they’re not just a test of subject knowledge! There are SO many other skills they’re testing. Ability to decipher what the Q is really asking, how much detail is required, at what level, how to put it across succinctly, time management, QWC (quality of written communication), and the list goes on…!
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This simple thing has left students lost

There was a basic thing letting a lot of students down in two particular Qs I marked.

And I’ve seen it first hand with other students I’ve worked with too.

Watch this video to find out what it is and how it’s leaving some students lost as to what to write, or unable to make the best choices in exams.



Having a good range and knowledge of vocabulary isn’t just for English subjects.

It can be necessary for:

* Understanding the wording of Qs.

* Deciding on the best option to select when there is a choice of topics or Qs within a section of an exam.

* Being clear on the description/feature/characteristic being analysed.

* As well as, of course, being able to produce a high QWC (Quality of Written Communication) and convey your answers clearly, succinctly and with sophistication.

CLICK HERE to see the exam Qs that I was marking and am discussing in this video diary.

Oh, and P.S. that word I couldn’t think of in the video that caught one of my Personal Coaching students out… it was ‘contestable’.

The Modern History Q was something like:

“Discuss how this source may be contestable”.

Which basically just means ‘evaluate the source’! Which they could definitely have done, had they known and understood that was what the wording of the Q meant :/

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Answering text source Qs in exams CLEARLY

Is your teen totally confident in answering analysis Qs about text sources in exams?

Like when they get given an extract to read and then have to analyse some element of it?

Here’s how to know how much detail to give and HOW to do it:

There are two things they need to do, and I explain them both (with written examples below!) in this week’s blog 🙂


How do students show the required level of detail in a question that asks them to analyse a text or source for a particular feature? Two ways:

1 – By showing they understand the characteristic or feature being focused upon (in this example, how the text shows that a character is authoritative), by using other SYNONYMS for that word in their answer.

E.g. In line 6 it states that he ‘shouted orders at his assistant’. This shows that he is a dominant figure who makes demands of other people. Being dominant and demanding are traits of an authoritative person.


2 – By explaining HOW the reference(s) they’ve picked out show or relate to that characteristic/feature. These both mean that everything is clear to the examiner and they don’t have to ‘fill in any gaps’ in what the student is trying to put across. As always – these steps can be used for an analytical Q relating to a source or text!

E.g. In line 6 it states that he ‘shouted orders at his assistant’. This shows that he is a dominant figure who makes demands of other people. Being dominant and demanding are traits of an authoritative person.

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