Grade Transformation Blog

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Posts filed under Assignments

Advanced Skills: Making Links Within AND Between Evidence in Essays

How to achieve the highest marks in selecting and integrating the best evidence/quotes in essays.
– Top tips in how to up-level evidence selection and how to make detailed linkages in the analysis.



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Checklist: How to select the BEST evidence or quotes for an essay

Excerpt from Essays Bootcamp in Next Level Coaching: Gemma explains exactly what examiners are looking for when awarding the top criteria for ‘discerning’ evidence. Including: – The proven Checklist of ‘decision-makers’. – A specific example of where students can go wrong with this – What your teen needs to look for so they don’t fall… (read more)

Plan Details and Specifics From the Very START

It’s easy to say: “I’ll include a metaphor here.”

“I’ll give some context in the intro.”

What takes more thought and effort is to say from the outset:
– precisely WHAT metaphor and why.

– exactly what IS the context and which elements are most significant for this task.

Sometimes students feel like they’ve planned, but really, they’ve outlined.


Having an expert (like Gemma, our English-Focus Coach!) there to help with these sorts of small but mighty details is what can take us to the next level in our work.

Because although deciding on these details in advance can be challenging, NOT doing so will lead to multiple challenges in the writing stage.

Brainstorming and then selecting them all at the beginning will not only highlight any gaps in knowledge (which are much better solved before the writing begins, rather than half way through, when the temptation then is to gloss over that fact and waffle our way through),

it will also allow much more discerning choices and selections.

And together these mean the task gets completed much more smoothly and quickly AND achieves more of the top level criteria and therefore a higher result.



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Is your teen using ‘micro-quotes’ in their essays?

What makes ‘use of evidence or quotations’ in an essay, exam or assignment
‘discerning’ rather than ‘appropriate’ in the mark scheme?
What takes an extended response to ‘pertinent’, or ‘perceptive‘, in the success criteria?

There are multiple elements and Gemma, our English-Focus Coach went through ALL of them with our Next Level students this week.

One of the mistakes students are making is incorporating quotes that are too long.

The quote can be appropriate.
It’s perhaps even been analysed well.
But it’s not considered perceptive or discerning because the EXACT words in the quote that are pertinent to the focus of the question have not been identified.

Here are some excerpts of that session where Gemma explains how and why MICRO-QUOTES should be used instead of full sentences.



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“I wish we’d had this earlier”

Is the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program right for your teen
and if so,
when’s the best time for them to do it?

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Writing clear, high-quality responses to high-level commands

Here’s how I know if a student will give a CLEAR, high quality answer
BEFORE they even write it.

(As you can probably guess from me by now, it’s got nothing to do with their subject knowledge).

I just need to find out if they’re CLEAR on what the command word means and what it requires.

And to do that, I just need to ask them one thing about the question they’re about to answer (presuming they already know about command words, what they are and can identify them)…

“What is that command asking you to do?”

If they can answer that question confidently, clearly and succinctly, then they’re on track for a high quality answer (and completing it without unnecessary struggle).

If not, then we’re likely on the road to waffle and vague-ness.

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When to start a new paragraph in any task or essay

I hate to admit it, but being ‘forced’ to read huge novels as a teenager put me off reading for a LONG time.*

I didn’t actually mind Shakespeare,**
but that was because I approached the analysis more like a dissection and translation exercise than an appreciation of literature.
(I liked structure and box-ticking even then!)

That’s why I loved Gemma’s (our English Focus Coach in Next Level Coaching) clear and easy system for knowing when to make paragraph breaks in any piece of writing.

I see LOTS of students struggle with paragraphing in their writing;
either because they’re under exam time pressure and forget them,
or because they’re not quite sure when or how they should insert them.

The TIP-TOP system works for any type of English task or exam response and in fact, for ANY subject at any level.

* I didn’t read a book for ‘fun’ again until I was about 24 years old and it was like re-discovering the joys of going for a walk.
[Fun when you’re a little kid (yay – an adventure!),
annoying and boring as a teenager (um, what for?),
joyful as an adult (let’s meet up – we’ll do a good walk and catch up).]
I think you officially know you’re an adult when you decide to ‘go for a walk’ or ‘admire the view’ without being forced to by your parents.

** We did Julius Caesar and Merchant of Venice, and I still remember the bit about revenge and the pound of flesh, and the “et tu Brute” bombshell.
(Can’t remember a thing about Oliver, and just ‘something about witches’ for The Crucible. Embarrassing to admit, but true.)

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{Advanced skill} Comment on Vs. Analyse

Your teen *thought* they’d analysed, but didn’t get full marks.
And now they’re not sure what went wrong.

It’s likely that they’re ‘commenting on’ their quotes or evidence,
rather than actually analysing it.

(That phrase ‘comments on meaning’ is even used in mark schemes to accommodate students who ‘under-analyse’ in this way.
That’s how common this problem is.)

If they’re not going further to state the ‘impact’ of that sentence, technique or description, then this is likely what’s happening.

– Here’s an example of this in action on a real life essay,
where our English-Focus Coach Gemma shows how to take the ‘comment on meaning’ a step further
to become a full analysis.


Notice how the student has explained what the character means when they say that quote.

But, they haven’t analysed WHY the author decided to use this to influence the audience’s understanding and feelings about the character/scene.

What does that quote make the reader think or feel about the character or the situation?

HOW does that quote contribute to theme/character being asked about in the original essay question?

In other words:
What is the IMPACT of using it?

This is how your teen up-levels from explaining (commenting on meaning)
to analysing (stating the impact in relation to the focus of the task). 


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How to pick a great topic in an open-choice assignment

Having open choice of a topic in an assignment can feel exciting or daunting (or both!).

Here’s how to select a topic that gives access to the top criteria and makes the process of completing the assignment as smooth and stress-free as possible.


*** For more information on strategic study where hard work actually pays off in the end results, go to:

*** Use the Free Parent Guide: 3 Huge Mistakes (Even Smart) Students Make in Exams and Assignments to figure out what’s holding your hard-working teen back from achieving their best possible success, with less stress in their study.
Get your copy for free at:
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Real coaching – How to choose the best topic

Does your teen love to have open choice on what to do in an assignment?

Or do they prefer to have guidelines and direction?

Truth is, every student should make decisions STRATEGICALLY on what topic to pick when there’s a choice of any sort.

If they want to give themselves the best chance of a great result AND complete it in the smoothest and most efficient way,
then here’s my advice to REAL students with REAL questions around exactly these dilemmas in our live group coaching calls.



P.S. Every student in the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program gets access to three of these live group coaching calls with me during the program.
They can ask me any Q they like about their study, how to apply the strategies they’re learning in the program AND learn from the Q’s and A’s given to other students. (In fact that last option is the one that many students get the most out of! The Qs they’d never even thought to ask themselves!)

P.P.S. These excerpts are from a selection chosen by current students who nomiated their ‘best bits’ from Term 2 that they’ve found super-useful).

You can enrol your teen now and get them on track – and supported – in their study!

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