Grade Transformation Blog

Grade Transformation Blog

No.1 in Transforming Students’ Grades

Posts filed under Essays

Essays in Exams

Let’s talk essays for a moment, shall we?

We often think of them as long drawn out tasks, slaved over for days (sometimes weeks).

Cue all the false starts,
finding quotes,
writing drafts,
trying not to waffle,
including stuff we know they didn’t ask for just because it sounds good,
(missing stuff they DID ask for, but not realising it),
wondering whether a snack would help ;),
realising you’re way over the word count and trying to figure out what to cut without losing marks,
OR realising you’re way under the word count and wondering what on earth you could add without waffling or repeating yourself,
handing in a draft,
being told you’ve missed the point somewhere or need to ‘add more detail’,
eating all the snacks,
hours of editing (or total re-writing),
finally handing in with fingers crossed and a whole lot of hope that it comes back with a good mark.

(FYI – ‘hope’ is not a proven strategy) 😜

But of course, essays come up in exams too.

With a whole lotta marks allocated.
And very little time to do ’em in!

In the video I explain the critical step
(and IS a proven strategy that works in EVERY subject, for EVERY type of essay question)
your teen needs to do before they write ANYTHING:

And as a thank you gift during this runway to my next 10WGT enrolment, right now you can get my
​Essay Title Swipe File with my 2-step Topic and Focus system
(+ bonus explanatory video!)
for your teen for free!

Here’s how:

1) Share the invite to the webinar:
Skyrocket YOUR Teen’s Exam Results and Confidence
on your Facebook page:


2) Take a screenshot of your share.

3) Email your screenshot to:

I’ll email you the swipe file AND the video within 12 hours!


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Essays – Avoiding the waffle zone!

Have you ever proof-read one of your teen’s essays and felt that sinking feeling as you realise you are reading the same thing over and over?
If your son or daughter has a tendency to slip into the waffle zone when writing essays then this video is definitely for you.

To get your copy of my Essay Title Swipe File,
simply share this link
on your social media and send a screenshot of your share to:


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How long should my teen spend studying each evening in Y11 +12?

HINT: The answer is NOT a number.
Watch the video to find out how your teen should be planning their study time instead.








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3 Little-Known Tips to Write Better Essays

Here are 3 specific and actionable, yet little-known essay tips
to have your teen:

– Overcome ‘scary blank page’ syndrome

– Save on word count and time

– Ensure they’re answering the focus of the Q (and in the right amount of detail).

Be sure to join me at my Free Parent Webinar to discover more in depth strategies!

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The ULTIMATE skill for nailing exams

What’s the ULTIMATE skill in nailing exams?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, as we get into exam season, and I’ve come up with what is, officially, my favourite exam skill.

Favourite in terms of the skill that gives biggest bang for buck.

And one that’s very specific.

Watch the video (or scroll down for the written version) to find out what it is and how your teen can get it!


Hopefully you know by now, if you’ve been following me for even a short while the ‘Not-So-Secret Secret’,  that there’s more to exams than just subject knowledge.

That even if your teen knows EVERYTHING there is to know about a topic, it (unfortunately) does not guarantee them a top grade in an exam.

In fact, I coached one of my Next Level students on exactly this, this week. 

He’d written an essay with heaps of great knowledge, vocabulary, examples. 

But he hadn’t fully identified the FOCUS of the essay question and therefore hadn’t tied his points to that focus clearly enough to get the result he’s capable of.

And I see this EVERY year as an examiner. 

Students who I can tell from their answers or essays, are obviously smart and have clearly revised and done everything they were told to.

BUT they haven’t been trained in exam technique. 

There are 6 elements of exam technique and the one skill that is my absolute favourite is a cross over of two of them.
Well, actually three of them.

Conquering command words and mastering mark schemes are the two main ones, and time management would be the third.


The skill I’m talking about is:
Being able to write the most succinct answer that gains maximum marks.
In other words, how to cover each criteria on the marking guide, with the least amount of words.

It’s rare to see them but when I do, I get SO excited.
It requires a solid understanding of command words – and the trigger words that go with them – and it’s massive help with time management.

I still remember one of the best examples I saw of this.
It was around 3 years ago probably now, but I still remember it.
It got full marks with about half the words of most other responses. 

I had to read it over 3 or 4 times to really check that I was definitely marking it correctly. That it really did satisfy all the criteria, and once I was certain it did, I was like – ‘Oh, that’s brilliant’.
I can’t recall the exact Q now, but it was a comparison, so had some very specific trigger words and this student had used them really well in their answer.

And if your teen can master the skill of giving the examiner exactly what they need to see and do it in the least words possible – or close to – then they’ll not only maximise their results, but also won’t run out of time in the exam. (Time being something that isn’t such an issue in the middle years, but is definitely an issue a lot of students have in Year 11 and 12).


That’s why I’ve already developed a ‘Most Marks, Least Words’ Challenge as a specific activity in the Exam Mastery Workshop and it’s why I train students in identifying and understanding command words, using trigger words AND the whole exam time management system in the 10  Week Grade Transformation Program.

Because ALL of these skills can be learned and actioned in your teen’s very next exam.
They aren’t talents you’re either born with or you aren’t.
They’re like driving a car.
We can all learn them, and once you’ve figured each thing out and how to do them, together, you’ve got the skill of nailing exams – and got it forever.



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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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“What would Katie say?”

Rather than posting a video of hand-picked tips and advice for you, this week I’ve decided to to open up my Wednesday evening (27th May, 8pm AEST) so you can get the precise tips, advice or just bend my ear about what YOU really want to know.

So join me for:

“What would Katie say?” 🤔

*Live Q&A* for you to ASK . ME . ANYTHING!

I’ll give you a clear and specific answer, based on my 13 years as an award-winning high school teacher, national exam marker, coursework moderator and scrutiny panel member.

This is what I do all day, every day
and luuurvve to talk about with keen and supportive parents, students and, well… anyone who’ll listen!

Check out my personal invite, I recorded just yesterday in the moment I decided to do this!
And then CLICK HERE to get your link to the Live Q&A Room.


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It isn’t even that difficult

As we get ready to release the brand NEW 10 Week Grade Transformation Program (2. 0),
whilst a lot is new and has been upgraded and
even more amazing training added,
when I went back to the original info I wrote for students about the 10WGT almost 4 years ago there’s literally nothing I would change in that description!

I was expecting to cringe my way through it
(as you do when you go back and read something you thought was good way back when, but then later… well… not so much)
but when I read it, I was actually like “Wow, this is goooood!”.
It totally nails everything the 10WGT is and everything the 10WGT does.
Because of course, the key concepts and the core purpose of the program HAVEN’T changed at all – so I’m sharing my fave snippets of that description with you here:

Fact: You could easily raise your grades in any exam, essay or assignment if only you knew the untold secrets to exam success.

Did you know that most students will never get the marks they should in assessments, assignments and exams, even if they study hard?

(In fact it doesn’t matter how hard they studied, even if they worked harder and longer than anyone else).

Why? Because they are not fully skilled and confident in things like understanding command words, selecting and structuring content, and knowing what the markers are specifically looking for.

In my experience as an exam marker, national coursework assessor and award-winning high school teacher – and now – exam board scrutiny panel member and school workshop leader –  I’ve come to realise that it is NOT ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU KNOW, it’s all about how well you put it down on paper. 

But: Teachers just don’t have the time to teach these skills along with all the content laid down in the curriculum they have to cover. Plus, most of them aren’t trained examiners or assessors and so don’t have this insider knowledge.

Pretty depressing, right?

But here is the good news – well in fact it is brilliant, awesome news… This ALL means… that

You Are Better Than You Think!

Your grades can be higher than you ever imagined.

You can have access to more career and life opportunities.

All with less stress.

Yes, it is possible to achieve fabulous results whilst feeling cool, confident and in control.

And the best bit is…

My online 10 Week Grade Transformation Program means you can easily discover all these secrets and master all of these skills. It isn’t even that difficult. In fact it’s a lot easier to perfect things like ‘exam technique’, structuring extended responses and giving examiners what they want, than it is to learn lots more subject content.

Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work – this isn’t a magic fix that’ll happen overnight. But what it does mean is that you can become highly skilled in the strategies required for amazing results, and when you do, you’ll have these ‘super-powers’ forever!


The 10 Week Grade Transformation Program is for you if:

You Sometimes Feel:

  • Like you’re drowning in homework, notes, assignments or revision

  • That there are some subjects or topics that you just never seem to do well in

  • That you don’t know the best way to organise your time or tasks in order to get things done efficiently

  • Lacking confidence in some aspect of your academic abilities

  • That you don’t know exactly HOW to make your work better even after it’s been marked

  • Unsure if you’re ‘doing it right’ when answering exam questions or writing assignments

  • That you work hard but still wish your results were better?

And the 10WGT is for you if You Want:

  • Expert help and support to give you the skills to be confident, organised and motivated in your school work

  • To feel positive and in control of your study, your exams and life at school or college

  • To know exactly how to tackle different types of tasks and assignments

  • To know PRECISELY what ANY exam question is really asking 

  • And able to respond in a way that will earn you the MOST MARKS with the subject knowledge YOU have

  • To know exactly what ‘exam technique’ is and what ‘command’ and ‘trigger’ words are

  • To set goals beyond anything you ever thought possible, and actually achieve them!

My proven system has led hundreds of students to success already and it can work for you too.


So, if ANY of this sounds like your teen, then definitely go check out the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program 2.0,
and take advantage of this once-only opportunity to be able go through it in REAL TIME, with me checking in each week and all of our new students, as we all kick off together.

This time next week, we’ll be in it, doing it.
So let’s make this an amazing week, and I hope I get to meet you and your teen if you decide to join me inside the 10WGT 🙂


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What’s this leading to?

When it comes to open tasks and having to come up with your own choices, it’s not enough to go with what you like the most. To gain maximum marks and best ever results you really need to get your head around this:

How can students go about tackling open tasks?

I want to talk about not just choosing a topic or idea that students like the most, enjoy or interests them.
Yes that’s important,
but what’s critical in achieving top grades is to find something that ties in with the criteria or marking guide really, really well!

I’ve worked with a couple of students this week where they have both had English assignments relating to specific texts they are studying and are having to come up with their own ideas and concepts.
Very quickly I asked them:
“What’s this leading to?”

What I specifically want to highlight is that most students will go down the path of choosing ideas they like the most or that interest them.
I want to steer students down the path that will access the most marks
and yield the greatest results.

So, let’s pick ideas and topics that are going to work really well for the assessment or task that follows. Let’s be strategic.

I want students to think beyond just making a choice at the surface level
and dive deeper into making choices that are truly going to benefit them in the marking guide or criteria…
That’s where the REAL gold is!

My perspective has been honed from many years within education
including both assessment marking and formal exam marking.
Previously I have only worked one-on-one with students that have completed my flagship online program (the 10 Week Grade Transformation program).

However, I’m going to be making an exciting announcement in the next few weeks.
Keep an eye on your in-box very soon as I’m going to be offering the opportunity for more students to work with me personally on a regular basis. This offer will be limited so you’ll have to act quick.




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Stop! You’re going the wrong way!

Just because you’ve been doing something a certain way for so long, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should just keep going.

Recently I was working with a group of school students and had a couple who were adamant they wanted to continue making their notes in the same way they always had.

Despite the fact that I’d just been through the proven reasons why that strategy – which was basically typing them out almost word for word – was not effective both in terms of recording and remembering that info.

Just so you know – having a set of typed notes to refer to is not as useful as having a set of hand-written, colour coded summaries, condensed and ideally transformed or processed in some way. Our brains don’t take in the info in the same way and the act of actually handwriting those notes and condensing them also enhances our understanding and retention.



I see this all the time in students’ revision too.

They have always revised by reading back over and highlighting notes.

They have always written out palm cards crammed full of info for topics.

And sometimes the reason is perfectly reasonable too.

They’ve always gotten decent grades that way.

But that doesn’t mean that’s as good as it can be – as good as it’s gonna get – that you have to continue to take that slow and inefficient route to exam success. (Because – blunt but true – all those strategies I’ve just mentioned are slow and inefficient. Even if typing is faster than writing, the learning is less effective)

I remember hearing someone talking about an analogy that totally works for this situation – consider this:
If you were travelling to a destination, and you’d already walked for 2 hours to get there, but then you realised that you were going the wrong way,
would you keep on walking?

It would be frustrating for sure, you’d maybe even be a bit angry.
It would certainly be understandable for you to want to question that info, the map, the GPS,  or whatever it was that told you, you’re going the wrong way.

But would you be like …
aw, you know what I’ve come this far,
I’m just gonna keep going and somehow hope that it’s going to get me where I want to go.

Hopefully, you’d have someone come up to you (someone like me maybe!) and go –
‘Wait! Stop! You’re going the wrong way. Turn around. Here’s the right way.
Certainly don’t go any further in the wrong direction!

Yes, you’d be sceptical,
yes, you’d be annoyed,
but should you carry on going the wrong way?

Of course not!

Hopefully that route has taken you at least slightly in the right direction at least, and often that’s the case.
Students have been able to find some success in what they’re doing. But I want to be the GPS that sends out flashing notifications to as many students as possible and shows them the right way to go about their study. To make it as efficient and effective as possible.

So, has your teen been given advice anywhere along the way that they haven’t yet taken on board?
Is there a different path they need to get onto in terms of their research strategies for assignments,
their note-taking systems, and – the big one…
their revision techniques?

I’m a big believer in the fact that it’s never too late to get onto the more direct and faster, easier route to awesome grades.

So if you feel your teens not on the right path right now, then be sure to check out my free parent guide – the 3 huge mistakes even smart students make in exams and assignments  –– and I’ll show you precisely where they’ve likely been going wrong and how they can easily get back on track.

You’ll also then get all my weekly videos like this one delivered straight to your inbox – (don’t know about you, but I love making life as easy as possible).


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