Grade Transformation Blog

Grade Transformation Blog

No.1 in Transforming Students’ Grades

Posts filed under Essays

Evaluation essays don’t want a ‘personal opinion’

Evaluation level essays do NOT actually need your teen’s personal opinion.Yep.
Even if it says ‘In your opinion…’

For most students, this is GREAT news!

Because it means they don’t need to be an expert in whatever the genre or topic it.

They don’t need to be a literature enthusiast.

And they don’t need to have some sort of sophisticated and unique insight into anything.
I just wish I’d realised this as a student.
I only figured it out 7 years into my teaching when I was marking Y12 Writing Tests and figuring out the mark scheme as a non-English teacher.

In Week 3 of Essays Bootcamp (available as part of Next Level Coaching), I told students exactly what they need to do instead.
And, all importantly… HOW to do it.



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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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Stop writing more than you need to – 2 ways to stop running out of time in exams

The 3 main fears students have around exams are:

1) Fear of the Unknown (What will they ask?)

2) Fear of Uncertainty (What does the Q really mean? What do they want in my answer?)

3) Fear of Running Out of Time.

That third one happens because students are writing more than they need to.

And that happens for two reasons:

  • 1. Not being sure what will get marks or what the Q really requires – see Fear #2 above – so they end up ‘throwing spaghetti at the wall’ and hoping some of it sticks (gets marks).
  • 2. Answering the same way they do every day in lessons or assignments – which is the opposite of what’s required in exams.

And there are 2 super-simple, instantly-actionable solutions that will give your teen back SO much time in every Q in every exam they sit from now on.


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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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Exam Marker Video Diary 2021 – Part 4

The focus of the question I’m marking is all about analysing impacts around a challenge within a specific case study.
There are MANY different impacts student could identify and this is often the case in all different subjects, topics and case studies.

Sometimes there are so many that it’s overwhelming.
Sometimes it can feel tricky to identify them or see how to put them across coherently.
So, I’m offering some specific ways to identify impacts or effects
and then a strategy to help decide which ones to select to actually include in an answer,
and what order to put them in.


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What you MOST want to know

If we were to grab a coffee and chat, what’s ONE THING you’d love to ask or get my help with for your teen and their study?

  • What would make the biggest difference to their study (or their ability to NOT be studying all the time!)?
  • What’s the main thing they’re struggling with?
  • What insider info would you love to properly understand about how exams and assessments really work?Basically…
  • What would you love to pick my brain on?

Drop a comment below or email me and TELL ME!

I’ll be responding to your needs, wants and wildest (study-based ? ) desires
in the 5 Day Inner Circle for Parents of Hard-Working Teens– opening Fri 12th Nov 2021 and kicking off Mon 15th Nov.

This is also where I’ll be opening up enrolment for the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program for those students who want to complete their training over the summer, ready to hit the ground running in the new school year.

Make sure you’re on the 10WGT Waitlist to get all the details and a sneak preview.

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Why even top students sometimes procrastinate (and how to overcome it)

Even top-performing students still procrastinate.

And it’s not down to a lack of motivation.

This Y11 ATAR student is currently getting in the 70%’s
for English and is working on achieving her goal of high 80’s.

One of her struggles this week was getting an independent reading and summarising task ‘done’.
She’s not lazy and she wants great results.
So motivation’s not the issue (and therefore also won’t fix it).

Watch us unpick what’s stopping her from getting going,
and transform the task from vague and intangible to specific and actionable.

P.S. Sometimes procrastination sneaks in as ‘productive procrastination’, like
– doing more research (rather than actually starting the assignment)
– filing notes (instead of processing those notes)

The result is actually worse than spending that time scrolling through Insta or watching Netflix.
The task still isn’t done and they’ve spent hours ‘studying’ rather than getting some free time.

Use the questions I asked her with your teen next time they aren’t getting a task done and feel like they don’t really know why.

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Want better time management? Use ‘Outcome Scheduling’.

Wish your teen had better time management skills?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but
(unless you’ve got a time machine – in which case – can I come?!)
we can’t actually manage time itself.

All we can do is manage what we DO, in the time we have.

Plus, what does time management really mean?

Getting more done??
More what?… Insta-scrolling?

Or maybe, being more efficient?
Sounds good.


(You know I love the HOW!)

The solution is ‘Outcome Scheduling’:




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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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