Some Frequently Asked Questions
The effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic – going forward
There are many questions about the future when it comes to the effects of Corona that no one knows the answer to …yet. The cancellation of this summer’s exam sittings was unprecedented and caught the exam centres ‘on the hop’. Most worked very hard to try to allocate as many grades as they could but many students chose to postpone sitting their exams and hope to sit them this autumn (CIE already have an autumn sitting and Edexcel added an extra set of exam sittings) or in January (Edexcel only) but there is no guarantee that these sittings will go ahead if we get a second wave of the virus.
We do know that the government and the exam boards are planning for these to go ahead and the exam centres are taking bookings. It is worth noting that in January the only Edexcel exams available will be IGCSE Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths (not Human Biology).
We are working with exam centres and exam boards going forward to see how we will be able to provide the evidence required for predicted grades to be awarded by the exam boards in the unlikely event that this happens again next summer. We strongly advise when you choose an exam centre this year you make sure you’re happy with the procedures they have in place should this be required next year.
Only the exam centre will be able to decide what evidence they will accept and send on to exam boards and the boards have clearly stated that changes will be made to what they accepted this year going forward. We are in close communication with centres to see what they will require. We do know that they will require a significant amount of evidence to be able to predict a grade and we continue to work with exam centres to identify what that is.
I don’t live in the UK can I still use your courses?
Absolutely! Our courses are designed to work just as well for international students. Just check which boards your local exam centre covers and you can get started. Your course is delivered as a PDF download and you can send your scanned Follow Up Work to your tutor by email. Our tutors are available by email to support you and answer questions. We have welcomed many international students recently. It’s lovely to have them on board!
Do you offer a sibling discount?
We aren’t able to offer a sibling discount, as we have decided to keep all of our courses as affordable as possible for everyone. We are, as you will have seen, already considerably cheaper than other distance learning providers. Also, siblings completing courses generate the same amount of email support, marking and exam papers to mark as to individuals and we have to pay our tutors the same amount for each. On top of being cheaper, we are also delighted that all of our tutors are experienced home educators and tutors of home educators themselves which gives us a unique insight into the home educating experience
Can your courses be covered in a year?
Yes! Most of our students find that they are able to cover the courses and take the exam in one academic year. So for example, if they start in September of one year and they study, on average, one topic per week, taking 4 to 6 hours to do so, they will complete the course in good time for revision and practise on past papers. Some students choose to take 18 months or two years and that is fine too!
Why choose tutor support?
Obviously our students make the most of us in a huge variety of ways – how ever suits them best. For example, some of our students email us each week (or several times a week), whenever they are unsure of something in the textbook or course. It may be a definition that needs clarifying or a new concept that they are unsure of. We build up a close, working relationship through the interaction between us so they feel relaxed about asking questions and telling me when they are unsure of something. Sometimes they find a concept difficult and then we are able to offer other sources of support and reinforcement. We can send links to numerous sites or worksheets. If they find that email contact isn’t enough then we can arrange to call them to chat it through. They can email as often as they need to and we will always be here to encourage and direct.
The marking of each end of topic Follow up work isn’t just a matter of telling them whether what they have written is right or wrong. Often we find that students write ‘half the answer’ so while what they have written is correct it wouldn’t get them full marks in an exam. To give a Biology example – when asked what happens to blood in the lungs students often just write about oxygen entering the blood. This is half the story and so half the marks! We can point out where they need to use more scientific words and terms. Tutor feedback is so important in guiding students in how to answer questions in a way that will give them the maximum number of marks in the exam. It redirects students who are going off track, corrects misunderstandings and gives hints and tips for the exam as well as reassuring others that they have understood and learnt concepts fully.
When it comes to revision we are able to guide and advise and of course the full marked exam paper which is marked not just for points but also with full feedback to again help the students see exactly what it is that the examiner is looking for. To give guidance about areas to focus on in their revision. Again we can offer other sources of learning to support these areas if necessary.
We are all highly qualified in our subjects and experienced in teaching them to our own children (and others too) so we often have had lots of experience in finding new ways to deliver information if students struggle. On the flip side we can motivate and encourage those who are ‘flying high’. Regular feedback helps to reassure them that they are on the correct path and preparing well for the exam.
As home educators ourselves we often build up strong relationships with the families of our students too. We are here to help and advise and share our experience when asked. We often get asked about timetabling, exam preparation, choice of new courses, revision techniques etc by other home ed mums or just the opportunity to chat about any worries and concerns they may have about their child’s learning. We are able to share our experiences and successes too. It is lovely to be part of such a friendly and supportive community.
Upcoming changes to the Edexcel Exams:
Firstly let us reiterate that there is often confusion surrounding the words ‘updated specification’ and people often fear that much of the course has changed. This is not the case here. Indeed this is what Edexcel themselves say about the revised syllabus:
“All our current Edexcel International GCSE subjects will continue to be available until a last assessment date of May / June 2018 or January 2019 for subjects with current January availability. We plan to introduce more up-to-date content so it reflects the latest thinking in each subject and to ensure that the content and assessment standards are comparable to the new GCSEs. This is to ensure that these qualifications are even more relevant and engaging for students, and that they are of comparable demand to the new reformed GCSEs.
With the introduction of a new 9-1 grading scale for GCSEs in England, the A* grade available for the current International GCSEs does not neatly align with the top grade 9. Grade 9 represents a higher level of attainment than the current A* grade. After extensive consultation with schools and wider stakeholders, we have taken the decision to introduce the 9-1 grading scale for the updated suite of International GCSEs. This is to give the very highest performers the opportunity to achieve a grade 9, rewarding outstanding academic achievement. With 9 levels of performance rather than 8, there is greater differentiation of the most able at the top end of the grading scale, which better identifies students’ potential, putting you in a stronger position to help students make informed decisions about their A level and university choices.”
Edexcel Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Human Biology and Double Award
Last examinations of the current specification is January 2019.
The new specification and updated textbooks became available in September 2017 and the first examination is Summer 2019. You can purchase either specification from our website. All courses have undergone small changes (topic added or removed, examples changed, some minor adjustments to the length of the exam papers etc) so if you purchase the old specification but need longer than planned to study, we will happily send you the new specification PDF free of charge – you would just need to purchase the new textbook. This is especially relevant if you are not sure how long the student will take to complete the course.
Last examination of the current specification is June 2018. The first examination of the new specification is summer 2019. The exam will change to become 3 papers of 1.5 hours each. An updated course for the exam from Summer 2019 written by our Geography tutor, Helen, is now available.
Our course is updated and ready for the changes in specification examined from summer 2018.
The old specification, which was written in 2009, will have it’s last examination in January 2018 – and has the code 4MA0, it will be graded under the old system of A* to G. Study using the new specification can start from this year, for first examination in June 2018, with code 4MA1, it will be graded 1 – 9. It will then be available in both the January and June sittings thereafter.
Due to recent changes to the specification we are now able to offer GCSE Maths
as well as IGCSE Maths.
Upcoming changes to the grading of Cambridge (CIE) Exams
CIE have decided to offer students taking their IGCSE courses the chance to be awarded grades 9 – 1 in place of the current A* – G system from June 2018. The ONLY differences to the current specifications are the codes used to register. The content, the set books and the exam papers are exactly the same so you can continue to use our current courses, with the current codes BUT when you come to register with your exam centre you enter with one code for an A-G grade and a different code for a 9-1 grade.
All CIE Courses are updated and ready. All our CIE courses and textbooks are relevant for 2017 onwards.
IGCSE English update from Catherine Mooney
The new IGCSE specifications in English Language and English Literature that will examined for the first time in Summer 2018. Most of the changes are only visible on the exam papers themselves where the same old questions appear in a slightly different order (and of course the grades are now 1 – 9 rather than A – G; not that this makes much difference in practice).
All courses have now been updated. Please see Catherine’s website for details.
My child has a learning disability, are your courses suitable ?
We have worked with children with learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia, and are confident that with the correct support from us, married with a continuation of their usual working practices and support from home, most students will be able to use our courses to help them pass their IGCSE exams.
This from a parent about a student who took the Biology Cambridge CIE exam this year ‘
‘… he got a C, which is a big accomplishment bearing in mind he had only come out of school a year before really struggling with learning due to his dyspraxia n dyslexia, the purpose of this GCSE was for me to show him he can learn and help build his self esteem n confidence (which was not in a good place at school)…and I have achieved that.
Big thank you, you were so helpful and patiently answered all my questions.”