In this blog post, I will look more closely at the English part of entrance exams, and how I coach students to succeed in this important aspect. I have a great deal of experience in the content and style of various exam types and more importantly, I know how they change. It is important to go to a tutor who is able to help your child at a time when schools and the government are trying to make tutor and preparation proof the exams.
So, like I said before in my previous blog post on exam prep, it is all about getting your timing right because success depends on it. So if we deal with story writing, for example, we try to help the children cut that writing time down to 30 minutes, though it does take an hour in the first instance of writing a story when students come to me.
The second thing I stress is about being as correct and precise as you can be, firstly with your answers and secondly with your punctuation. Looking at a comprehension passage carefully is another very important point of exam prep.
Comprehension is important for both 7+ and 11+ exams. Understanding how one key word is significant in a comprehension passage makes a real difference, and this is where vocabulary prep comes in. For e.g. poultry has come up often in tests and a lot of children don’t know what poultry is. If you don’t know what a key word means, I say always try to work it out by what else is written in the text. Understanding through context is a very important skill. A lot of texts are now in old English (meaning English that is not necessarily used in everyday conversation anymore), both for young children and the 11+ children. And it is all about reading.
I treat comprehension like a very important piece of reading first, not looking at the questions right away. I tell my students to first understand the text and then we look at the comprehension questions. But the key is but not to linger too much. With exam prep we teach students to leave something out if you don’t know the answer, and then go back to it when you have time at the end.
Exam prep is not the same as studying. While teaching to the test is an ugly phrase, it is unfortunately the way that the system works right now and it is important that students are given the skills and tools to succeed in this environment. It is not realistic to expect teachers and schools to be able to teach each child in the special way he or she needs.
In my tutorial school, this is exactly what we do. My particular type of initial assessment makes note of weaknesses and strengths. I deal with the weaknesses first, but do not lose sight of the student’s strengths.
I also encourage students to read – they cannot learn every piece of vocabulary in school or at the tutorial agency. They need to read a wide range of books, with particular emphasis on classic authors like Mark Twain and Arthur Ransom, whose old-fashioned vocabulary is exactly what schools are testing for right now.
I like Enid Blyton too, actually, and it does help that her books are wonderful fun!
My next post will be about a completely different subject – Maths! Mathematics needs a completely different approach to English, and you can learn more about how we go about it soon. Watch this space!