How to plan your Coursework

Is your coursework deadline looming? It’s easy to panic about getting all your studies completed, especially when a percentage of your grade is riding on how good your coursework is. However, it can be a great advantage to have part of your GCSE, A Level or other result safely under your belt when you go into your exams. You’re not under the same intense pressure that you would be in an exam situation, so your work is likely to be of a higher standard. Here’s how to make sure you get it right…

  •   Get a clear understanding of what is required

If you have an essay question, for example, write it down before taking it apart. Look at each word of the question and write what it means. If you’re in any doubt about what you’re being asked to do, talk to your tutor or teacher. You should also check how many marks are being allocated for each part of the coursework: the number of marks will dictate how much time and detail should go into each section. If possible, read a few sample answers to get a good idea of what you need to do to get it right.

  •  Plan your research

Whatever the subject of your coursework, you will need to read texts and do research online to arm yourself with everything you need to answer the questions that are being put to you. Make a list of all the sources of information you will be using, and allocate specific amounts of time to spend reading and taking notes for each.

  •  Don’t rush the writing

Your coursework plan should include plenty of time to write your essay and answer the questions posed, or to present your findings. Do not leave this until the night before. Despite the fact that lots of students might say this works for them, you will just feel unbearably stressed and pressurised, and your work will not be to the highest standard it could be. Give yourself a few days to complete the bulk of the writing at a relaxed pace with time for breaks, and your coursework will be much more likely to help you get that grade you’re after.

  •  Factor in editing time

No matter how hard you’ve worked, the first draft of your coursework will not be your best work. Allocate time for drafting well in advance of the deadline so that you can correct mistakes and make improvements. If you find it difficult to read your own work with a critical eye, ask a friend, family member or tutor to offer ideas on how you can make sure that your work is the best it can be.

The key to successfully planning coursework for any subject is allowing plenty of time, and incorporating as much detail as possible into your schedule. This is your chance to make sure you’re going into the exam knowing that you’re part of the way there, so don’t waste it!

Born in Soho, London, on November 28th, 1757, the poet William Blake came into a Dissenter family. Largely educated at home by his mother, The Bible was the main source of Blake’s early influences. At four years old, Blake claimed he was experiencing visions. His friend, the journalist Henry Crabb Robinson, wrote that Blake once claimed to have seen God’s head appear in a window.

By the age of 10, it was clear that Blake had an incredible artistic talent, and he was enrolled at Henry Pars’s drawing school. When he was 14, he was apprenticed to an engraver, and by the age of 21, he was studying at the Royal Academy of Art and Design.

In August 1782, Blake married Catherine Sophia Boucher. Catherine believed in her husband’s visions, and encouraged his creative talents. The following year, Blake spread his artistic talents into the world of poetry, privately publishing a collection called Poetical Sketches.

In 1787 William’s brother Robert died from tuberculosis, aged just 24. This brought another vision to Blake, who said he saw his brother’s spirit ascend through the ceiling. The following year, Blake claimed it was Robert who, in yet another vision, told him to try a new method of printing his works, which Blake would call illuminated printing. This method of production allowed Blake to control every aspect of the production of his art. He used it to produce scenes from the works of Dante, Shakespeare and the Bible.

In 1800, Blake moved to the seaside village of Felpham to work with the poet William Hayley. While in Felpham, in August 1803, he found a soldier, John Schofield, on the property and removed him by force. Schofield accused Blake of assault and sedition, (meaning Damning the King). This was a serious crime, and it took a full year before Blake’s lawyers were able to get the charge acquitted. Also that year, Blake began to write and illustrate Jerusalem (a plate from which can be seen above), something that would take him until 1820 to fully complete. He then began to show art in exhibitions, but this work was met with scorn. Reviewers referred to Blake as “an unfortunate lunatic.” Devastated, Blake withdrew from society and sank and paranoia. Blake continued to sketch, however, and in 1819 he began a series of “visionary heads,” claiming that historical and imaginary figures had appeared and sat for him.

Sadly, although he remained artistically busy, it wasn’t until after his death on 12th August 1827, from an undiagnosed disease that he called “that sickness to which there is no name”, that William Blake was recognized as a major influence in the literary and artistic world. One of a number of great artists who have only come to appreciation posthumously, it could be argued that his greatest, visionary inspirations were, in his time, the greatest barrier to the success he deserved.

Celebrated English novelist George Eliot was born Mary Anne Evans, on 22nd November 1819. Raised in Warwickshire, Mary was forced to leave school at an early age after her mother died in 1836, so she could become her father’s housekeeper. In 1841, Mary and her father moved to Coventry, where she looked after him until his death in 1849. Mary then travelled around Europe, before eventually settling in London.

Although Mary had inherited strict religious views from her father, she was always open minded and, once she was free from her family, became a freethinker. In London, Mary joined a circle of intellectuals that included Tennyson and Dickens.

In 1850, Eliot began contributing to the Westminster Review, a leading journal for philosophical radicals, and later she became its editor. Adopting her male pen name in the hope that she’d be taken more seriously, she published Amos Barton, a short story which was later to appear in Scenes of Clerical Life (1858).

Amongst her literary friends, Mary met George Henry Lewes. George was a married man, but despite this, they came to live together as a couple until his death. This caused a society scandal which led to Mary being shunned by friends and family alike.

George Eliot’s first novel, Adam Bede‘, was published in 1859 and was a great success. Her other novels include The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Romola (1863), Middlemarch (1872) and Daniel Deronda (1876).

It was the popularity of Eliot’s novels which earned her social acceptance back. Soon her home with George Lewes became a meeting place for fellow writers. After Lewes’ death in 1878, George remarried. Her husband had been a friend for many years; John Cross, who was 20 years younger than her.

Mary ‘George Eliot’ Evans died on 22th December 1880. She is buried in Highgate Cemetery in north London, leaving an incredible literary heritage behind her.

These ideas have been written with teenagers in mind (see my earlier blog post ‘Four ways Creative Writing can help your teenager’), but in truth these activities can be used by anyone who can pick up a pencil and write!

I often find it helps to set a timer for these activities (Ten minutes should be about right, although I find students often feel that nine or eleven minutes is more rebellious!). If you still want to write after the timer goes off, that’s fine. The time limit just works to spur you so you don’t see a blank page and panic.

(1) ‘What’s in a name?’ poem
Write your name down the left side of a piece of paper. Then try to think of a word (it can be a noun, verb, adjective, whatever you like!) for every letter of your name. Do not spend too long on this; just write down whatever you think of!

So Emily might write:
Eggs
Marry
Imagine
Lichtenstein
Yesterday

Then write a poem (it doesn’t have to rhyme) using all the words in the correct order.

(2) “Happy Birthday to you!”
It’s your birthday today and you have just opened the worst present ever. What is it?

(3) “But Daisy, blue bananas don’t exist.”
You are walking through a busy supermarket when you hear this sentence. Create a script (For Eastenders? Or The Archers? Or TOWIE?) which features this conversation.

(4) Story prompts
Write a story for eight minutes. You must use all the words in this list (If someone else can read the list out to you over the course of your eight minutes then that is even better, but otherwise just write out your story whilst adding in the words every sentence or so).

For example:

Happy Theatre Bounce
Jacket Lemon Strictly
Sister Jewel Catastrophe

(5) The Argument
Bob hates Jim. Why? Well, write a letter from Bob telling Jim why he can’t forgive him. Then write Jim’s response.

(6) “We were eating cheese sandwiches…” : A story starter

  • “We were sitting on the bench eating cheese sandwiches when she told me…”

Copy that sentence down into your book. Now complete the story!

You can use each or all of these triggers, it’s up to you. But whether you’ve “hit a block” or are putting pen to paper for the first time, any of these tips should prove useful.

 

How are you going to study through this new academic year? Well, If you want to achieve at the highest level possible, it could help to adopt the same strategies of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet? People like Richard Branson, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg (above, giving US secretary of state John Kerry a tour of facebook…) and Karren Brady are all very different in terms of personality, but they all share a set of key characteristics that have helped to propel them towards achieving and exceeding all their goals. Here, we discuss how you can use those characteristics in your studies, so that you can achieve your potential.

1. A desire to learn

Regardless of the subject you are studying, a willingness to acquire new knowledge is essential. Entrepreneurs take advantage of every possible opportunity to learn, and rather than seeing it as a chore, they genuinely enjoy the experience.

2. Determination

When Richard Branson was starting out, he didn’t have much in terms of money or support. A big part of his global success has been his dogged determination to continue working despite difficulties and challenges. You can apply this to your studies by using affirmations. Tell yourself that you are going to succeed in your course, and do it regularly – especially at times when you start to doubt yourself.

3. Self-belief

Karren Brady had to employ every possible ounce of self-belief when she took over Birmingham City Football Club. The odds were against her success, but Brady’s belief in her own abilities helped her to completely change the fortunes of the club. If you believe that you are capable of succeeding in your studies, you are much more likely to do so.

4. Believe in what you’re doing

Entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do, and that is a big factor in their success. Don’t complete a course of study just because you think you should – do something you’re interested in and that you care about. If you choose something that matters to you, you won’t find it hard to be motivated.

5. Make flexible plans
Everyone who is successful in business has to make plans, and they are very important in terms of deciding how things are going to work and how progress will be measured. However, a great entrepreneur will be able to adapt their plans at the last minute to suit changing circumstances. In your studies, you should be prepared to change your plans when the situation demands it, and still get your work done.

6. Networking
Entrepreneurs are skilled networkers. What this means is that they make connections with people who have expertise or experience, and call on them when they need help. You can make connections with your tutors, other students, and friends or family members who have a knowledge of your subject. This can help you to feel supported as well as providing you with help to succeed.

We will all too soon be back to that fraught time of year again, when thousands of hopeful students await the outcome of all their hard work. It can feel as if your results will make or break your entire life, and the pressure to do well from various sources can take its toll on even the most confident and optimistic students. So when results day does roll around, what do you do if you don’t get the grades you were hoping for? How are you supposed to manage with your own disappointment, never mind that of parents or teachers? Here’s a handy guide on how to get past any issues that might arise from your exam results, and how to make sure you stay sane in the process!

1. Don’t panic
There is no point whatsoever in panicking about your results. Repeating negative self-talk in your head and in your interactions with others will only elevate your stress and anxiety levels. Make a conscious effort to tell yourself that no one’s life was ever over because of an exam result; and that you have a bright future to look forward to – regardless of which path you decide to take.

However, if you are struggling to drive feelings of panic from your mind, ask for help. Talk to your family and friends about how you feel, and ask for reassurance that you will be able to bounce back and start again.

2. Start planning for the future
You’ll feel much better about not getting the results you had hoped for if you take control of the situation. Rather than being a passive recipient of your results, use them as a springboard for taking action. What do you want to do next?

Perhaps repeating the exam would be your best option. Or, you might decide to focus on your strengths in other subjects. Alternatively, you could use this time to decide on a completely new course of study, or even a way to combine studying with work experience at the same time. If you’re not sure which direction you should head in, don’t be afraid to seek the advice of tutors, teachers, parents and friends. Each person you ask for advice will have their own unique perspective – so you could come away with a whole heap of ideas on what could be next for you.

3. Go out and celebrate!
You don’t have to hide yourself away if your results aren’t what you wanted. Regardless of what that little piece of paper says, you have worked hard to complete your course of study – and you’re entitled to celebrate that!

Make a point of getting in touch with your friends, and arrange a night out or a party. You all deserve the chance to blow off some steam after months of studying and feeling the pressure – so go for it, in whatever way that suits you.

Writing a good essay under exam conditions can be a daunting task…. But it is a skill which has to be learnt and practised on a regular basis over the course of your studies. Essay questions at A level usually carry 24 marks, a fairly hefty portion of the total marks awarded for the paper. You need to be able to write at least two pages of coherent material under timed conditions.

You should get down to  work on the course as soon as possible. Provide yourself with a clear study timetable incorporating the number of hours per day/week etc you intend to devote to the course and when you plan to submit assignments for marking. Stick to this timetable throughout the course.

You are going to encounter fairly complex material. It is therefore a good idea to make your own notes from the material supplied in the lessons. I suggest you do the same with model answers provided by OOL. This will help you learn the material and give you practice in summarising argument and opinion. It will also aid revision and the retention of factual material.

Be clear that a rote regurgitation of the facts alone will gain you few marks. You must produce a formal piece of writing that addresses the actual question set on the examination paper. Irrelevant answers are heavily penalised. Writing an analysis and evaluation of the historical situation under review will gain high marks. This includes an outline of the cause and effect of historical events. Try to demonstrate some awareness of different interpretations. Try to include some evaluation which flows from your analysis. This might include how a particular point of view fits the historical facts or how valid a particular authority is. For example, evidence quoted from a primary source – state papers, a diplomatic document or private correspondence of the period is usually preferable to a secondary source.

Spend some time (5-10 mins) planning the broad outline of the essay before you begin writing. Hand in your notes as well as your script to the invigilator. Throughout the essay made explicit reference to the wording of the question and do the same in the conclusion. If the question requires it, come to a judgement or a balanced summary.

You should try to complete all the TMAs. They are usually closely related to past exam questions. Consult the model answers published on the internet particularly in the later stages of your course. Try to complete the course by the beginning of April of the year of the exam, using your own notes for revision.

One final point: A level students are usually advised to read widely. But students working by correspondence course lead busy lives and there are thousands of well written history texts published each year. Up to date material can be found on the internet. I would also recommend the historical programmes presented on TV, giving easy access to re-evaluation of historical events. Try to remember, history is no longer about dates and kings and queens. So enjoy the course.

Are you feeling a little nervous about your exams? The key to success is remaining calm and in control. The best way to take control is by following a dedicated and varied revision schedule. Simply staring at your text books is not the answer – here’s what to do…

1. Break up your time. It’s especially important to break your revision time into small chunks when exams are just around the corner. You want to make sure that every subject is covered in as much detail as possible.

For example, if you have decided that you are going to revise on a Saturday morning, break it down into study periods of 45 minutes each. Write down what you are going to cover in each study period, thinking carefully about how long each task will take.

2. Use a pen and paper. You’ve probably done most of your coursework and revision on your laptop or tablet. However, using a pen and paper has significant advantages when it comes to committing information to memory.

Read through the material you need to know. Then, use your pen to write down the most important points, facts, dates or quotations. The act of writing will help you to absorb the information, and also aids your evaluative skills – which are important in almost all subjects.

3. Create personal audio notes. Having created your paper notes, it’s now time to really consolidate your knowledge and ensure that you don’t forget any important details.

Using your phone or tablet, choose the voice recording feature and read your notes aloud. For the absolutely vital information, add a sound effect or change your voice – both will help it to stand out and instantly become more memorable.

4. Listen up. Listen to your personal audio notes as much as possible, and vary the recordings you choose so that every subject is covered.

Making a cup of coffee in the morning? That’s 5 minutes that could be spent listening to your notes. On the bus? Put in your earphones and listen to your notes as you watch the world go by.

5. Pop quiz. Adding a little fun to your learning can dramatically increase your chances of exam success. Get a friend or family member to help you create a quiz about the course(s) you have been studying. For wrong answers, you pay a penalty. For example, if you have forgotten a quotation, you have to go out into the street and shout it aloud!

It’s not too late to complete this revision plan: all you need is a little determination and the desire to succeed! If everything is getting too much for you, don’t be afraid to take time out to rest, relax and listen to your favourite music. You could even try doing a 5 minute breathing meditation to help give you focus and a sense of calm. Everyone will wonder what your secret is!

School exclusion may seem like the end of the world, at least as far as education is concerned.It need not be, though.

If you have experienced being excluded from education, you might feel angry at a system that should be helping rather than dismissing you. You might believe that education is pointless, and that getting qualifications is for ‘other’ people. You might listen to proclamations that you’ve ‘missed’ your chance and that your opportunity to learn is over. And if you haven’t been able to attain GCSEs, A Levels or their equivalents, you might be employed in a job that you don’t enjoy. You are also more likely to be earning less, which can make you feel personally unfulfilled. However, whatever your age or circumstance, it is never too late to restart your education and start changing all of this.

It will always be useful to get qualifications. Neither should it be forgotten that, quite apart from its potential career advantages, learning is of course also hugely beneficial for its own sake, and an activity from which you can derive self-fulfilment and increased belief in your own capabilities.

If you have been excluded from education, learning can seem daunting or even impossible. Signing up to a course might seem like too big a first step, but if you start by identifying a subject that interests you, you should discover enough motivation to get going again. Read books and articles about your chosen subject, and take time to form your own opinions about what you’ve read. Once you’ve armed yourself with some knowledge of the area in which you’re interested, you can start to investigate potential courses at college, or through a distance learning provider.

Being excluded from education can be demoralising, and can make learning seem like an unattainable goal. However, it is no longer the case that your only chance to get qualifications is at school. In 2016 there are people of all ages who are taking advantage of a multitude of educational opportunities aimed at people who want the chance to start again. A bit of life experience can go a long way in facilitating educational success, too. So, what are you waiting for?!

State education is on the brink of crisis. According to the Teacher’s Review Body, and supported by independent research, the number of secondary pupils is predicted to rise by 17% between now and 2023. Yet at the same time there is a short-fall in the number of trainee teachers needed to fill present vacancies in a number of key subjects. Young graduates continue to be deterred from entering the profession by, amongst other things, a perceived lack of government support, whilst current trends also indicate a long-term decline in the number of women entering teaching. Experienced teachers, meanwhile, are taking early retirement, with many preferring to opt for part-time work as private tutors. This year will also see a significant reduction in school procurement budgets.

Parents have been quick to react to these changes. Since 2011, there has been a 65% increase in the number of children officially registered as home educated. Currently there are just over 36,000 children receiving out of school education, out of a total school population of 9 million – a small percentage, perhaps, but one that is on the increase, and these figures do not include fifth and sixth formers using distance learning materials out of school to study for their GCSE and A levels.

Traditionally, the reasons given by parents withdrawing their children from full-time education include family lifestyle, special needs, religious convictions, bullying and dissatisfaction with the quality of education provided by the local authority. Increasingly, a lack of specialist qualified teachers is placing a strain on fifth and sixth form provision, affecting languages, science, maths, business studies and IT. The failure to recruit these specialists means there is little scope for broadening the curriculum in ways required by industry and commerce. It may be said that some subjects, such as economics, are actually now being maintained via the use of distance learning.

These changes suggest a shift from the rigid “one fits all” model of education to a far more flexible system – a sort of halfway house, where some provision is provided wholly in school under the supervision of a teacher, whilst other subjects are “bought in” and worked on, out of school hours.

As schools struggle to cope in the present financial climate, distance learning and home tuition is likely to grow. It is, of course, not a universally popular phenomenon; many will argue that this is really the privatisation of education by the back door and therefore to be deplored. Detailed information about the quality and success of home education is, according to one authority, incomplete and in need of improvement. Obviously, if the system is not adequately policed, such concerns can be considered valid. However, if the emergent hybrid is well monitored, as it usually is, it could act as a novel way of maintaining subject provision, and further, of introducing new subjects, such as economics, computer programming or financial accounting into an increasingly arid sixth form provision.

Finally, it is also true to say that hard times such as these will always maintain and emphasise the need to stimulate initiative and change. For those who do not find a home in the mainstream system, home education should be an alternative well worth considering.

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