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The Path To Success, Part 2 - Advanced Skills, MCQ and Creative Writing

Advanced Skills

Once you have mastered the fundamental knowledge, we are pleased to tell you the hard bit is done with. You may think the advanced knowledge is harder to learn because it is 'advanced', but once that core knowledge is memorised your child will be able to pick up the more advanced stuff with relative ease. Along with advancing their skills an important thing to work on is mental flexibility, so your child can apply general knowledge to a wide array of questions.

With advanced skills, the route you take is much more individualistic, curated to the specific needs of your child. There are many publishers to choose from like CGP, Schofield, RSL, and Bond, so it's really up to you and your child's personal preference. If you aren't sure how to choose you can usually get a preview of these books on Amazon, so have a look at each publisher to evaluate the content and layout.

Even at this stage, timed practice is not a concern. You shouldn't run before you can walk, and that applies here - timed practice is useless if you don't have a full and rich understanding of the knowledge required. Timed practice spent by kids who aren't confident in their knowledge only teaches them to make mistakes more quickly.

Multiple Choice/ Short Answer Prep

For the most part, multiple-choice examination follows the same rules as written exams - they require the same essential skills, albeit requiring less detailed answers. However, here are the key skills we recommend your child learn:

- elimination (if you can't choose which answer is most likely, remove answers which seem less likely.)

- re-read the passage before each question

- be ruthless about skipping questions (it is better to come back to those questions later rather than wasting time staring at them, especially when in a MCQ paper, they are all worth the same marks.)

- invent a code (eg. triangle for questions you weren't sure you answered correctly. Circle for questions you are sure you got right. Square for questions you only want to come back to at the end.)

- ALWAYS answer (a guess is better than nothing as these MCQ papers usually aren't negatively marked.)

Creative Writing

Now that your child has an understanding of the basics, creative writing papers can be incredibly useful at showing children the quality that is expected of them to achieve a higher grade. If you're looking for free examples of these papers, click here: to download some examples from a previous blog post on creative writing.

In the case of creative writing, mental flexibility is key. Different schools and publishers have their own way of doing things, so practicing creative writing papers from a range of published material from a range of schools (of which you will find plenty of examples online) will help your child develop creative adaptability over learning one format which may well be changed in a year.

With creative writing study, understanding key details of the question and text thoroughly trumps timing, so a great thing to practice is underlining and making notes around questions and text. The creator of the exam wants to see if your child can use their critical thinking skills and knowledge of vocabulary to show they truly understand what a question is asking them, and how each question is asking a different thing depending on the language used (eg. describe vs explain). Underlining is also extremely helpful when referring back to evidence which is important in P.E.E questions.

When utilising these papers, do not be concerned about how many you get through. It is much more important to work through them deliberately, mark them with care and then discuss the results. If your child gets a question wrong it won't be corrected by them doing a similar question 20 times, if they never learned what mistake was made in the first place. If you are not sure how to help your child with wrong answers, refer back to our posts here on working together:

A great way of monitoring progress (if you have the time) is by having your child retry the same question a week, or weeks later. This way, you can compare the attempts, seeing where there is improvement and where your child may still be struggling. This is particularly helpful in longer-form questions that require detailed answers/ working out.

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