Rebecca Dowell Tuition

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Rebecca Dowell BSc (Hons) ABPI CIPD CELTA

Private Tutor in Sciences and Mathematics, Key Stage 2 to A-Level.


Based in Exeter, Devon

'Achieving excellence through inspiration'


The World of Becky the Tutor...

Welcome to my blog


Musings, news, updated suggestions for resources and exciting first look at 'top up courses'. Subscribe to the blog to stay updated, and all comments are welcome!

By rebeccadowell, Nov 7 2017 09:53PM

If only it were that simple!

Personal statement season is upon us once again, and I'm enjoying reading some drafts and suggesting edits. It amazes me the skills that my students can (quite rightly) brag about, from Olympic swim training to fluency in 3 or 4 languages, quite apart from their academic prowess! Your personal statement should be a window into the 'amazing-ness' that is YOU! In more and more cases most decisions to interview are based on personal statements, so this is your chance to shine.

A question I'm often asked is about the correct structure for a personal statement, quite apart from the 47 line and 4000 character limit imposed by UCAS. My thoughts on this are as follows.

Section 1 - why are you applying for this course? What inspires you? What aspects of your A Level studies have led you to this decision?

Section 2 - how have you demonstrated this passion? Is it work experience? Travels and experiences? Extra curricular activites?

Section 3 - why are you so awesome? Think about some buzz words they'll be looking for, and demonstrate why that word applies to you? Motivated? Enthusiastic? Independant? Logical? Team player?

Section 4 - what are your dreams? What doors will this degree course open for you?

And a word to the wise... if you're going to mention subject areas, articles that fired your enthusiasm, or lectures you've attended, be prepared to answer questions about them in your interview! Dont make wild claims about symposia about genetic diseases, for example, if you cant back it up with some detailed information when questioned!

For any more help, advice or proof reading, drop me a line!

By rebeccadowell, Aug 18 2017 07:14AM

Well, for those of you who read Wednesday's post - my hunch was correct and the Prosecco was indeed opened...!

Yesterday was an intense day for me - as always I was awake early, clutching a cup of coffee and my mobile phone, just waiting for the slew of phone calls. I didnt have to wait long before the results poured in - future doctors, vets, dentists, psychologists, natural scientists, all just bursting to tell me about the contents of their envelope and their confirmed university places. There were a few happy tears shed, I can tell you, especially for one student who exceeded her own expectations for her biology grade.

Some students hadnt applied to University this year, but with their grades 'in their hand' they've been empowered to start the process of choosing their courses. For others, having not taken up their original University places, they've entered the clearing process. This can be a stressful event, but will reap rewards in a day or so when their new place is confirmed.

What I found very interesting this year is the number of Universities accepting applicants despite missing a grade or two - proving that uptake of University places has fallen. This puts the 'clearing' students in a strong negotiating position - never forget that you are 'the customer' and the University wants YOUR business!

So, with last year's A level cohort sleeping off their celebrations, I'm turning my thoughts to next Thursday and the GCSE results - as I said in an earlier blog post, the introduction of the new GCSE's has been a challenge both for students and teachers, and only time will tell how the 'numbers' play out...

By rebeccadowell, Aug 16 2017 08:14PM

And the tutor was feeling nervous!

Ok, so not as nervous as the 15 senior students I've worked with this year, but it's still pretty tense in the classroom as I send out the 'Good Luck' texts and emails!

With 20 results due in tomorrow morning, I can safely say that results day every year has me bursting with anticipation; probably more so than for my own A Level results in 2001. The next generation of Doctors, Veterinary Surgeons, Physiotherapists and Dentists, (as well as many other varied career or study options) are all waiting in the wings, just hanging on for the all important envelope and the email from UCAS confirming their places at University.

But what if the dreaded envelope doesn't contain the results you've worked for? What's next?

Step 1 - Breathe. This is a hurdle. This is not the end of your dreams.

Step 2 - Get on the phone to your first choice University. Talk to a 'real person'. Charm them. Trust me, it often works.

Step 3 - No joy? Phone your insurance place. Repeat step 2.

Step 4 - Relax. Breathe again. University places do not get filled by 10am. Dont rush into any decisions.

Step 5 - Clearing? Expect lines to be busy. Make sure you've got a phone charger and access to a power point!

Step 6 - Take some time out and consider your options. Retake a subject? Travel? You have so many options and the world is a vast and amazing place. University places will still be there next year! Or the year after...

So my message to any of you... make sure your phone is charged, and you have the contact details of the admissions offices for your first and second choice university stored on them. Then relax. Try and sleep tonight. I'm confident the only reason you'll need a fully charged phone is to spread the news of your amazing results! In fact... I'm so confident in you that I might just pop a bottle of Prosecco in the fridge for a celebration tomorrow evening!

By rebeccadowell, Jul 10 2017 10:00AM

With the new, more demanding A Level science courses about to reveal results for the first time, what is clear is the increased emphasis on mathematics.

This year's biology exams included logarithms, both to base 10 and base e (scared yet? - Most of the biologists were!), exponential functions and compound percentage change. No great problem if you happen to be a maths student as well, but for those that arent, biology has become a scary place! Throw in the 4 statistical tests that you have to perform and analyse, and the maths element of the course can seem pretty daunting.

Chemistry has historically had more of a maths focus - rearranging equations, logs and anti logs are taught wtihin the context of the course. However this year the fabulously named 'Arrhenius equation' has crept back into the course, throwing up the need to be able to draw and interpret tangents of curved graphs.

So to address this, starting in October I'll be running some Saturday 'maths for biologists' and 'maths for chemists' courses. The courses will run over 4 weeks, in 2 hour sessions. It'll make the maths less terrifying, apply the skills to the areas in the course that you'll need them for, and mean you can focus on the science!

Why not get in touch to book your place? Its open to year 12 and 13 students - current students and non students all very welcome!

By rebeccadowell, Jul 3 2017 09:48AM

What an uncertain year its been for the Year 11 Mathematicians up and down the country...

The new GCSE Maths sepcification, with its new (and to my mind, ill-advised) 9-1 grading system has been throwing students and teachers alike into turmoil. Not only is there a raft of new content, topics shifted down from A-Level to GCSE and an entirely new style of questions, but the goal posts seem ever-moving.

No longer is a 'C grade' the gold standard for acheivement of the 'magic 5' passes, which entitles students to access the vast majority of post-16 options, but what the new acceptable pass grade actually is seems to be still up for debate. It could be a 4. It could be a 5. But I'm afraid we are none the wiser about what percentage that will actually equate to.

With minimal sample material and rushed out 'updated textbooks' which really only contain old questions recycled from previous GCSE papers, its no wonder the students and teachers are struggling to pinpoint how to prepare and what to expect. Most employers that I talk to have no idea about the new grading system, and some believed that it was equivalent to the old 'O-Level' marks, with 1 being the best, and 9 the worst - when in fact it is the opposite. With plans afoot to add on a Level 10 and so on in future years, it makes my blood boil for the top 3% of students this year who will be awarded a Level 9, only to have it devalued when the next grade is added on the top in future.

One very talented young lady, who I've been working with since she started year 8, would consistently get A or A* grades on the 'old style' papers, and has been thoroughy demoralised by her mock scores this year. It has put her off choosing maths A-Level next year, and sadly this is a common theme amongst the most able mathematicians from my year 11 cohort. The implications of this could reach further - in some schools where maths A Level is a requirement for students taking Physics/Chemistry A levels, I envisage a substantial drop in the numebr of students studying the sciences. All in all, a terrible shame.

So my message to all of you on results day - whatever the 'number' on your results sheet, remember that GCSE maths for the majority of you is a gateway to the future - if your 'number' has opened the door to your next phase of education, then you've acheived great things, and you should be proud of yourself. If however your result isnt what you'd hoped for, why not get in touch - we can work together to make sure that you nail it in January!

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