Spectrum Tuition Victorian Selective Schools Mock Exam 2017: Open For Enrolments

Want to practice your exam taking skills under realistic test conditions before the actual selective schools exam? Then this is what you’ve been waiting for!

Our 2017 Victorian selective schools mock exam is now open for enrollments.

We will be holding our 2017 selective schools mock exam for students sitting the Victorian Selective Schools Exam on Sunday 14th May (mock exam) and Sunday 21st May (workshop).

Why Sit Our Mock Exam?

Are you worried your child isn’t ‘exam ready?’ Do you want to know how they’ll perform under realistic time constraints and exam conditions? If so, you’ll want to enrol in our mock exam programme.

Our mock exam is aimed at helping students get a realistic sense of how they’ll perform under the intense pressure of a 3-hour exam. We then follow up with a 4-hour workshop that’ll go through the most common problems student had with the mock exam questions.

To ensure that students get the maximum value from the workshop we limit our intake to 45 students.  We don’t fill out the hall with hundreds of students and then run a generic workshop. We tailor our program based on the data generated from the actual mock exam.

How Does It Work?

The exam will begin at 9am and will be held at Footscray North Primary School (map). The exam will be held in the school hall.

We will then hold a 4 HOUR interactive workshop the very next Sunday outlining the most common errors and provide tips on how to improve your performance on exam day. We also encourage parents of students who have sat the mock exam to sit in on the workshop, so that they can fully understand what their child needs to do to prepare in the last few weeks before the exam.

Places are strictly limited to 45 places – so register today to secure your spot.

This is your only chance for your child to sit a full-length exam in a similar style and format as the actual test BEFORE the day AND get feedback on your performance!

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL! Register by 22nd April and get $50 off! 7 hours of test preparation normally $325, now just $275!


Eventbrite - Spectrum Tuition | The Selective Schools Mock Exam 2017

How “Gritty” Is Your Child?

When I mention the word ‘grit’, I don’t mean the dirt you may find beneath your fingernails. Rather, I am referring to the ability to be dedicated to a task over a very long time, pushing through even when things get hard.

In her TED talk, “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance,” Angela Duckworth, winner of the 2014 MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, reminds us that intelligence, IQ and “natural talent” are not the most important factors in a student’s success. After leaving a prestigious and well paying job as a management consultant to become a maths teacher, she made some important discoveries. As a maths teacher at a New York public school, Duckworth noticed that her students’ IQs had very little correlation to their exam results and eventual success over the course of their education. Put simply, just being “smart” wasn’t enough to ensure success. Intrigued, Duckworth left teaching to pursue a career in Educational Psychology. In her research she studied military cadets, national spelling bee champions, salespeople, teachers and students, in order to find out what it was, if not IQ or natural talent, that determined success in these areas. The answer she came to was “grit.”

So what is Grit?

In Duckworth’s own words, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals.” Grit is the capacity to dedicate yourself to a task over a long period of time, rather than seeking immediate gratification. Grit, says Duckworth, is the ability to treat your goals like “a marathon, not a sprint.” A student with grit is less likely to be discouraged when they perform poorly on a test, or when faced with a difficult question. These students understand that challenges are part of the journey towards success. Students with grit are those who see difficulty as an opportunity to learn something new and to develop new skills.

Throughout her research, Duckworth found time and time again that “grit” played a more significant role than intelligence, family income and standardised test scores in determining a student’s ultimate ability to achieve their goals. Put simply, being “smart” wasn’t enough to ensure success; the missing link was grit.

How do we make our students gritty?

As Duckworth admits, there is no clear answer to the question. The closest thing to a solution, she argues, is Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck’s theory of “Growth Mindset.” For Dweck, who we spoke about in our recent blog article, grit is the ability to recognise that failure is not a permanent condition, and that our minds are capable of growth and development. Put simply, success is determined by a student’s ability to not say “I’m smart” or “I’m not smart” but “I have the ability to learn more.”

However, as Duckworth points out at the end of her talk, there is still a lot we don’t know about how to develop gritty learners. What is needed is more thought, more research, and more practice.

At Spectrum Tuition, we couldn’t agree more. We are always in the process of developing our approach to teaching, pioneering new techniques to ensure that our students have growth mindsets – to ensure, in Duckworth’s words, that they are “gritty” learners. Some of our approaches include:

1. Goal setting. We believe that the achievement of larger goals are made up of lots of smaller goals. By identifying and achieving a small goal each week, students will work steadily towards the achievement of their full potential. Furthermore, through our entrance exams, we can ensure that every student who joins us, regardless of their age, is placed in a class that will provide them with the right level of challenge.

2. Continuous feedback. Through measurable results obtained through weekly quizzes, students can better track their progress. This will provide more opportunities to learn from mistakes and grow. By also administering cumulative quizzes, we can help our students see how much their skills have built up over time.

3. Understand that mistakes actually help your brain grow. Psychologist Jason Moser found that when people make a mistake, the brain sparks and grows in the following ways:


  • During a time of struggle, the brain is being challenged and this challenge results in growth.
  • When there is an awareness that an error has been made, the brain considers this and steps are taken to correct this error. Thus, using the mistakes page and highlighting errors made following each week’s class will help your child take huge strides in their learning, promoting a positive mindset.

At Spectrum Tuition, we aim to ensure that all of our students, no matter what their natural talents are, are provided with challenges and scope for improvement. To make this possible, we only hire tutors who have grit as well. Our tutors are dedicated high performing university students who are also taught the latest teaching approaches to get the best outcomes for your child. These are individuals who have shown that they have the ability to dedicate themselves to a task and work until they achieve success. After all, you can’t expect to shape gritty students without gritty tutors. We believe every child has the potential to be an excellent student. All they need is a healthy dose of grit!

If you have any questions about the concept of grit, or if you would like to know more about how Spectrum Tuition can help your child develop successful learning practices, feel free to contact us anytime!



Mistakes grow your brain



The Power of “Yet”

I recently came across a TED talk by Carol S Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, that explained the profound potential of the simple word “yet”. This talk resounded with our beliefs regarding learning and education, so we thought we should share it with you, and explain some of the ways in which we, as tutors and you, as parents, can use these ideas to help our students reach their full potential.

What is the power of “yet”?

In her talk, Dweck distinguishes between two student mindsets that she has encountered in her research: “fixed” and “growth”. When students with a “fixed” mindset are faced with a difficult or unfamiliar problem that they can’t solve, they tend to take it as a judgement on their own intelligence. “Fixed” mindset students are happiest when they are getting answers right, when they are getting A’s on their tests, when they can easily answer questions. However, when faced with new ideas and concepts, they tend to get defensive. In various studies, Dweck has found that these students resort to cheating, deflection, and giving up when faced with difficult problems.

On the other hand, students with a “growth” mindset are those that view difficulties as opportunities for growth. Instead of looking at an unfamiliar problem and saying “I don’t know how to do this,” they say: “I don’t know how to do this yet.” Dweck has found that students who use this sort of language aren’t stuck in the present. They understand that they are always in a continual process of learning and developing. Saying “not yet” instead of “not” suggests the possibility for future growth.

Why is this important?

On a daily basis, we see the profound impact that these two mindsets can have on a student’s performance. In particular, a “fixed” mindset can cause difficulties for students transitioning from primary school to high school, students studying for a Select entry or Scholarship Exam, or students commencing their VCE. At these points of their education, students are going to be faced with a number of challenging concepts and difficult tasks. Often, at these times, students can become overwhelmed and go from getting straight A’s to suddenly getting C’s or D’s. This, in itself, is not the problem. What’s important is how they respond to these challenges. Do they give up, or do they use their limitations as motivation to learn more?

So, what can we do?

Obviously, students with “growth” mindsets are more likely to respond positively to challenges and, ultimately, to perform better than those with a “fixed” mindset. But what can we, as tutors, and you, as parents, do to ensure that your child develops a healthy and productive mindset? Here are some things to keep in mind…

1. Praise wisely

Students who are only praised for their successes are much more likely to develop “fixed” mindsets. According to Dweck’s findings, it’s much more productive to praise students for effort, strategy and progress. As tempting as it is to only reward good performance, make sure you primarily praise your child when they work hard, when they refuse to give up, when they try something new. This will teach them that there is more to education than just getting the answer right.

2. Use growth-based language

It’s also important to be mindful of the language that you and your child use. Try to avoid language that labels a student “good” or “bad” at something. Instead of saying “I’m bad at maths” or “I can’t write an essay,” say “I can’t do this particular question yet” or “I have a lot to learn about essay writing.” When giving feedback to students, aim to use language that is specific, goal-oriented, and suggests the potential for future learning.

3. Provide constant challenges

“Fixed” mindsets can also develop when naturally able students are not given sufficient challenges. This is something we see all the time; clever students are often allowed to drift through school, achieving high marks with relatively minimal effort. Unfortunately, these students rarely learn how to deal with challenges, and tend to give up when things may not be so easy anymore.

That is why it is important for students to work at or just above their level, to ensure that they are constantly challenged in order for them to grow and develop. If they find some sections difficult, use this as an opportunity to praise their effort, strategies and progress, because it is not that they can’t do it, they just can’t do it yet!

If you want to watch Carol S Dweck’s video it’s just below

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about how we can help your child develop a healthy and productive mindset towards their education or click here to book a free assessment.

Why You Should Take A VCE Subject Early

This is the time of year when year 10 students will start to make serious decisions regarding which subjects they will choose to complete for their VCE.

Many schools will offer students the opportunity to complete a year 12 subject while they are in year 11 and while most students will take advantage of this option, other students decide not to and instead opt to complete all their Year 12 subjects in the following year. In our experience we find that taking a VCE subject in year 10 has many advantages.

The Structure Of VCE: A Brief Overview

When VCE students finish their exams at the end of year 12, they each receive a total score, which is used to calculate their ultimate ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank).

The ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) is based on up to six VCE results and is calculated using:

  • Your best score in any one of the English studies (English, Literature, English Language) plus
  • The scores of your next three studies (which together with the English subject make the “Primary Four”), plus
  • 10% of the scores for any fifth and sixth study with you may have completed (these are called increments)

These scores are combined to produce an ATAR aggregate, which is a number between 0 and over 210. All students are ranked in order according to this aggregate and the percentage rank is converted to an ATAR, which is a number between 0 and 99.95.

What this means is that a total of 6 subjects can contribute to a student’s total ATAR. Students who only do 5 subjects miss out on a valuable possible 10%. Despite this, most schools only allow students to complete 5 subjects in year 12. The only way to get around this, and avoid missing out on that precious 10%, is to complete a VCE subject early. This is an increasingly popular option. Each year more and more dedicated students choose to start a year 11 subject in year 10 and complete their year 12 exams in year 11.

Three Reasons You Should Take A VCE Subject In Year 10

Here are some reasons why students should take up the option to complete a year 12 subject early:

1. Gain Valuable Experience

Apart from ensuring that you have completed a 6th subject, the main benefit of completing a VCE subject a year early is the valuable experience it gives students. Students who take a year 12 subject in year 11 will gain valuable insight into what it takes to study for and sit a proper VCE exam. They will learn how to prioritise their time, organise their notes, revise questions and deal with exam pressures. And, best of all, they will learn all of these skills before they even commence year 12 and tackle the full load of subjects.

2. Focus Your Energy

The other benefit of completing a year 12 subject in year 11 is the potential to get a high score. Year 11 students don’t have the distractions and pressures unique to year 12 students. They don’t have to deal with prefect positions, graduation ceremonies, university applications, or the pressure of studying for 5 other year 12 exams. Because of this, a student who takes a year 12 subject early can focus significantly much more attention and energy on that one subject. Because they only have a single year 12 exam to study for that year, their chances of getting a high score dramatically increases.

3. Cover Your Bases

Considering that VTAC uses scores of up to 6 subjects to calculate the ATAR aggregate (English, the scores of your next 3 best subjects and 10% of any fifth and sixth subject), choosing 6 subjects is strongly recommended to maximise the ATAR you will ultimately achieve. Many schools offer Year 11 students the opportunity to study one Year 12 subject. Take advantage of this if the opportunity presents itself.

Most importantly, 6 subjects is obviously better than 5. A student who completes a subject early will have an automatic 10% advantage over a student who only completes 5. On a more pragmatic note, a 6th subject will ensure that a poor mark in one subject will have significantly less of an impact on the student’s overall score.

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If you think your child should start a VCE subject a year early, or you would like to know more about how you can improve your child’s chances of ATAR success, feel free to call us on 1800 668 177 or email us for more information!


What Does It Take To Gain Entry To A Selective School? The Results Might Surprise You!

One of the most common questions we receive from parents and students regarding the Victorian Selective Schools exam is:

“What marks do I need to gain entry?” or “How many superiors do I need?”

The answer to these types of questions is complex. In previous years, different combinations have resulted in students gaining entry to the selective school of their choice. In this video, we will discuss some of these results to give you an insight to what different students achieved when they received their offers. We also describe how these students used the results after sitting our mock exam to help them focus their study in the few short weeks leading up to the actual exam.

In the video, we’ll share a short case study of 3 students who attended classes at Spectrum Tuition, completed our annual mock exam and then subsequently gained entry into a selective school. If you would like to have a go at this mock exam and watch the accompanying workshop video which offers tips and outlines common mistakes, please click here. Full worked solutions for every question is also included with this mock exam package.

The important thing to note about the above video is that there is no set formula on how many ‘superiors’ you need to gain entry to a Selective School. Having said this, it is unlikely that you will be offered a place if you score a ‘low’ in any of the tests.

If you have any questions please feel free to add them below in the comments and we’ll endeavour to answer them.


7 Things I’ve Learnt About Education Over The Past 14 years Running Spectrum Tuition

‘Education is the best weapon you can use to change the world’ – Nelson Mandela.

It’s a bit hard to believe that Spectrum Tuition is heading into its 15th year. Over the years, we have been helping both students who struggle to keep up with their classmates as well as students who are so bright that their mainstream schools struggle to keep up with them. As a result, I have been given a unique insight into how to best cater to students from these two extremes as well as gain a wider understanding of how the education system works from the inside.

With the school year fast approaching and as a parent to a child who is about to start school this year, I thought it’d be a good time to share the most significant learnings I’ve developed over the time I’ve been running Spectrum Tuition. This is so that you too are equipped with the knowledge to make more informed decisions for your children.

Here are 7 of the most important lessons I have learnt about educating mainstream students from my experience running Spectrum Tuition.

1. Students should be grouped based on ability, rather than age.

Most topics at school are based on a series of skills that if learnt in the correct sequence will lead to success.

If your child is finding a specific topic difficult, it is rare that this is the only topic they are having problems with at school. A student who is having problems with fractions or algebra is most likely also having problems with multiplication or division. If a child is struggling with spelling or reading, it’s because they don’t have a strong enough handle on phonics. Most topics at school build on from earlier topics.

We do not recommend placing children into classes that may be beyond their ability level before they have built a strong enough foundation in earlier topics because they will constantly feel like they need to catch up. Children develop and mature differently and to ensure that they achieve high results at school, they need to be taught at a level where they can engage with the material as well as provide enough of a challenge to give them the best opportunity to shine.

This is why at Spectrum Tuition, our number one priority when new parents enquire about classes is to book in for a free, no obligation assessment where we thoroughly assess students’ existing abilities in writing, grammar/ punctuation, reading comprehension and mathematics across several year levels in order to pin-point exactly what your child’s level is in order to tailor a plan to best meet their specific needs.


The Two Ingredients Your Child Needs To Improve Their Chances Of Winning A Scholarship Or Gaining Entry To A Selective School.

Exam season is upon us and many students are preparing for scholarships and selective schools exams. With only a few short weeks to go before a number of select entry and scholarship exams take place, I thought I’d provide some last minute advice and offer you a free gift.

There are two main factors that contribute to success on a select entry or scholarship exam: content knowledge and timing.

One cannot exist without the other.

Your child may answer all questions quickly and within the timeframe, however if they don’t know HOW to answer the questions, this will unlikely lead to success.

Similarly, if your child understands how to do the questions, but takes significantly longer than one minute to answer each item, or doesn’t have a refined test taking ability, a majority of the questions will remain unanswered.

This will also unlikely lead to success.

This is why we have produced our exam packs.

We have carefully dissected countless sample exams to determine the most common types of questions your child is likely to encounter. In addition to this, we have formulated the most efficient method to answer each question and have come up with step by step solutions, written in a simple way just as though your child were sitting beside us in a tutoring session.

The sum of our work is presented in our popular exam packs

Over the past 14 years, we have made it our mission to prepare students for these types of exams. We believe that hard work should be rewarded and every child should get the opportunity to attend a top school, if they so desire. We also keep our materials updated by speaking to students who sit these exams each year and strive to make them as close as possible to the actual exams.

How A Child Overcame Illiteracy In Just A Few Short Months

I first met Carly*, a Grade 2 student, when she came in for her initial assessment back in April. She was bright, looked me in the eye when she answered my questions and spoke with a nice, loud voice. Carly enjoyed drawing, painting and playing on the playground, but found it difficult to read. She wanted to learn but didn’t like going to school because she found it really difficult.

Her parents wanted to initially enrol her because the school she attended did not set any homework, and they felt she needed to do more in order to build up confidence in her studies before doing the NAPLAN test the following year.

We conducted our assessment and what we found was that:

  • At Grade 2, Carly could not write her name properly.
  • At Grade 2, Carly could not count to 10.
  • At Grade 2, Carly did not know how to add or count back from 10.
  • At Grade 2, Carly could not read or spell simple words such as ‘cat’ and ‘dog’.
  • At Grade 2, Carly did not know any of her letter sounds.
  • At Grade 2, Carly could not recognise all the letters of the alphabet.

Our assessment showed that Carly needed to start at the very beginning and we enrolled her into our Prep class. Although Carly recognised that she was behind, she wanted to do better at school.

mathematics classes

4 Ways To Prepare Your Child For VCE

With the VCE exams currently taking place, a lot of students in years 9 and 10 will no doubt be nervously looking ahead to their own futures and the challenges that lay ahead of them. I have had a lot of experience helping students with the transition into VCE. One thing I have noticed is that this transition is easier for some students that for others. Some students take to VCE like ducks to water, scoring consistently high marks on their SACs from the start of the year. For others, the first few months of VCE are a blind panic, as they struggle to keep their head above water as they figure out how to organise their notes, manage their time and structure their own revision. So, what’s the reason behind this? What makes some students so much more suited for VCE than others? More importantly, what can you do to ensure that, come the start of year 11, your child is one of the students who thrives?

1. Encourage Their Independence

One of the biggest shocks that students encounter when they start VCE is how independent they are required to be. No longer will teachers walk them through every concept, tell them how to revise for tests, or give exact instructions about what homework needs to be done each week. While your child will still get assigned homework, this constitutes only a small fraction of the total work they need to be doing if they want to achieve good marks; the rest is made up of individual and self-determined study and revision. In order to prepare your child for this, it is a good idea to encourage their independence from an early age. Instead of telling them exactly what homework they need to do and when they need to do it, ask them what they need to achieve and encourage them to develop their own plans for how they will get the necessary work done. While they may need your guidance from time to time, the more you can teach your child to plan and structure their own study time, the more they will be prepared for the challenges ahead.

2. Foster A Love Of Reading

If you are going to perform well in VCE, you need to be able to read quickly, efficiently and productively for extended periods of time. Of course, this is most important in subjects like English, where students are expected to read and interpret novels and articles. Students who struggle to make it through their novels before it comes time to discuss them in class will inevitably have a disadvantage. However, the ability to read well also affects basically every other subject. Whether it be revising a difficult concept in a Maths Methods textbook, remembering definitions for a Psychology SAC, revising a big stack of old Physics notes or interpreting a difficult question on an Accounting exam, good reading skills are vital. Fortunately, if you get in early, this is a skill that you can easily help your child develop. All you need to do is ensure that they regularly have access to books and distraction-free spare time; all they need to do is to read as much and as widely as possible!

How To Get Your Head Around Long Term Goals

Do you find that the biggest and most rewarding things are always the hardest to achieve? This is because, to a large extent, our brains are mostly incapable of dealing with large-scale long-term goals. Our minds are very good at focusing on the immediate future: what we want to do on the weekend, what we want to eat for dinner and whether or not we feel like sleeping in. But we are much worse at thinking practically about the long term future: what we have to do to get into the University course of our dreams, what we can do to achieve a high ATAR score. When we think about these goals, it is often hard to figure out how to act on them. Today, I will provide my top 5 tips on how to get your head around your own long-term goals and start working towards them today.

1. Understand your motivation

Before you can start working towards a long-term goal, you need to understand your motivation. What do you hope to achieve? Why do you want to achieve this? How will you feel when you achieve it? The more you focus on your motivation and exactly why you care about the particular goal, the more likely it is that you will work hard towards achieving it

2. Set smaller milestones

As I have said, our brains are pretty terrible at thinking in the long term. If you plan something that you want to achieve in a year, you will either find yourself overwhelmed by the enormity of the task or entirely apathetic and inclined to procrastinate.Ideally, you should set yourself clear milestones of what you wish to achieve at least every couple of weeks. This will make it easier to plan what you have to do.

3. Make a clear plan

“Work hard” is not a plan. “Study every day” is not a plan. “Get better at maths” is not a plan. In order to achieve a long-term goal, it is important to set yourself clear objectives and clear instructions as to exactly what you need to do each day to achieve it. Do this when you are most motivated and make sure you live up to the tasks that you have set yourself.

4. Assess your progress regularly

Every couple of weeks, it is important to check your progress and ask yourself whether or not you are on track to achieve your goal. Try not to think about this in terms of succeeding or failing; rather think about whether or not you can change anything in the immediate future to make it easier for your to achieve your milestones. Perhaps you need a new plan, or perhaps you need to reassess your motivations.

5. Enjoy your successes

A lot of students forget that they are allowed to enjoy their successes. Every time you achieve a short-term goal, every time you make progress towards your long-term goal, you should allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment. We are driven by emotions; the more you link your hard work to positive feelings, the more you congratulate yourself for your efforts, the harder you are likely to work in the future.

What Kind Of Learner Is Your Child?

Did you know that not all children learn in the same way. In fact, there are 7 different intelligences or ways to learn? These 7 different learning styles are known as Musical, Visual, Verbal, Logical, Kinaesthetic, Social and Reflective. Each child has a different style that works best for them. Quite often, when students struggle with new concepts, the problem lies, not with their ability to learn, but with the style in which the material is being taught. Figuring out what kind of learner your child is will put you at a great advantage when it comes to helping with their education in the future. Today, I will explain the 7 different styles of learning and how you can figure out what kind of learner your child is.

1. Musical Learners

Musical learners respond well to sounds, melodies and rhythms. The things that they remember and appreciate the most are those things that they can chant, sing or put into a rhythm. Depending on their age, musical learners can benefit from simple chants such as “three in the bed”, singing the alphabet song, listening to times tables songs, or even using music to remember the periodic table!

2. Visual Learners

Visual learners prefer to see what they are learning. They respond extremely well to pictures, diagrams, colour codes and mind maps. Often, they have trouble organising their ideas unless they can sketch them out on a page. Visual learners benefit greatly from having paper, post-it notes, highlighters and coloured pens and pencils at their disposal when brainstorming ideas.

 3. Verbal Learners

Verbal learners love language. They respond well to written or spoken explanations and work best when they can put their ideas into words. Verbal learners are often avid readers, and they find it easier to crystallise their ideas by writing them down.

 4. Logical Learners

Logical learners prefer clear, consistent rules. They don’t like ambiguity or uncertainty, but prefer to know the exact steps that they have to follow to solve a particular problem. Predictably, logical learners often take to Mathematics due to its predictable and reliably logical nature. That is not to say, however, that they can’t excel in other subjects as long as they are able to figure out a clear, consistent approach.

 5. Kinaesthetic Learners

Kinaesthetic learners are physical people. They feel most confident when they are moving or engaging in physical activity. Whilst most people associate learning with sitting still and reading a book, kinaesthetic learners prefer a hands on approach.

5 Reasons To Work Hard In VCE (Apart From Just Getting Into Uni)

For many students, VCE is a means to a very specific end: getting into their chosen University degree. Students that have a very clear idea of what they want to do after school, and who are chasing a specific ATAR score, are inherently motivated to work hard throughout their final years of high school. The unfortunate flipside of this is that, for students who don’t know what they want to do after school, it is often hard to maintain enthusiasm for their VCE studies. Students that assume that the VCE is only a stepping-stone into a degree that bears no other significance in their lives might not work as hard to achieve the best that they’re capable of. Today, I wanted to put the VCE and the ATAR score into context and show that there are many other reasons for working hard during years 11 and 12, apart from just getting into uni.

1. It Builds Confidence

Self confidence is an amazing thing. If you think you can achieve a goal, you are far more likely to work hard towards it. Doing well in VCE doesn’t just give you a good score, it also helps you realise what you can achieve if you work hard. Students that achieve a high ATAR score learn an important lesson: though they might face great difficulties in their lives, they are capable of great things if they put their mind to it.

2. It Teaches You How To Work On Long-Term Goals

Achieving a good ATAR is one of the biggest long-term undertakings of a student’s life. In order to succeed in VCE, you need to plan ahead, sometimes up to two years in the future, and think about what you can do over a long period of time to achieve a larger goal. Thinking in such a long-term way is often very difficult; people are more likely to respond to short-term achievements and find it difficult to work hard towards anything that is not immediately rewarding. Working hard to achieve a long-term goal, such as achieving a good ATAR score, is a valuable experience because it teaches you to plan ahead and work towards something that is truly worthwhile.

3. It Teaches You Time Management Skills

VCE is tough. Students have to juggle up to 6 classes, each of which involves homework, tests, SACS, exams and assignments. Some students crumble under the pressure; others flourish and develop excellent time management skills. Guess what? These skills don’t stop being useful as soon as you graduate. If you can learn how to manage all of your classes in an efficient and effective way throughout VCE, then you have developed time management skills that will help you throughout your entire life!

Why Learning And Fun Are Not Mutually Exclusive

For some strange reason, a lot of students, parents and even teachers have the idea in their head that learning isn’t fun. I have spoken to a lot of parents recently who are reluctant to start introducing their kids to educational skills before they go to school because they want their kids “to have fun and just be kids.” This is certainly a valid concern; it is important that the early years of a child’s life before school are carefree and fun. At this age, children develop through play and exploration, and it is vital that they do so in a low-pressure environment.

But why do we assume that having fun is somehow the opposite of learning? Why do so many parents assume that helping their child learn to read, write and do maths at a young age can’t be a fun, enjoyable and playful activity. While children certainly don’t enjoy completing repetitive activities, being lectured to, feeling confused or being put under pressure to achieve, all children love to learn new things. Think of how much children enjoy discovering new words when they are learning to talk, how much joy they get from meeting a new friend or learning a new game; this is because young children understand that learning is fun! Because of this, the years before your child starts school are the best possible time for you to build productive habits of learning together.

The most valuable thing you can do for your child before they begin school is to reinforce the idea that learning is fun; whether you are teaching them basic reading or writing skills, introducing them to mathematics or teaching them about the world around them, you should always remember that, for them, learning is, and always should be, an exciting experience of play and discovery. In our next blog post, we’ll give you 4 great ways of doing so!

How To Talk To Your Child About Their Academic Attitude

There comes a time in most parents’ lives when they are concerned that their child is simply not putting enough effort into their studies. They may have gotten a bad mark on a test, or negative comments on their report, or received a detention for incomplete homework. This can be a difficult time for a parent; you know that you have to be firm but, at the same time, you are worried that if you if you approach it the wrong way, if you nag, threaten, bribe or embarrass your child, they are unlikely to respond positively. So, how do you talk to a child about their academic attitude in a way that will leave them feeling supported and motivated? Here are my 5 top tips.

1. Set A Positive Tone

Children are excellent at detecting tone. From the beginning of the conversation, they will instantly detect any anger or negativity in your voice. This is likely to make your child defensive, leading them to make up excuses, deflect responsibility and try to change the subject as quickly as possible. As hard as it may be, you need to establish a positive tone to the discussion. Try starting by stating their strengths. Here are some examples…

“You got really amazing marks in English this year. Imagine if you could do that well in Maths as well!”

“You’re a really smart kid. We think you’re capable of performing well on your exams. What can we do to help you with this?”

“I know you want to get in to a Science degree after VCE. I want to make sure you have the best possible chance of being successful. You deserve it.”

2. Focus On Their Goals

As you surely know, it’s very hard to motivate your child to do something unless it is linked to something that they personally care about. Any discussion on academic improvement should start with a discussion of your child’s personal academic goals. Ask them what they want to achieve this year, what new skills they want to learn and what marks they want to achieve on their exams. Try to make this an enjoyable process, in which your child can imagine how proud and satisfied they will be if they achieve these goals. The more positive emotions you can connect to goal setting, the more successful it is likely to be.

3. Formalise An Action Plan

The goal of any productive discussion should be the formulation of a clear action plan. Once you have discussed your child’s goals, talk about what they (and you) can do to make sure they achieve the goals. This could involve formulating a study plan, organising extra tutoring, setting aside time each day to revise skills or organising resources. The more specific this plan can be, the better. For example, a good, specific action plan might look like this…

Goal: Improve my spelling by the end of the term

Things I have to do:

1. Practice my spelling words for 10 minutes every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday night.

2. After each spelling test on Monday, write out the words I got wrong 10 times each.

3. Read for 20 minutes every Monday and Thursday night to improve my vocabulary.

4. Create a progress chart to monitor my improvement over the term.

4. Follow Up Regularly

There’s no point in having a productive discussion and formulating a clear action plan if it’s all forgotten by the next week. Once you have set goals with your child, make sure that you sit down with them every week or two and discuss how their progress is going. Has the action plan improved their performance, or are they falling back into old habits? Is there anything that you need to modify to improve the plan? Academic improvement is not something that happens overnight. It requires a constant process of trial, error, reflection and improvement.

5. Don’t Revert To Threats Or Bribes

As difficult as it might be, it is important not to revert to threats (such as taking away their video games or not allowing them to see friends) or bribes (such as a present or money) to motivate your child to improve. While this may motivate them in the short term, encouraging your child to focus on the consequences of their performance, rather than the feeling of pride and satisfaction they will get from working hard, will ultimately fail as a long term motivational technique. The second that the threat or bribe is taken away, their motivation will disappear as well.

If you would like any more information on how you can help your child improve their attitude towards education, please feel free to contact us at enquiries@spectrumtuition.com. We’re always happy to help!


Why Test Preparation Is Vital

I often get asked by parents whether their child should be doing anything to prepare for an upcoming test. Whatever the test is, whether it is the NAPLAN, VCE exams, a Scholarship exam, a Selective Schools entrance test, or even the weekly spelling test, my answer is always the same:

“Yes, of course.”

In my experience, every test worth sitting is a test worth preparing for. Check out my top 4 reasons why test preparation is vital for every student and for every test. So, what are you waiting for? Go!

1. A Test is Never Pointless

There is no such thing as a pointless test. Even if the results are not directly important to your child’s future, preparing for and sitting a test is a great way to build experience, gain confidence and consolidate knowledge. Preparing for a difficult test, such as the NAPLAN tests or the Scholarship and Selective tests doesn’t just help you succeed on test day, it also teaches students a variety of skills that they can apply in their day-to-day education.

2. Test Taking is a Learned Skill

Every skill takes practice. A professional athlete will train for months or even years before an event, a musician will practice for hours each night before a big performance, so how can you expect your child to perform well on a test without preparation? What’s more, studying hard for a test doesn’t just make you better at taking a test, it also makes you better at studying. A student who conscientiously prepares for every test they take throughout their education is far more likely to have the test-preparation skills required to succeed in VCE.

3. Good Performance Has Many Rewards

This is an obvious one. Performing well on a test can bring amazing rewards. Obviously, high VCE scores can open a range of possibilities for your child’s future; a high score on a Scholarship or Selective Schools test will allow your child to have access to a high quality education at a fraction of the price. Isn’t that worth preparing for? Less dramatically, high scores on the NAPLAN and on regular school tests and exams may boost your child’s confidence, show their teachers their true potential, open access to advanced programs and even determine whether or not your child will get into the high school of their choice. These things are definitely worth studying for.

4. Lots of Other Student are Already Preparing!

If you are thinking about preparing your child for a test, that means that someone else has already started preparing. So, what are you waiting for? Check out our website for more information on preparing for Selective Schools entrance tests, Scholarship exams, VCE exams and the NAPLAN test. You can also check out some sample exams for the Scholarship and Selective test.

The 5 Biggest Lies VCE Students Tell Themselves

If you are a year 12 student completing the final year of your VCE or IB diploma, the clock is ticking; the game is on. The time to work for VCE students is now. Successful students understand this. A successful student has already spent their holidays reading their English texts, getting organised and trying not to forget how to differentiate polynomials. A successful student knows that, from day one, they have to be organised, focused and ready to work.

Unfortunately, for some students, now is the time to start making excuses and compromises, to start telling themselves little fibs that make them feel better about the disorganised procrastination ahead of them in the next few months. Students are great at justifying their own bad behaviour. They tell themselves that they will study later, that this test isn’t all that important, that it’s ok that they got a D on their SAC because the rest of the class did poorly too. Unfortunately, these little fibs can have make the difference between a student who achieves their goals and one that falls short. So today, I aim to cut these fibs off at their source. Below are the 5 most common lies that VCE students tell themselves, and why they are completely false.

1. My SAC scores don’t matter as long as I do well on the exam.

I have heard this one many times. A student, unwilling to work hard on their SACs throughout the year, reassures themselves that, come exam time, they will make up for their poor performance with a last minute display of genius. This is dangerous thinking for two reasons. Firstly, SACS actually do matter very much. The SACs given throughout the year are used to rank the students in each class. Based on this ranking, the study scores for each of their subjects may go up or down. A low ranking student who does well on the exam might actually get a lower study score than a high-ranking student who does slightly worse on the exam! Secondly, studying for SACs is a great way of practising the valuable study skills required to achieve success on the final exam. After all, who do you think will be able to study better: a student who has cruised through the year, or one who has diligently studied and revised their notes for every single one of their assessments?

2. Subjects like Psychology or Health are the easy subjects.

There is a common myth that some subjects are ‘easier’ than others because they are scaled down. Subjects like Psychology, Graphic Design and Physical Education are considered less strenuous than subjects like Physics and Specialist Maths. Some students take this to mean that these subjects are “easier,” that they don’t need to work as hard at these subjects to do well. This could not be further from the truth. A student studying Psychology not only has to contend with the inevitable scaling down of their study score, they also have to compete with the above-average number of students completing the subject. While the exam may be easy, it will be equally easy for the other tens of thousands of students sitting it. Whilst doing average in Specialist Maths might yield a good study score, doing average in Psychology or Design is simply not good enough. To get a good score in these “easy” subjects, students have to stand out from this crowd. The good news is that the higher a student’s study score in these subjects, the less it gets scaled down. A 50 in Psychology stays a 50. That is not easy, but it is worth aiming for.

3. If you do harder subjects like Specialist and Chemistry, you’ll get a better ATAR score.

This myth goes hand-in-hand with the one above. There are students who believe that some subjects are inherently good and some that are inherently bad. Subjects like Specialist Maths are tricky because they are a good idea for some students, and a terrible idea for others. On one hand, students who excel at Maths and take Specialist are likely to increase their chance of getting a high ATAR score, because Specialist is scaled up quite significantly. However, students who aren’t highly competent in their mathematical abilities and are just doing Specialist for the sake of the scaling are likely to struggle with the advanced coursework, which will take time away from more achievable subjects, and receive a consequently poorer score than they would have if they had simply chosen a more suitable subject. The trick is that each and every student needs to assess their own abilities, interests and pick the subjects that suits them and their future goals.

4. I don’t want to be a mathematician, so I don’t have to do Methods.

That said, a student should think very carefully before turning their back on maths. Some students find mathematics painful; they have been baffled by x’s and y’s since they started high school. However, before deciding to drop maths, all students should think seriously about the university courses they wish to apply for, and carefully check the prerequisite subjects for each of these courses. A lot of courses, particularly in the fields of science, economics, engineering and biomedicine require students to have completed Maths Methods.

5. I can’t start studying for my exam yet.

Yes you can! Yes! Start now! It is never too early to start studying for an exam. Students who leave their exam study for SWOT VAC are doomed to a week of panic and confusion. Students who want to be successful will spend their entire year developing revision sheets, refining their notes, attempting exam questions, going over each of their SACs with a magnifying glass and making sure they  learn all the skills and keep all the necessary resources required to be as prepared as possible come November. VCE is not a sprint to the finish; it is a marathon, a long haul, and the sooner students start applying themselves to the challenge, the more successful they will be.

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Are you worried that you’re not exam ready? Why not call us to discuss how we can help. Call us for free on 1800 668 177 and we’ll explain how we can help you get you ready for your VCE exams. Click here to find out more about how we run our classes or book a free assessment by clicking on the button below!


Demystifying the ATAR Score

On the 20th of December this year, thousands of VCE students across Victoria will receive their ATAR score. For these students, for better or for worse, their VCE journey is at an end; they have worked hard, studied for hours on end and (hopefully) received the results required to gain them entry to their desired University course.

For students commencing year 11 or 12 in 2014, the journey has only just begun. And often, for these students and their parents, the task of achieving a high ATAR score can seem like a scary, daunting and complicated process. What makes matters worse is  how many parents and students don’t even know how the ATAR score is calculated.

If this sounds like you, then read on. Today, I will be explaining how the ATAR is calculated and, based on this explanation, giving some tips on how you and your child can maximise their chances of ATAR success!

How Is The ATAR Calculated?

1. Firstly, each student will usually complete between 4-6 subjects. Based on their exam and SAC scores, they will receive an ATAR Subject Score out of 50 for each of their subjects. This is not a simple score, but a ranking, in which a score of 50 indicates the highest performing students and 30 is the average.

2. Next, because some subjects may be more competitive than others, some subjects will be “scaled up” and some may be “scaled down.” This means that a certain number of points will be added on to, or subtracted from, the raw ATAR Subject Score. It is worth noting that higher performing students will not have their scores scaled down. The degree to which each subject is scaled is determined on a yearly basis. To check out the extent to which subjects were scaled in 2012, check out this link!

3. The ATAR Aggregate is then calculated. It is found by adding

-Your best ATAR Subject Score in any one of the English studies

-The ATAR Subject Scores of your next best three studies

-10 per cent of the ATAR Subject Score for a fifth study (where available),

-10 per cent of the ATAR Subject Score for a sixth study (where available)

(It is worth noting that, as shown, an English subject MUST be one of your top 4 subjects)

4. The ATAR Aggregate is then used to rank all students. The final ATAR score is an indication of the students rank within their year. For example, a score of 97 indicates that the student has performed better than 97% of students. ATAR scores are given in intervals of 0.05, and the highest possible score is 99.95.

What does this mean?

This may seem complicated, but there are a few useful pieces of advice that you can get from understanding the way in which the ATAR system works…

1.    Do not neglect English.

English is the only subject that MUST be one of your child’s top 4 subjects. As such, a poor performance in English will affect your child’s score dramatically. English is also one of the more difficult subjects, as it requires students to think in different and complex ways about a particular text. At Spectrum Tuition, we spend all year preparing our students for their final English exams, giving them as much diverse and practical experience as possible.

2.    Your top 4 subjects are important.

It is important for your child to have a strong top 4 subjects. They are the subjects that make up most of the mark. Whilst it is important to do well in all subjects, you should make sure that your child is confident in getting an excellent score in at least four of their subjects.

3.    High subject scores are not scaled down

In year 12, my friend was very concerned because she was doing a lot of subjects, such as Psychology and Graphic design, that get scaled down. She was worried that this would ruin her chances of getting a good enter score. Because she knew this, she made sure to focus a lot of attention on these subjects. She made a clear study plan, and got a tutor to help with her exam preparation. In the end, she got a 50 for Psychology, and so it wasn’t scaled down at all! If your child is taking a subject that gets scaled down, they need to be aware that this is not an “easy subject”. If they want to achieve, they will have to work extra hard on these subjects to make sure they are scaled down as little as possible.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments! If you would like to see a first-hand account of how ATAR scores are calculated, check out this handy ATAR score calculator.

Everything You Need To Know About The SEAL Program

When I say SEAL, you may be thinking of the cute animal that swims in the sea. I am talking about the Select Entry Accelerated Learning program, an initiative run by the Victorian Education Department to ensure that talented, gifted and motivated students are given the best possible chance to achieve excellent in their education. The program runs for years 7-10 and allows advanced students a chance to work at a more advanced pace and level. If you think your child is talented, motivated, and is not currently being adequately challenged by their school work, then I recommend you read on as I answer some frequently asked questions about the SEAL program.

What does the SEAL program involve?

The SEAL program allows gifted students in a variety of Victorian public schools to progress through more advanced course work at a faster pace than they would have otherwise been able to. The program is perfect for students who are not feeling challenged by the level of the rest of their class, and are looking for a greater challenge.

Student enrolled in a SEAL program usually complete the years 7-10 of their high school education in 3 years. This leaves them with more options for how they wish to complete their final VCE years. Some students finish their VCE in the next two years, while others use the extra year to complete a wider range of VCE and university extension subjects. In the end, this extra year will ultimately give students a far greater chance of achieving the high ATAR score that they desire.

Would the SEAL program help my child?

The SEAL program is designed for students entering high school who are hard working, dedicated, experienced, creative and who have a high level of maturity and the ability to work and learn independently. If you think this may be your child, then have a go at answering the following questions.

Is your child at the top of their class at school?

Did your child perform above average on their NAPLAN test?

Are you concerned that your child is being held back by the pace of their class?

Does your child ever complain that their schoolwork is too easy?

Is your child able to work hard on their homework without being nagged?

Is your child constantly motivated to achieve?

Will your child be commencing secondary school in two years?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then your child may just be the perfect candidate for the SEAL program. A SEAL program could provide your child with the challenge that they need, as well as giving the best possible support in achieving their goals.

Which schools offer a SEAL program?

When choosing high schools for your child, it is worth checking whether they have a SEAL program. There are currently 36 schools in Victoria that offer the SEAL program, located in both metropolitan and rural areas of the state.

Balwyn HS Emerald SC
McGuire College Wodonga Middle Years College
Bellarine SC Fairhills HS
Mill Park SC Trafalgar HS
Belmont HS Gladstone Park SC
Mordialloc College University HS
Box Hill HS Horsham College
Mount Clear SC Wangaratta HS
Brighton SC Keilor Downs College
Mount Erin SC Warrnambool College
Brunswick SC Koo Wee Rup SC
Reservoir District SC Werribee SC
Buckley Park College Lilydale HS
Rosebud SC Westall SC
Dandenong HS Lyndale SC
Sale College Williamstown HS
Gleneagles SC Matthew Flinders Girls HS
Staughton College Emerald SC

Each school has different entry requirements for the program, so it’s best to deal with things on a case-by-case basis. Decide which schools are close to you and interest you, and then check their website for information of their SEAL program. This will let you know what the school offers, and how and when your child should apply.

What are the entry requirements?

Students that wish to be accepted for a SEAL program usually have to sit a series of tests and interviews. Though the exact details vary from school to school, most school use testing companies, such as Edutest to provide their tests. These tests are designed to assess a range of abilities such as reading comprehension, mathematics skills, written expression, verbal and numerical reasoning.

Quite often, students are asked to answer questions that they have never faced before. They may be challenged with unfamiliar words, complex scenarios or advanced mathematical principles. The point of these tests is to identify which students are truly able to excel under challenging conditions. The tests usually take place in the middle of the year. Most of the tests for 2014 entry will have already been completed, but if your child is entering high school in 2015, then now is the time to start researching, planning and preparing.

How can I find out more?

If you want to find out more about SEAL programs, there a number of resources you can use. The website for the Department of Education is a good place to go for all the official guidelines and information on the program.

If you want specific information about entry requirements and test dates, these can be found by checking the website of the school that you’re interested in. If you want to talk to someone one-on-one, you can also call the SEAL coordinator at each school. Here is a convenient list of their contact details.

If you want any advice or information about what your options are, whether your child would benefit from a SEAL program, and how you can prepare your child for the entrance test, we’re here to help. We provide a range of classes that give students all the skills they will be tested on, including essay and narrative writing, mathematics skills and advanced numerical and verbal reasoning. Find more information on our website here or call us for free on 1800 668 177.