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.

The Mock Exam Bundle: A Great Way To Prepare For The Selective Schools Exam

In the final week before the selective schools test, we are giving you the opportunity to sit our full length selective schools mock exam in the comfort of your own home!

One of the best ways to feel more confident during the Selective Schools exam is to do as many practice questions in a similar style and difficulty level as those you will encounter on the actual test.

In previous years, students have stated that one of the most difficult aspects of the exam is answering the questions within the very limited time. By doing a full length test BEFORE the actual exam, you will better understand what the experience will be like so you know what to expect. To help you learn the most efficient technique to answering the questions, full solutions for each question is included PLUS access to our online workshop where we go over major problems and concepts students encountered during our mock exam.

In this package, we’ve bundled together:

  • Our full length 2.5 hour mock exam (including all six sections covered on the Victorian Selective Schools Exam);
  • An answer booklet containing FULLY worked solutions for each question
  • The answer booklet will also contain a sample analytical and creative essay based on the prompts; and
  • A recording of our mock exam workshop, run by our co-founder and selective schools exam expert, Thuy Pham. During the workshop, Thuy runs you through major areas of difficulty and common problems students encountered during the mock exam providing you with a general overview of each area covered (7 Videos in total and over 2.5 hours of content!).


“We used both the classroom and private tuition options for our daughter in Maths and English as part of Selective testing preparation. We could not fault the consistent high standard of delivery by all the tutors especially Thuy who was incredibly supportive. Spectrum use excellent resources which they continue to review and update and they take the time to explain the best approach to what are many new areas for the students through practical advice. We were particularly impressed with the opportunity to undertake a mock exam prior with a feedback session and the post test follow up. Plus you could purchase additional resources through their online store. My daughter enjoyed it so much she has chosen to continue with extension classes. We would strongly recommend Spectrum for anyone seeking any type of tuition they get results.” R. Devlin, parent of student who was offered a place at a selective school in 2015.

Who Is This For?

This bundle is designed for Year 8 students sitting the Victorian Selective Schools entrance exam looking to gain entry into Melbourne High, MacRobertson Girls’. Suzanne Cory High or Nossal High.

This pack is specifically geared towards students who are looking to practice all the exam components to gauge their performance BEFORE the test day. We’ve found that many questions on these exams may be completely unfamiliar to students and this will cause a major loss of time if students are stuck on particular questions. It is therefore essential that students practice as many of these questions prior to the test day as possible to give them the best chance of achieving success. This, combined with our detailed answers and workshop videos tend to give students the extra edge and confidence they need prior to sitting the Victorian Selective Schools exam.

What Do You Receive In This Bundle?

This bundle includes:

  • 1 x full Selective Schools exam package (covering all 6 exam sections: numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, mathematics, reading comprehension, narrative and analytical writing prompts)
  • 1 x FULLY worked solutions book containing all the sections covered in the mock exam
  • 2 x sample essays (one creative, one analytical) PLUS detailed instructions walking you through the process of writing winning essays within the very limited 15 minute timeframe.
  • 7 x videos from our Mock Exam workshop (over 2.5 hours of content) covering major problems uncovered during the mock exam this year. In these videos, we go through each area and discuss the most important topics as well as common errors that students made on the mock exam. We also do a review of the key skills students should be focusing in on prior to exam day.

Why You Should Purchase This Exam Package

This package will prove to be a great tool if your child hasn’t completed many (or any!) exam style questions or full length practice tests, and needs to become familiar with exam timing.

The detailed answers and video workshop will also provide further guidance on how to solve all the tricky questions presented in the exam paper in the most efficient way possible.

This package is also useful as it allows you to simulate a full exam to help you improve your timing during the real test. Numerous students have also used this pack as a diagnostic tool to guide their study in the crucial final weeks before the actual test.

** For our terms and conditions see here =>

Buy Now >>


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.


Get Published On!

At Spectrum Tuition, we are incredibly proud of our students’ achievements – particularly when we see some of our previously disengaged students use our easy to follow techniques to produce winning essays. 

The purpose of writing is to gain a captive audience, so we are giving some of our chosen students the opportunity to publish their work on our website.

With thousands of unique visitors to our site each month, this is a fantastic way for our students to get the recognition they deserve and to hopefully serve as a platform to encourage budding young authors reach their potential!

Our first essay was written by Ana, a Year 5 student attending our centre. She wrote the following essay within 20 minutes.

We think she’s extremely talented. What do you think?


Richard stumbled through the dark creepy forest and fell. He tumbled and landed with a splash in a muddy river. As he surfaced, something square-shaped and dark floated towards him. He picked it up. It looked like some sort of book. He flicked on his flashlight. No, it was a diary. It was emerald green and emblazoned in gold was the name Edmund Smith. “Who is Edmund Smith?” Richard questioned. He turned the first page and with an excruciatingly deafening slurping noise, he got sucked into it.

“Nutzen ihn!”(Seize him) someone bellowed. Richard turned slowly. “Run Edmund!” screamed a deep-voiced man in the distance. It appeared he was in World War One, fighting as Edmund Smith. Just his luck, he had landed in the middle of an air raid! 

Suddenly, his only protection- his rifle-was snatched from him. He was engulfed by people speaking a foreign language. NAZIS! Panic swept through him like a river current. His wrists were suddenly bounded into strong, painful iron cuffs. Richard felt something hard smash into his head from behind. Everything turned red, then black. 

Richard awoke in a dark, dripping, rusty cell, with some stale bread crusts and an empty water pail. His head was painful and sore. He felt sick, as if he had not slept at all. When he stood up, his head spun like a spinning top. He banged on the bars, hoping to break free – but it was no use. As he turned, he spied something. It was the diary! He groped for it, turning the first page… 

“Richard, hurry up, you’ll be late for school,” shouted his mother. “Phew”, Richard thought, “it was all a horrid dream”. He reached for his school bag. Out of the corner of his eye, sitting on top of his bag was an emerald green book with letters emblazoned in gold. Slowly, without thinking, he flicked open the first page…

SEALP Exam Packs In Our New Book Store!

Our new online bookstore, Spectrum Learning is now officially open for business! This digital bookstore is a place where you can purchase materials geared towards helping your child prepare for the selective entry accelerated learning program (SEALP or ALP) exam in May and the selective schools exam (for entry into Melbourne High, The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High, Nossal High School and Suzanne Cory High School) in June. We also have many more titles planned for release over the next few months.

All materials available on the site are provided as digital books. This means that as soon as your payment is confirmed (which only takes a few minutes) you’ll be able to download your book and start studying.


To coincide with the launch of our new store, we are also launching our SEALP exam packs. This is one exam pack that many parents have been asking about and we’re happy to have it available for purchase. These exam packs have been specifically designed for the upcoming SEALP and ALP exams. We’re offering two exam packs (a Basic and an Advanced package) at launch. Both provide great value for money. Here is what you receive with each package.

Basic Package – $49 (Can be purchased HERE)

Our basic pack includes:

  • 1 x Numerical Reasoning Exam Sections;
  • 1 x Verbal Reasoning Exam Sections;
  • 1 x Mathematical Reasoning Exam Sections; and
  • 1 x Reading Comprehension Exam Sections.
  • 1 x Writing Prompts
  • Basic Answers

Advanced Package – $149 (Can be purchased HERE)

Our advanced package includes:

  • 3 x Numerical Reasoning Exam Sections;
  • 3 x Verbal Reasoning Exam Sections;
  • 3 x Mathematical Reasoning Exam Sections; and
  • 3 x Reading Comprehension Exam Sections.
  • 3 x Writing Prompts
  • FULLY WORKED answers to all sections (not including the writing prompts).

In total, you receive 3 FULL exams with FULLY WORKED answers.

All packages are delivered as digital books (PDFs) and can be downloaded for immediate use. So what are you waiting for? Come check us out!



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.

4 Signs That Your Child May Be Ready To Sit A Scholarship Or Selective Schools Test

In today’s competitive education system, students with high ambitions need to work extra hard to get ahead. The importance of a good education cannot be overstated. The bad news is, achieving a scholarship or getting into a selective school is getting harder and harder as students become more and more competitive. The good news is, if your child is talented and hard working, there are a range of opportunities out there to ensure that they reach their potential! Many prestigious schools in Victoria offer tests to identify which students they will accept, and which students are talented enough to receive scholarships. These tests can open doors for students who would otherwise not have had the chance to receive a top-level education. The question that many parents are asking is “is my child ready to sit a scholarship or selective test?” Here are 4 reasons why they might be:


1. Did your child score above average in their NAPLAN test?

Selective schools are looking for the highest percentage of students in each year level. If your child’s NAPLAN scores show that they are a year or two ahead of their classmates, then they are in a great position to sit a selective or scholarship exam.


2. Is your child passionate about learning new things?

Scholarship and selective exams are suited for students who are passionate about their work. These exams require students to be well-read, imaginative, capable of forming opinions, and have a solid grasp on complex mathematical concepts. If your child is passionate about their schoolwork, then they have precisely the right attitude needed to succeed.


3. Does your child feel unchallenged by their current schoolwork?

Selective schools can offer a great opportunity for students that feel unchallenged by the level of difficulty in their current work. These tests provide the chance for your child to work towards a more challenging goal, to approach unfamiliar and complex problems, and to see their hard work pay off.


4. Does your child have a talent for thinking creatively?

Selective school and scholarship tests are not just designed to test your child’s ability to remember facts. Students sitting these tests are required to think in abstract and creative ways. Students who love creative writing, or are good at coming up with a lot of interesting ideas will have a natural advantage.


Does this sound like your child? If so, you should be giving serious thought to having them sit a scholarship or selective schools exam. We offer a free assessment to test your child’s ability and based on the results, can give you a more informed decision as to which pathway would suit your child’s needs. If you would like to know more about selective and scholarship exams, or if you would like to discuss how we can help to prepare you and your child for this opportunity, please feel free to email us or call us today!

FREE 5 Part Scholarship & Selective Schools Exam Preparation Online Success Course.

For students preparing for upcoming scholarship & selective schools exams, sign up to our FREE 5 part email series addressing all major topics straight into your inbox! Over 5 weeks, we will provide you with tips and practical skills to help you deal with different aspects of various scholarship, accelerated program entrance exams and the selective schools test in Victoria. Topics include:

1. Reading comprehension
2. Verbal reasoning
3. Narrative writing
4. Persuasive writing
5. Numerical reasoning

Some sample questions and solutions provided!

What are you waiting for? Sign up today!


ACER Test Preparation – Do’s and Do Nots of Narrative Writing

For those of you preparing to sit the ACER Scholarship test, I’m sure this is a nervous time of the year. As of today, there is only a week or two until thousands of students across Victoria will sit the ACER tests, in hope of achieving a scholarship at their desired schools. The test is designed to test all types of knowledge and contains four sections.

-Written Expression (Essay)


-Humanities (Reading Comprehension and Interpretation)

-Written Expression (Narrative)

Today, I will be focusing on what is, for some students, the most daunting section: the writing of a creative narrative. This section of the exam takes only 25 minutes, and students are required to respond creatively and fluently to an unseen prompt. This is no easy task!

So today, I present a list of 10 Do’s and Do Not’s for Narrative Writing, which should hopefully help your child quickly improve their stories.

1. DO limit the scope of the story.

Your child has 25 minutes to write a story. Obviously, it will not be a very long story. Your child will not be able to cram in a whole day, week, or month worth of action into the story. In such a short time, your child will only have time to describe one or two significant events. Encourage your child to limit their story to a small timeframe, and to only one or two locations. For example, below are two events that I might write a story about. Which one do you think is more appropriate for a 25 minute story?
1. My family and I travelled to Europe and went to France, Holland and Germany.

2. When in Paris, my family and I went all the way to the top of the Eiffel tower.

And remember, stories do not have to start with the main character waking up in the morning. Stories should begin at an exciting or interesting moment.

2. DO have a plan for structure.

A good story is a well structured story. A well structured story will have certain sections which perform certain roles. These include.

Orientation – The beginning of a story, when we meet the characters, find out where they are and what they are doing.

Example: I am at Footscray Market shopping with my mother.

Problem – Something happens, which forces the main character to make a decision or attempt a difficult task.

Example: I bend over to tie my shoe and when I look up, I can’t find my mother.

Rising action – Several interesting or exciting events happen as a result of the problem.

Example: I run around to all the stalls and ask the shopkeepers if they’ve seen my mother. I start to worry that I will never find her.

Climax – The most exciting part of the story, in which the main character solves the initial problem.

Example: I start to cry, but then I notice a face in the crowd. It’s my mother! She looks worried, so I run up and give her a hug.

Resolution – The conclusion of the story, in which we find out what happens to the characters after the climax.

Example: My mother and I got some jam donuts and then went home.

3. DO make your characters engaging.

Characters should be distinct from one another. The reader should be able to tell the difference between two characters just by the way they talk and act. If all the characters act the same, a story will get confusing and dull. Encourage your child to think about ways in which they can make their characters different from one another. Maybe one is old and one is young… Maybe one is male and one is female… Maybe one is polite and one is rude…

4. DO create a mood in your story.

Encourage your child to think about what mood they want to establish in their story. Is it a scary story? Is it a sad story? Is it a funny story? These moods can be easily created through descriptions of people, places and the weather. For example, read the two passages below and think about what mood each of the passages is setting.

1. The thunder crashed and the rain poured down in thick torrents. Sam sheltered under his dark cloak, which covered his crooked face in shadows.

2. The sun was peeking out between the clouds. Sam smiled, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his skin.

5. DO use vivid verbs.

Some verbs are interesting. Some verbs are boring. Verbs such as walk, say, eat, drink, hit and laugh often don’t create a very strong image in the mind of readers. Encourage your child to experiment with using more interesting verbs to create stronger images. Here are some examples.

Say – shout, whisper, bellow, groan, scream, mention, confess, declare, moan

Eat – nibble, gobble, peck, scoff, consume, swallow, much, devour

Laugh – cackle, giggle, chuckle

Walk – tiptoe, trudge, amble, pace, gallop, run, sprint

Note: interesting verbs only work if they are used properly. Make sure your child is only using verbs that they understand. Otherwise they might confuse the reader.

6. DO NOT tell what you can show.

This is the first rule that most writers learn. A good writer will always let their readers know important information without telling them outright. For example, read the two sentences below.

1. Paul is mean. Nobody likes him, but we are all to afraid to tell him.

2. Paul shoved me into my locker with his shoulder and laughed. It hurt a lot, but I faked a smile. “How’s it going, Ron,” he asked. “Good,” I mumbled, trying to sound friendly. Paul smiled an ugly smile. “See ya, midget,” he said. “Bye Paul,” I sighed.

Both of these sentences are giving the same information, but the second sentence lets the readers figure it out for themselves. Readers don’t like being told how to feel. It’s far more interesting to show a situation and allow the action and the dialogue to speak of itself.

7. DO NOT use 2 words when 1 word will do.

The biggest problem with young writers is that they tend to write sentences like this:

“The big, gigantic man was scary and terrifying. He had big, round, red, bloodshot eyes and his smile was evil and cruel.”

Have a look at this sentence and think, are any of these words unnecessary? For example, saying “big, gigantic man” is just the same as saying “gigantic man.” As a rule, encourage your child to use a maximum of one or two adjectives to describe a noun. It will force them to be more careful about what words they choose.

“The gigantic man was terrifying. He had big, bloodshot eyes and his smile was cruel.”

8. DO NOT add unnecessary details.

This is a simple point. Your child is not writing the life story of their character. They should only include details that are relevant to the story. The reader does not need to know that the main character has six brothers and a pet dog, unless that information is important to the story. Otherwise, it takes up precious time and words.

9. DO NOT include too many characters.

This is a similar point to point 8. In 25 minutes, your child does not have very much time to introduce characters. If they try to include too many, they may run out of time. Additionally, if there are too many characters in a story, the reader is likely to get confused as to who is who. As a rule, a short story should have 2-4 characters.

10. DO NOT forget the importance of dialogue.

Dialogue is amazing. It can tell the reader what is happening in the story. It can build suspense. It can reveal important information. It can tell the reader how the character feels about a certain event. It can help to build an impression of the character’s personality. It is important to consider that people will say different things in different ways depending on who they are, what situation they are in, and how they feel.

For example, how do you think people in the following situations would say thankyou?… What words would they use? How would they say it?

1. A mother thanking a fireman for saving her baby.

2. A child who has received a terrible present from his grandmother.

3. A busy waiter who has been given a very small tip from a rude customer.

4. A bank robber who thanking the bank manager for handing him a bag of money.

I will leave you today with a prompt. Give this prompt to your child and encourage them to write a story in 25 minutes. Let me know in the comments how they went, and what they wrote about!

Prompt: You have to confess an important secret to someone very important to you.

The International Baccalaureate Part 2

Last time I posted, I gave some basic information on the IB diploma. Today, I will give a bit more specific information as to the nature of the course work in IB. Most importantly, I aim to give you an idea as to how the course differs to VCE, and what skills your child might need to develop in order to succeed in the IB diploma.


Potentially the biggest difference between the VCE and IB courses is the content of the English program. In contrast to VCE English, which has only a minor focus on literature, the IB English program is heavily based around student’s abilities to comprehend and understand a range of familiar and unfamiliar works of poetry and prose.

Among the tasks that are demanded of IB English students, the most difficult involves students reading and analyse a previously unseen work of poetry and prose. This exercise is particularly difficult, as it requires students to apply their analytical skills in an unfamiliar context.

If you wish for your child to complete an IB diploma, I recommend that you begin to familiarise them with as many different types of literary texts as possible. You should encourage your child to read widely and to think carefully about what they are reading. Encourage your child to ask themselves the following questions as they read.

What is the author trying to make me think/feel?

How are they doing this?

Why did they choose that particular word over any other word?

What tone is the author using?

Does the author use any techniques such as onomatopoeia, assonance or alliteration is his or her writing? If so, why?

One of the best ways to learn how to analyse a text is through discussion. Try to talk to your child about what he or she is reading. Ask questions and have them explain the significance of particular passages. Or, if you think you may need help with this task, consider finding a tutor to help your child sort out their ideas.


Just like in VCE, mathematics in the IB is split into 3 levels of difficulty: Studies Standard Level, Standard Level and High Level. Studies Standard level is quite similar to VCE’s Further Mathematics, as it is more focused on the application of mathematics to practical situations. In a similar sense, Standard Level is similar to Maths Methods and Higher Level is comparable to Specialist Maths. As of 2012, some schools will also offer Further Mathematics at Standard level.

When your child is choosing their maths subjects, there are some things that you might want to consider.

-Remember, there is no scaling in IB. A score of 7 in Maths Studies is worth exactly the same amount as a 7 in Specialist Maths. In some cases, it is preferable to study Standard level and get a high score, as oppose to study High Level and get a low score.

-High Level Mathematics can be quite challenging. Only students with a very high competency in maths should choose to do Mathematics as one of their high levels.

-Some University courses only accept applicants that have completed Maths Methods. In this case, completing Standard Level Maths will also satisfy this prerequisite. Make sure you check out the prerequisites for your child’s preferred university course before choosing subjects.

Hopefully, this information will put you and your child in a good position to make a very important decision: to do, or not to do, The International Baccalaureate. If you have any more questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

The International Baccalaureate

Lately, a lot of parents have been asking me about the International Baccalaureate (or IB as it’s commonly known). Over the past few years, many schools across Victoria have begun offering the IB as an option to the VCE. Seven years ago, when I was about to start year 11 at Kardinia International College, I was lucky enough to be able to choose between VCE and IB. I chose IB, and I’m glad that I did. So, I thought I’d use my experience to give you a little bit more information on the Internation Baccalaureate, in case you and your child are in the process of making the important choice between VCE and IB.

So, what is the IB?

The IB is an International secondary qualification. Basically, it’s like the VCE, but it is taken and recognised worldwide. An IB qualification in Australia is exactly the same as one in China, France or America. Instead receiving an ATAR percentile score, IB graduates receive a score out of 45. In order to pass the IB, students must score 24 or above.

When it comes to applying for Australian Universities, each IB score corresponds to an equivalent ATAR score. The table below shows the conversion rate for 2012 IB scores.

When I did the IB, I got a total score of 40. According to the table, that equates to an ATAR score of 98.20.

What is the coursework like?

This is where it gets interesting. Each IB student must complete 6 subjects: an English subject, a Maths subject, a Science subject, a Humanities subject and a Second Language subject and a Creative subject. However, some schools allow students to take on an extra Science subject instead of a Creative subject. Out of these six subjects, three must be taken at “High Level” and the others are taken at “Standard Level.” To give you an idea, these are the subjects I did in IB:

-Maths (Standard Level)

-English (High Level)

-Physics (Standard Level)

-Psychology (High Level)

-Art (High Level)

-French (Standard Level)

The point of these rules is to ensure that each IB student gets a well-rounded education. The IB is designed to produce students with a broad range of abilities. Students have to learn to think scientifically, logically and creatively. This is part of what makes the IB so challenging, and so rewarding.

How are the subjects marked?

Here’s the bit that might sound a bit silly. Whilst in VCE subjects are marked out of 50, IB subjects are marked out of 7. Also, whilst VCE subject scores are scaled based on difficulty, all IB scores, whether they are high or standard level, are worth exactly the same. All six subjects count equally to the final score. In VCE, you can often get away with one bad subject; in IB, students need to make sure they are performing well across the board.

Now, the more mathematical of you readers may have noticed a problem so far…

If there are six subjects, and each subject is scored out of 7, then 6 x 7 = 42. That doesn’t add up to a total score of 45. So, where to the other 3 points come from?

They come from the Extended essay and Theory of Knowledge subjects.

The Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge.

In the Extended Essay, students are given a chance to explore an area that they find particularly interested in and write a 4,000 word essay on the topic. This task continues throughout both year 11 and 12. The Essay topic is chosen by students and can be about History, Literature, Maths, Science, Art, Music, or any other subject that they may be taking.

Theory of Knowledge is a small, compulsory subject that examines the ways in which humans can claim to achieve “knowledge.” Theory of Knowledge examines questions such as “How do we know things?” and “How can we prove that what we know is true?”. As you might guess, this is one of the more challenging areas of the IB. Students are required to think in many abstract and critical ways. Students are assessed for this subject based on an essay and an oral presentation.

The Extended essay and Theory of Knowledge are each given a letter grade and the following table is used to award the students a mark out of 3. This mark is then added to the six subject scored to give the final grade out of 45.

So, why should my child do the IB?

There are many advantages to doing the International Baccalaureate.

-It encourages students to gain a wide and diverse education.

-It is recognised by all Australian and International Universities.

-Subjects such as Theory of Knowledge gives students abstract thinking skills that will help them throughout their later education.

-The Extended Essay project is a great way of preparing for University work.

-Although the workload is heavy, the intense nature of the course pushes students to work harder to achieve their goals.

Want to know more?

Keep reading. Next week, I will talk more about the IB coursework, how the subjects differ from VCE, and what skills are examined. See you then!