Why Strong Readers Are Not Necessarily Strong Writers

There is a very common misconception that students who read a lot will automatically become good writers. On the surface level, it makes sense. After all, reading extensively allows students to develop a large vocabulary, appreciate different perspectives and gain an understanding of how different texts are structured. As with any skill, the first step towards becoming proficient is to watch a professional at work.

On the other hand, nobody learns to drive a car by watching their mum drive; nobody learns how to shoot baskets by watching basketball on television; and nobody learns how to bake a perfect souffle by just reading recipe books. In all these situations, practise is the key. While this all seems obvious, to be a strong English student, people often forget the importance of practising writing. Like any skill, writing requires constant practise. Here are some skills that you can only get from practising writing…

1. Practising writing builds muscle memory

Students often forget that writing is not just a mental task; it is a physical one as well. When students sit their VCE exams, or if they sit a Selective Schools or Scholarship test, they are required to write long, well thought out essays or creative narratives under a strict time limit. Quite often, under these situations, students’ hands get tired before their brains do. Students who haven’t practised writing essays or narratives on a regular basis will find it hard to write quickly enough, or for long enough, to get all of their great ideas on the page. On the other hand, students who recognise that writing (like all tasks) needs practise, are much more likely to have the physical and mental skills they need to succeed.

2. Learning to read and learning to write are two completely different skills

Reading is obviously a wonderful skill for building imagination in students; but it is, in the end, largely a passive activity. When you are learning to read for the first time, you need to recognise the shapes of letters and words and decode them using your knowledge of sounds and phonics. Then when you have built up the required skills to read a story, you get to sit back and let the author take you on a journey.

When it’s your turn to do the writing, suddenly your job becomes a lot more difficult. How do you even start? What is the right word to use to communicate the right message? How can you grab and maintain your reader’s attention? How do you conclude in a satisfactory way? What about grammar/ spelling/ punctuation? You’re given an empty page that you’re supposed to fill with ideas. This can be incredibly stressful, and many students face writer’s block as a result. Learning specific writing skills and practising writing is a good way to get better at generating your own ideas, so you can succeed every time. The more you practise, the less intimidating the empty page will look, and the more techniques you will learn for generating ideas in order to become a successful writer.

3. Practising writing demystifies the art of writing

Have you ever read a great essay or a great story and thought, “How on Earth did they do that?” It’s a common experience, and it’s part of the fun of reading. When we read good writing, we’re not necessarily trying to figure out how the author is doing what they’re doing, we’re just enjoying their work. This is one of the reasons why it’s not enough to just read extensively if you want to learn to write well. Put simply: reading good writing doesn’t teach you how to be a good writer yourself. On the other hand, when you practise writing regularly, you start to notice the patterns, the little tricks that you can use again and again to make your writing successful. Practising writing allows you to look behind the curtain and seeing the mechanisms that make up a successful piece of writing.

Of course, practising is hard. And it’s not the kind of thing you can just do without guidance. That’s where we come in. If you or your child wants more guidance on how to practise their writing, feel free to email us at enquiries@spectrumtuition.com or call us on 1800 668 177 to book a free assessment. Alternatively, you can book online by clicking here.

If your child is preparing for a Scholarship or Selective Schools Exam, you might also want to check out our custom Writing Bundle. This bundle contains our best selling persuasive essay book and narrative book.  After reading these books your child will have the skills required to write a compelling and well structured narrative and persuasive essay!

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



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.


Get Published On spectrumtuition.com!

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…

Top 10 Signs Of A Gifted Child

Intellectual giftedness is often a confusing and complex concept for parents to get their head around, particularly because there is no one clear definition of what it is that makes a “gifted” child. In general, the term refers to children or adults whose IQ are over 130 and, as such, lie in the top 2 percent of the population. However, there is no clear cut distinction between a gifted and a non-gifted child; children mature at different rates and develop different capacities and skill sets. Giftedness is more often associated with academic success; gifted children often excel at one or more areas of their education, though their talents, if not properly fostered, might also leave them feeling unsatisfied, bored or isolated at school. As a parent, you are in the best possible position to identify whether your child has any unusual capabilities and, if so, make sure they receive the support that they need to reach their potential. Here are the top 10 things that, at a young age, might suggest giftedness in a child.

1. Specific Talents

Does your child have a specific skill that seems impressive for their age, such as musical ability, creativity, language comprehension or numeracy skills?

2. Expanding Vocabulary

Does your child seem to pick up, understand and use words quicker and more naturally than other children their age?

3. Asks “What If?” Questions

Does your child think about situations in an abstract manner? Do they ask lots of hypothetical questions?

4. Relentless Curiosity

Does your child seem constantly hungry to learn more and more about the world? Do they pursue things that they are interested in?

5. Vivid Imagination

Does your child seem particularly creative or imaginative? Do they have an aptitude for telling stories, drawing pictures or creating imaginary situations?

6. Memorisation Of Facts

Is your child able to recall facts with unusual accuracy? Does your child seem to have an encyclopaedic memory of everything they are taught?

7. Observation Skills

Does your child notice things that other children their age, or even you, don’t? For example, does your child remember exactly where you set down the set of keys that you can’t find in the morning?

8. Problem Solving Skills

Does your child come up with creative and novel solutions to problems that they face in their day-to-day life. Do they tend to solve their own problems rather than coming to you for assistance.

9. Sense Of Justice Or Fairness

Does your child seem to express an above average concern for the ethical or moral implications of situations? Are they able to put themselves into other people’s perspectives and think about big-picture issues such as fairness and justice?

10. Sense Of Humour

Is your child able to understand and tell complex jokes? Does your child have a good sense of comedic timing? Though this may not seem like an academic skill, a good sense of humour often requires high levels of intelligence.

If you suspect that your child may be gifted, you might be initially quite daunted by the responsibilities and challenges that this may prevent. However, every expert will tell you the same thing: relax. Before your child starts school, there is no need to subject them to an IQ test or put any undue pressure on them. This may have a negative impact upon their attitude towards learning. What you should do, however, is support and foster their growing interests and encourage your child to pursue them to their fullest potential. When your child starts school, however, it is important to keep an eye on them to make sure that they are receiving the support that they need. Gifted children can often feel stifled, frustrated or alienated within a conventional school environment, and it is important to ensure that this does not hamper their educational and social development. You may choose to get your child’s IQ tested. If it does turn out that your child has a significantly high IQ, then there are plenty of resources available to help your figure out how to best support your child’s need. A good first stop for information is the Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented.

Why Is Creativity Important?

Creativity is not just about being able to draw or paint or write or sing. Creativity is about being able to deal with difficult and unexpected situations in new and innovative ways. While some students only have one set way of dealing with a specific challenge, creative students think “what are the different ways I can approach this?” Because of this, creativity isn’t just a skill that is useful for subjects such as Art or English; even creative students will naturally have an advantage when it comes to subjects like Mathematics, due to their ability to be flexible and approach a problem from a number of different angles.

So, how can you help your child develop their own creativity?

The key to creativity is the ability to deal with challenges. The best thing you can do to raise a creative child is to present them with fun challenges, set constraints, push them out of their comfort zone and give them obstacles to overcome. Here are some ideas for some fun challenges that you can use in everyday situations to develop your child’s ability to think creatively.

When writing…

If your child enjoys creative writing, push them outside their comfort zones by setting them challenges. For example, ask them to write a story that has to use 5 words (fire, uncomfortable, loud, lost and triangle, for example), ask them to write a poem made purely out of words they can find in a newspaper or magazine, or ask them to write a poem that has exactly 111 words.

When cooking…

If your child enjoys cooking, engage their creative side by setting fun challenges. Put away the recipe book and give your child 5 ingredients that they have to turn into a meal. This can be a fun and practical way of teaching your child how to adapt flexibly to an unfamiliar situation.

When travelling…

If you are going on a holiday or a camping trip, use it as an opportunity to develop your child’s lateral thinking skills. Encourage them to look at maps, plan potential walking routes, plan schedules, make lists of essential things you will need, and think of the most efficient way of packing their suitcase. They won’t even know how much they are learning while having a great experience.

When relaxing…

The newspaper is filled with word puzzles, Sudokus and cryptic crosswords that will encourage your child to develop their lateral thinking skills. These activities are great alternative to watching TV or playing video games on a lazy Sunday morning. If your child is interested in learning more about how to solve tricky cryptic crossword clues, check out this website.

How To Help Your Child Avoid Distractions While Studying

Distractions are everywhere. No matter how enthusiastic or dedicated your child is about their studies, we live in a world that is designed to divert their attention elsewhere. Surrounded by television, video games and mobile phones, it can be almost impossible for a student today to give 100% of their attention to their homework or study. However, there are some things you can do to make it easier for your child to avoid distractions; check out my top 5 tips!

1. Establish Boundaries Between Work And Relaxation

One of the main reasons that students get so distracted, particularly when studying or doing homework, is that there is very little difference between the space in which they study and the space in which they relax. A lot of students try to study on the couch, in bed, and in front of the TV. It’s only natural that they find it hard to switch into the serious, focused mindset required for study. In order to ensure that your child avoids distractions, it is important that they have a dedicated study area that they use only for their studies. This will help them establish firmer boundaries between study time and relaxation time.

2. Make Their Free Time Count

Just as it’s important for your child to be entirely focused on their studies during study time, it’s also important that they are able to fully relax during their free time. The best students are those that work hard for a period of time and then allow themselves to put away their work, close their computer and fully enjoy their free time. These students are the ones that will work extra hard to get their work done on time, because they know that they won’t be thinking about it all once it comes time to relax.

3. Focus On Short Term Goals

It’s a simple fact that it is much easier to focus on short-term goals than on long-term goals. For example, if your child has two weeks to write a long essay, it is likely that they will be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and find ways of distracting themselves until the last minute. If you asked them what they were working on, they would say “I’m working on my essay,” but this is vague and means nothing. Each night, your child should set a short-term goal that they can realistically achieve that night. If you ask them what they are working on, they should be able to say, “I am going through my books and making a list of important quotes to include in my essay” or “I am writing the first two paragraphs of my essay.” The more specific these short term goals are, the more likely it is that they will have to focus to get them done!

4. See To Their Basic Needs First

It is impossible to study effectively if you are hungry, thirsty of sleep deprived. The first step to ensuring that your child is able to focus effectively on their study is to make sure that they are well hydrated, well fed and have had a good night’s sleep the night before. Without these vital ingredients, your child’s brain will never be able to work at full capacity.

5. Set A Positive Example

Your child learns most of their qualities from you; you are the most important influence on their life. One of the best things you can do to help your child focus on their studies is demonstrate the ways in which you also focus on a similar task. For example, when I was young, my Mum would sit down at the dining room table with me while I did my homework and sort out all the bills, paperwork, and forms that she had to deal with that week. This set a positive example for me, and it made me feel like we were both working together to achieve our goals. And once we were both done, we could both relax and enjoy the rest of the night.

How To Raise An Active Reader

When it comes to enjoying a book with your child, there’s reading and there’s engaging. Reading simply involves reciting the words on the page and telling a story. Engaging, on the other hand, is what happens when you really get into a good book; it involves empathising with characters, predicting the outcome, examining the ideas presented, making connections to other experiences, questioning what you are reading, and exploring the imaginary world of the book. If you want your child to be an active and thoughtful reader, it is a good idea to teach them how to engage with a book from a young age. Here are 4 fun ways that you can help your child develop these skills next time you read together.

1. Ask Questions
Throughout the reading process, it is a great idea to ask your child questions and encourage them to ask questions about what is going on. These can be simple of asking your child to interpret what they have just heard “Why is this character sad?” You can also ask more complex questions which require your child to use their imagination, such as “What would you do if you were in this situation?” or “How do you think this story will end?” The more we ask questions about what we read, the more we engage with it.

2. Pick Characters
A fun way of engaging with stories is to assign a character to you and your child or children. This works especially well if you are reading to several children. You can ask your child to put on a voice and say what the character says, or even act out scenes from the story. This is also a great way of encouraging your child to use their imagination to empathise with the characters in the story. Taking on a character requires you to think about what they might be thinking and feeling, which requires young children to exercise their empathetic imagination.

3. Find Connections
Another great way to make the reading experience more meaningful for your child is to connect it to their own experiences. Ask them if they have ever been in a similar situation to the characters in the book. Ask them if a particular character reminds them of anyone that they know.

4. Be Creative
After reading a story with your child, your child’s imagination should be running wild. This is a great time to channel this energy into some form of creative project, whether it be an illustration, a model, a painting or a collage. The ability to respond creatively to a book is a fantastic skill for your child to learn, as it engages the higher level creative parts of their mind.

Active readers don’t just read with their eyes; they read with their minds, their imagination and their emotions. If you can raise your child to engage actively and creatively with what they are reading, then you have taught them an amazing skill that will give them a significant advantage throughout their 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!

“No Such Thing As Bad Student, Only Bad Teacher.” Really?

In the 1984 film, The Karate Kid, wise old karate master Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that there is “no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” Is this true?

What Mr. Miyagi is trying to emphasise is the importance of good teaching. Of course, the value of an inspiring, dedicated and experienced teacher cannot be underestimated. However, what Miyagi fails to take into account is that learning is a shared responsibility. No matter how good or bad a teacher is, a large portion of the responsibility must fall on the student. Ideally your child and their teacher are a team, working together to achieve a common goal. Today, I provide some examples on ways that teachers and students can work together to ensure that their time in the classroom is as successful as possible!

1. A good teacher… provides clear explanations.

Every great teacher I have ever had was able to explain difficult and unfamiliar concepts in a way that was easy to understand. They used real life situations, concrete examples and clear diagrams. They modelled methods and clearly demonstrate that what they are teaching you makes sense.

A good student… actively engages with explanations.

However, no matter how good a teacher’s explanations are, they will ultimately be unsuccessful unless your child is willing to actively engage with the explanations. This means they have to do more than just sit and listen. Actively engaging means taking notes, asking questions and trying examples. A good student will take it upon themselves to ensure that they have done everything in their power to understand what has been explained.

2. A good teacher… makes time to help each of their students individually.

Every student needs a bit of extra help once in a while. A good teacher is one that ensures that they set aside enough time to give each and every student the one-on-one assistance that they need.

A good student… knows how to make the most of this time.

When teachers sit down with a student to help them individually, they are usually faced with two types of questions:

1) “I don’t understand any of this. Can you help me?”


2) “I didn’t understand question 5c. I think I got the first bit correct, but I don’t know how to find the value of y.

As you can probably tell, the teacher will find it much easier to help the second student, because they have clearly taken the time and energy to work out specifically what they need help on. A teacher’s time is limited; the more your child can think ahead, reflect on their own weaknesses, and give ask specific questions, the more likely they are to receive the help that they need.

3. A good teacher… gives constructive criticism.

A good teacher never gives a mark on an essay or an assignment without letting the student know exactly why they got that mark. The more feedback a teacher gives, the easier it will be for students to improve in the future. The best kind of feedback is constructive criticism; it lets the student know what they did wrong, but also provides positive advice on how they can improve next time.

A good student… takes responsibility for their own performance.

Unfortunately, a lot of students like to fall back on excuses when it comes to feedback. They say things like “the teacher didn’t say why I got such a bad mark” or “they just gave me a bad mark because they didn’t agree with my opinion.” While this may be true in a very, very small minority of cases, these complaints more often come from students who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own performance. A good student makes sure to take all feedback on board and actively tries to incorporate it in their future work. If the feedback is unclear, a good student will politely ask their teacher for more advice on how they can improve.

5 Items In Every Successful Student’s Arsenal

Here’s a silly question: what makes Batman such a good superhero? He can’t fly, he doesn’t have super strength, he can’t breathe fire, teleport or shoot lasers from his eyes. So, what allows him to fight crime so successfully? The answer is simple: his equipment. Batman always ensures that, whatever challenge he faces, he always has the right tools for the job. Batman knows that you can’t just rely on your own personal skills to complete a difficult task, you need to have the right equipment.


So, what does this have to do with your child’s education? Well, just like Batman, your child can’t possibly face the challenges in front of them without the right tools. Without the necessary equipment, even the brightest student will find school challenging. So check out my list of 5 vital items that every successful student should have in their arsenal…

1. A Diary

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Time Management

How does it do that?

No matter how old your child is, it is never too early for them to learn time management and organisation skills. The ability to keep track of assignments, homework and other responsibilities using a diary or study planner is one of the most valuable skills that they can learn. The human brain is an amazing thing, but it can’t be expected to keep track of every important piece of information!


2. Coloured Pens and Pencils

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Memory, Organising Ideas

How does it do that?

Colour is a truly under-appreciated tool when it comes to memorising and organising information. Students who use a variety of colours when taking notes or revising for a test are far more likely to retain the information they record. This is because our brains are very visual; the more visually unique a passage of writing is, the more likely it is that it will stick in our minds. Colour is also a great tool when it comes to mind mapping and organising ideas, as it allows students to show connections between different pieces of information.


3. A Highlighter 0940826063

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Reading comprehension

How does it do that?

When given a piece of writing, good students read it, but great students engage with it. The more that a student engages with a text, examining the ideas, picking out key words and considering the argument, the deeper their understanding of what they are reading will be. A highlighter is a great tool to improve a student’s reading comprehension skills. Highlighting important passages in a piece of writing is an extremely effective way of immediately increasing a student’s comprehension.


4. A Drink Bottle

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Focus and concentration

How does it do that?

A majority of students don’t drink enough water. This may sound like an insignificant problem, but dehydration is one of the main causes of students feeling unmotivated, unfocused and unsettled at school. A healthy body means a healthy mind, and a healthy mind is an efficient and productive mind. Drink up!


5. A Book

How much does it cost?


What does it help you with?

Almost everything

How does it do that?

There is no underestimating the magical power of reading. Reading increases our vocabulary, understanding of spelling and grammar, general knowledge, comprehension skills, creativity, attention span, ability to empathise with other points of view and our ability to express ourselves effectively. A good student will always, always, always have a book close at hand.


So, how many of these vital items does your child have in their school bag? If not, then now’s the time to get packing. Don’t forget the collapsible jet-skates!

Making The Most Of Your Time

There are 24 hours in a day. 8 of those should be reserved for sleeping. For students, 8 more hours are usually taken up by school, including travelling time. This leaves 8 hours in which students must eat, shower, relax, socialise, exercise, complete their homework and study. Doesn’t sound like a lot of time, does it? A lot of students I speak to feel overwhelmed by the large amount of tasks they have to complete in this time. If they are studying for a test or exam, working on a difficult assignment or simply trying to stay ahead, students can often feel as if time is ticking away too quickly. In worst case scenarios, students sacrifice sleep and leisure time to keep up with their responsibilities. Does this sound like a familiar story? If so, then my 4 tips on how to make the most of your time are sure to get you back on track!


1. Do Small Tasks Everyday

Imagine if, every month, you had to brush your teeth for an entire hour without stopping. Or, imagine if, once a year, you had to take your dog for a 112 kilometre walk. Sounds tough, doesn’t it? It’s much easier to break these tasks down: brush your teeth for 2 minutes every day and take your dog for 2 kilometre walk every week. Often, students forget that they can treat their studies in exactly the same way. Students feel pressured for time when they try to complete a large task, such as writing an essay, all at once. The trick is to break this task down into a number of smaller tasks and, most importantly, do at least one of these tasks every day. Instead of waiting until you have 3 hours free to sit down, plan and write a full essay, take half an hour each day to do a little bit of the job. You will find that the seemingly immense task suddenly becomes much more easy to handle.


2. Have A To Do List

When I am feeling under pressure, I find that it is always a good idea to write a list of things I have to do. Writing a to do list can be intimidating, especially if it is a long list, but it is not meant to overwhelm you. You should use it as a chance to prioritise your tasks, figure out how each task can be broken down into smaller jobs, and how much time you need to spend on each job. The more you can actively take control and plan what it is you need to do, the more chance you have of working efficiently and effectively under a time limit. As the saying goes “measure twice, cut once.”


3. Work In Efficient Blocks

Have you noticed that, after an hour or more of hard study, your brain starts to become a bit useless? This is because the brain, like any other part of your body, gets tired after being used for an extended period of time. Students who continue studying for hours on end, long past the point where their minds are losing focus, are not making the most of their time. While an hour’s worth of work at night is good, an hour’s worth of work at 2 in the morning, when your mind is wandering and you are working inefficiently, is not nearly as valuable as a good night’s sleep. In order to study and work as efficiently as possible, you need to make sure you work in efficient blocks. Study for an hour and then take a break before returning to study. The extra time spent resting and recovering will definitely pay off.


4. Make The Most Of Wasted Time

Spare time can be found in the most unexpected places. Think about your day. Are there any periods of time that you could be using more efficiently? Could you look over your spelling words while you brush your teeth each day? Could you read a chapter of your English book on the way to school? Could you mute the television and do a maths problem during each commercial break? These moments of time, while small, can add up. I’m not suggesting that you need to study every moment of every day; good relaxation time is not wasted time. But if you took all the minutes that you spend staring blankly out the window, playing on your phone and watching ads for vacuum cleaners on TV, you might just find that you get a LOT done.


How do you make the most of your time? Let me know in the comments!

What to do if your child is falling behind?

If your child is falling behind at school, it can often feel as if they are stuck in an impossible situation. While they are struggling to keep up with the rest of the class, the course work keeps getting harder and harder. Fortunately, there are ways of breaking this cycle. Check out our top 5 things to do if your child is falling behind at school.

1. Help Them Master Mathematical Operations

You have to learn to walk before you can run. A lot of students who fall behind at mathematics do so because they have not yet mastered their basic mathematical operations. Skills such as times tables, long division, multi-digit addition, subtraction and multiplication, decimals and fractions provide the foundation of even the most complex mathematical questions. Without a firm grasp of these basic operations, it is unlikely that your child will be able to keep up with the rest of the class. So, if your child is struggling in mathematics, a simple 10 minute revision of basic mathematical operations each night can dramatically increase their chances of keeping up with their class at school.


2. Expand Their Vocabulary

One of the most common traits of students who fall behind in English is that they have a lot of great ideas, but lack the ability to express them. Expressing ourselves through language is one of the most difficult skills that human beings develop, and it is one that students must consistently strive to improve. You can help your child to expand their vocabulary by providing them the opportunity to read widely, and by encouraging them to seek out the meaning of words that they do not understand. If your child asks you what a word means, encourage them to look it up and report back to you. Then, see if they can use it in a sentence. You can also challenge your child to come up with as many synonyms as possible for a particular word. For example, how many words can you think of that mean “big”? Huge, colossal, gigantic, epic, mountainous, grand, significant, enlarged, overgrown, immense, massive, humungous, copious…


3. Improve Their Reading Comprehension

On top of writing, the ability to read and understand texts is another vital skill that every student requires to succeed. Students that lack the ability to engage with texts will often struggle and fall behind in their classes. The good news is, reading comprehension is one of the easiest skills you can practice. All it requires is for you to ask your child questions about what they are reading, watching or playing. While this may annoy your child if you do it formally, it can also be a good way of connecting if you sincerely show interest in what they are enjoying. You may have to do your own research so they you are able to ask relevant questions and understand their answers. Here are some questions that you might ask about your child’s favourite book/movie/TV show/video game…


Who is your favourite character?

Why do you relate to them so much?

What would you do differently if you were in their situation?

What do you think the moral of this story is?

How does this world differ from the real world?

Who is the author/director?

What do you think the author/director has done to make this so enjoyable?

What do you think will happen next?


The more your child thinks about the media that they are coming in contact with, the more natural it will feel when they are asked to answer similar questions about texts they read at school.


4. Help Them Get Organised

Albert Einstein once asked, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” While I’m not sure I agree with his point, I agree that there is an obvious relationship between the state of one’s desk and the state of one’s mind. No matter how intelligent a student might be, they will inevitably struggle with their school work if they cannot keep their diary, study space and school notes organised efficiently. If your child is falling behind at school, it may be worthwhile to dedicate some time to developing a system that they can use to take care of their notes. You can even encourage good habits in a more fun setting, by encouraging your child to develop a system to organise their music, photos or video game collection.


5. Get Help

Quite often, parents don’t get to find out that their child is falling behind at school until parent teacher interviews or, even worse, when the report arrives in the mail. The problem with this is that parents are often given a very limited indication of which areas their child is struggling with and what they can do to help. If you are concerned that your child might be falling behind at school, or you would just like to get a realistic assessment of your child’s strengths, weaknesses and capacity to grow and improve, then why not book in for a free assessment at one of our campuses. We can tell exactly what level your child is at, exactly which areas they find difficult, and exactly what you need to do to get them back on track!

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.

Click here to subscribe

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!


How To Get The Most Out Of Practice Tests

If your child is preparing for a Selective Schools or Scholarship exam, then they may be using the summer holidays as a chance to have a go at some practice tests. Practice tests can be a great way for students to study and assess their abilities before a big exam. They are a great way of showing students what it takes to achieve success on their actual exam. However, if not taken properly, practice tests may not be as effective as you might think. Today, I give you my tips for how your child can get the most out of their practice tests these holidays.

1. Before the Test

There’s no point just jumping straight into a practice test without preparing; if you do, you’re unlikely to get the most out of it. Before completing a practice test, you should have a clear idea of what the test will cover. It may be a good idea to have a list of all the areas covered on the test, and make a note of which areas you are confident in and which you are not. A practice test is a great way to consolidate your study, but it should not be used as a means of study on its own.

2. During the Test

As much as possible, you should try to take practice tests under proper test conditions. Give yourself an appropriate timeframe, limit yourself to the allowed resources (don’t use a dictionary calculator if you’re not allowed one on the actual test) and try to take the test as seriously as possible. If you think you know the answer to a question, try to show your working so that you can remember it and check it later. If you are unsure of the answer to a question, don’t just guess; make a note beside that question so you will know to look over it later.

3. After the Test

This is the most important part of a practice test. Too many students just correct their practice test, look at their score and shrug. Good students analyse their results. By going over your practice test closely, you can figure out the following things.

-Whether you have improved since your last test

-Which areas you are confident with

-Which areas you need to focus on in the future

-What common mistakes you are making

-Whether or not you are able to work within a time limit

It is a good idea to spend some time after every test analysing your performance. Identify areas that you need to focus on in the future and make a plan for how you can do so. When you sit your next practice test, you can see whether you have improved in these areas, and plan from there.

Spectrum Tuition offers a range of practice test packs for students sitting Scholarship or Selective Schools exams. To find out more, check out our website or call us free on 1800 668 177.

[fblike url=”facebook.com/spectrumtuition” style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]

[twitter_follow username=”spectrumtuition” language=”en”]


6 Education Apps For The Summer Holidays

Kids today are far more exposed to technology than ever before. With the summer holidays on their way, you can expect to see fewer kids playing in the park and riding their bikes and more kids glaring at their video games, computers, mobile phones and iPads. There are obvious downsides to this increased technologisation of childhood; there is no doubt that parents should strictly limit the time that their child spends in front of a screen each day. But it is not all doom and gloom. While new technologies may have negative side effects, they also offer valuable opportunities, particularly for your child’s education. Many teachers and education experts are coming to recognise that tablets such as the iPad, if used correctly, can play a valuable role in engaging students in their education. If your child is going to spend a large portion of their holidays playing on an iPad, wouldn’t you prefer they be doing something that will expand their minds, ignite their curiosity and put them in a better position to succeed at school next year? If so, check out my list of 6 great educational apps for the summer holidays. I have arranged them by recommended age to make sure you can find the best match for your child!

For Early Primary Students:

1. Tell Time – Little Matchups Game

Cost: Free

Ages: 4-8

This app is for younger kids who are learning to tell the time. It uses colourful animations and friendly characters to teach young kids how to read clocks in a fun and engaging way. Even better, it could easily be a great way to keep a Prep or Grade 1 child entertained while out shopping or visiting friends.

Check it out!

2. rED Writing – Learn to Write

Cost: $2.99

Ages: 4-8

This is the only app currently on iTunes that teaches children how to write letters and numbers using the Australian education approved fonts. If your child is still mastering the fine art of writing, then this is the app for them. This app is especially useful on the summer holidays, because this is the time when students are most likely to forget all of their valuable handwriting skills. rED Writing will ensure that when February comes, your child can still write their letters and numbers well.

Check it out!

For Primary Students:

3. Planets

Cost: Free

Ages: 8-14

Description: Planets is a free interactive 3D guide to our solar system. Children can easily navigate their way between the planets, learn interesting facts about each one and get an impression of the scale and magnitude of our solar system. This app is a great way to get kids excited about space. Combine it with a toy telescope under the Christmas tree or a trip to a planetarium or Scienceworks, and you’re sure to have an avid astronomer on your hands.

Check it out!

5. Comic Life

Ages: 8-14

One of the greatest benefit of new technology is that it empowers kids to express their creative side more than every before. Comic Life is a photo comic creation app. It allows kids to take photos of themselves, friends and family and turn them into a full comic narrative, with speech balloons, photo filters, templates, shapes, shadows and effects. The finished comics can even be used as cheap but personalised Christmas presents for family. The great thing about this app is that it won’t even seem like an “educational” app; your child might not even know that they are learning anything. Nevertheless, the ability to come up with and tell a story in an organised, creative and expressive manner is a valuable skill for students of all ages.

Check it out!

For Primary and Early High School Students:

4. Factor Samurai

Cost: $2.99

Ages: 8-16

Factor Samurai is a great way to learn times tables. You play as the samurai whose sacred duty is to cut all the numbers down to their prime factors. The game-play is similar to the popular “Fruit Samurai” game, but players are required to use their times tables skills as well as their reflexes. The ability to factorise large numbers quickly and accurately is a skill that will help your child from primary school to VCE; and if they can have fun while learning how to do so, everybody wins!

Check it out!

6. Geoboard, by The Math Learning Center

Cost: Free

Ages: 10-16

The Geoboard is a tool for exploring a variety of mathematical topics introduced in the higher years of Primary school and early years of High school. The app is great because it allows students to physically explore and interact with various areas of geometry. Students stretch bands around pegs to form line segments and polygons and make discoveries about perimeter, area, angles, congruence, fractions, and more.

Check it out!

Of course, these are only a few of the hundreds of education apps out there. Feel free to explore and find a program that is well suited to your child’s interest and areas of difficulty. The summer holidays are certainly not meant to be rigorous period of study, but if you can get your child engaged and excited about their education while they are relaxing and having fun (and if you can find a healthy balance between screen-based games, fresh air and exercise) then it’s a win-win!


What Can We Learn From Video Games?

To make a very obvious statement, most students would prefer to play video games than study for a test. As a parent, this will probably not come as much as a surprise to you. But when you think about it, it’s amazing how much energy and dedication children and teenagers put into their games. They often spend hours mastering new skills, solving problems and overcoming obstacles. They work tirelessly and enthusiastically, quitting only when their goals are achieved.pac

If only they could put as much effort into their school work, right?

Instead of dismissing this as natural, I think it’s about time we start looking closer at video games, and what exactly makes them so engaging to children. By looking at the way children like to work, play and learn within video games, its possible to learn a lot about how we can make their schoolwork and homework more enjoyable, engaging and productive. This field of thought is commonly known as Gamification. Gamification is a teaching technique that uses game design and game mechanics in order to make education more engaging and successful. Gamification recognises that there is something special about the way in which people play games, than can be used to enhance the education experience. Most students love playing games because:

-They are interactive

-They progress from easy to difficult in a coherent way

-They reward you for your hard work

-The more you play, the more experience you gain

When we look at this list, the appeal of video games no longer looks so mysterious. We start to think “Why can’t we use these ideas in teaching and learning? Why can’t schoolwork and homework be this engaging?”


The answer is, they can!


At Spectrum Tuition, we take Gamification seriously.  Each tutor has their own unique way of making their classes as interactive, engaging and rewarding as possible. Tutors use sticker charts, incentive systems, and student awards to make sure students are excited about their time in class.

But what can you, as a parent, do?

Think about ways in which you can Gamify your child’s homework. Here are some ideas.


1. Establish an incentive system in which your child accumulates points by doing homework or improving their grades. Even if the incentive system is just symbolic, your child will associate hard work with positive feelings of achievement.


2. Make a note of your child’s “high scores”, such as how long it takes them to answer 20 times-tables questions, and then encourage them to try to beat their score next time. This encourages students to be competitive with themselves.


3. Link achievement to rewards. For example, if your child does all their homework and study for 5 weeks in a row, take them to a movie. This gives them a long-term goal to work towards.


4. Emphasise progress. Remind your child how much they have learned and how much progress they have made. You may use a chart to show the increase in their quiz scores over time. Alternatively, you can have a set of goals that you can gradually tick off together to show that their hand work is paying off.


5. Set the right level of difficulty. When setting study goals with your child, make sure that their goal is not too easy, but not too hard. A good goal is one that your child will have to work hard to achieve, not one that is impossible. If it’s too easy, your child won’t feel challenged; if it’s too hard, they are likely to give up.


[fblike url=”facebook.com/spectrumtuition” style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]

[twitter_follow username=”spectrumtuition” language=”en”]



What Is Your Child Reading This Summer?

The school year is reaching an end, the holidays are approaching and all parents have one looming question on their mind: “How will I keep my child busy over the summer?” Of course, the summer holidays are a great time for students to see friends, relax, get outdoors, visit family and refresh their tired minds for another year of hard work. But the Christmas holidays are also a great time to get enthusiastic about reading. There is no doubt that students who read for pleasure have a distinct advantage at school; they have larger vocabularies, their comprehension skills are more advanced, they will have a firmer grasp on spelling and grammar and they are more likely to be able to respond to problems in a more creative and original way. If your child is not already an avid reader, then the school holidays are a perfect time to convert them.

If your child is starting high school in the next few years, it is vital that they develop good reading habits. When they get to high school, they will be required to read novels independently and discuss complex ideas in their classes. Unfortunately, students between the ages of 11-14 are often the pickiest when it comes to what they read. The good news is, Australia has countless talented authors who are producing some amazing books for pre-teens and teenagers of all interests. Here is just a small sample of the range of Australian Young Adult novels out there; slip one or two of these in your child’s stocking this Christmas and help them develop good reading habits that will help them throughout their education!


Fire in the Sea

Myke Barlett











Sadie is sixteen and bored with life in Perth. It’s summer, and lazing on the beach in the stifling heat with her cousins and Tom is a drag. Then something comes out of the sea. Dark menacing forms attack an old man, leaving him for dead and Sadie wracking her brains to understand what she saw. Then there’s a mysterious inheritance, a strange young man called Jake and a horned beast trampling the back yard.

Sadie finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient conflict that is nearing its final battle, a showdown that threatens to engulf Perth and all those she loves in a furious tsunami.


Life in Outer Space

Melissa Kell











Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft u and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, worry about girls he won’t. Then Camilla Carter arrives on the scene.

She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his plan. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a plan of her own u and he seems to be a part of it! Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies. But perhaps he’s been watching the wrong ones.


A Fine Mess

Norman Jorgensen











Michael Hardy and Woody Decker have a talent for creating disaster. While testing a replica Roman catapult they accidentally fire a brick through the church window, and so a month of mayhem is unleashed. The school library burns down, the principal is knocked unconscious, a huge dog runs amok, a wedding is totally wrecked and a regiment of garden gnomes is massacred. Could anything else go wrong? Uproariously funny and witheringly witty, A Fine Mess! will have you laughing out loud and begging for mercy.


Tomorrow, When the War Began

John Marsden

 tomorrow when the war began









Six teenagers spend five idyllic days camping in a remote and tranquil beauty spot called Hell. But when they return to their homes they find their families gone, their farms deserted and the animals lying dead in the fields. That’s when they begin to understand the real meaning of hell.


All I Ever Wanted

Vikki Wakefield











Mim knows what she wants, and where she wants to go – anywhere but home, stuck in the suburbs with her mother who won’t get off the couch, and two brothers in prison. She has set herself rules to live by, but she’s starting to break them. Now Mim has to retrieve a lost package for her mother. Does this make her a drug runner? Why is a monster dog called Gargoyle hidden in the back shed? And Jordan, the boy she sent Valentines to for years, why is he now suddenly a creep? How come there’s a huge gap between her and her best friend, Tahnee? And who is the mysterious girl next door who moans at night? Over the nine days before her seventeenth birthday, Mim’s life turns upside down. She has problems, and she’s determined to solve them herself. But in the end, she works out who her people are, and the same things look entirely different.


Deadly, Unna?

Phillip Gwynne











Deadly, Unna? is one year in the life of fourteen year-old Gary ‘Blacky’ Black. Like most boys his age,he plays football, worries about what to say to girls, shirks responsibility and has problems at home. However, through his brief friendship with Dumby Red, one of the local Aborigines, Blacky learns important lessons about human dignity, racism, justice, death, courage, family and friendship


We’d love to hear your experiences of getting children to read. What is your child reading this summer? Is your child an avid reader, or do they have a morbid phobia of books? What genre/style of books does your child find particularly interesting? Can you recommend any authors or titles? Let us know.

[fblike url=”facebook.com/spectrumtuition” style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]

[twitter_follow username=”spectrumtuition” language=”en”]


The Importance of Failure

No student likes to perform poorly at school; nobody enjoys finding out that they have not achieved their goals. Nobody likes to fail. For students, failure does not always just mean getting an F on a test or an exam; it could mean getting negative comments on their attitude in their reports, achieving an average mark when they expected an excellent mark, getting a detention, receiving negative feedback, or simply failing to hand in all of their assignments on time.

When I was at school, I had moments like these, moments in which I felt upset or disappointed with myself. Fortunately, I had some very clever parents. They taught me that making mistakes was an important part of education. They told me that every failure was an opportunity to learn something new, and to improve next time. Failing to achieve your goals is an unpleasant experience, but today I will share the top 4 ways that you can help your child to use their mistakes to their advantage.


Test Grade


1. Taking Responsibility

There is one very easy way to spot a student who will be successful. They are not necessarily the ones that always get perfect marks on their tests and assignments; they are the ones who take responsibility for their own failure and their own success. The worst thing a student can say when they receive a bad mark is “the teacher marked me too harshly” or “everyone else in the class did badly too” or “this test doesn’t matter anyway.” By contrast, good students are the ones that know that they are in control of their performance at school. The teacher can only do so much; it is the student who must work hard, try new approaches, plan their own study schedule and set their own goals.

Whenever your child performs poorly at school, ask them what they can do better to improve next time. This doesn’t mean you should load blame on them; instead encourage them to think about what their goals are, what they might be doing wrong at the moment and what they can do to reach their goals more effectively in the future.


2. Becoming Flexible

Famous American inventor, Thomas Edison, famously said “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” One of the main reasons that Edison was so successful in his endeavours was that he always viewed failure as an opportunity. Every time he made a mistake, he learned not to repeat it.

A good student understands that failure is not a sign that they should give up; it is a valuable lesson about what works and what does not. A good student thinks about what they have done, why it has been unsuccessful, and decides to try something new. They might create a new study schedule, use a new way of memorising notes, or form a study group. They might realise that their way of approaching a particular question does not always work, and that they need to learn new techniques. The important thing is, in all cases, they have learned something new that will help them be more successful next time.

It is a good idea to encourage your child to analyse their successes and their failures. What factors might have influenced their performance? What does/doesn’t work? Is their something they can try next time?


3. Finding Your Limits

A student that is always pleased with their performance is a student who doesn’t push their limits. I knew many people in school who easily got As and Bs on every test. They never really slacked off, but they never pushed themselves either. They never had to experience failure. They were comfortable. Unfortunately, comfortable does not equal success.

If your child always sets goals that they can easily achieve, then they might not be aiming high enough. A student who is easily getting Bs on all of their tests should aim for an A. A student who is always getting As should aim to get 100%. They may not succeed at first, but they will have a clearer idea of what it will take to succeed next time.What’s more, they will be reminded that there are things that they still don’t know, things they still have to learn. The best way to motivate a student is to set them a goal that is just beyond their reach; it is about finding a goal that is achievable, but not so much so that they can immediately succeed.


4. Getting Motivated

When a student receives a disappointing mark on a quiz or an assignment, they will have one of 2 possible reactions:

  1. I studied hard and I still got a bad mark. What’s the point in trying?
  2. I got a bad mark. I want to do better than this. I’m going to make sure I do better next time.

Guess which student will end up performing better when it comes to exam time? As a parent, one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the ability to be motivated by failure. This can be as easy as helping your child set new goals and focus on what’s next. It’s easy to fixate on a poor performance, but it is important to encourage your child to believe that they have the ability to do better next time. Do not punish failure, but use it as a chance to talk about goals and motivation.

The key to success, especially for students, in understanding that failure is not the end. It is an opportunity to learn, grow and perform better in the future. And I am not the only one who thinks so. To prove it, I will leave you with my 5 favourite quotes about failure, from 5 extremely successful individuals throughout history.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.
-Michael Jordan
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
-Thomas Edison
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.
-Bill Gates
“The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas.”
-Albert Einstein


Getting The Most Out Of Your Study

I like to think that study is like exercise; you’re working hard to train a part of your body (in this case, the brain) to perform a certain task as well as possible. The harder and more efficiently you train, the more likely it is that you will succeed on game day. At this very moment, year 12 students across the country are pushing their brains to the limits, in the final stretch before their exams.


When an athlete is preparing for a big event, they often put a lot of thought into their training; they concentrate on diet, liquid intake, tracking progress, managing the amount of sleep they get, avoiding injuries and making sure they are psychologically prepared for their event. To put it simply, athletes are very good not just at working hard, but figuring out the most efficient way of doing so. Students, on the other hand, are not.

I see too many students with very poor study habits: they pull “all nighters”, they skip meals, they fill up on sugary snacks and energy drinks and they gaze blankly at page after page of notes, wondering why the information isn’t sticking in their mind. Would a professional athlete get away with such poor habits? No. And if your child really wants to perform well on their exams, then neither should they. So, on this note, today’s blog will be dedicated to providing tips on how your child can get the most out of their study time, and make the jump from amateur to pro!


1. Take Productive Breaks

Study does not follow mathematical rules. Some students assume that if they can get x amount of work done in 1 hour, then they can get 2x done in 2 hours, and 5x done in 5 hours. This is not so. The brain, like any other part of the body, gets fatigued over time. A student that studies non stop for 5 hours will usually find that the last 2 or so hours were completely wasted; they got distracted, unfocused and forgot most of what they learned.


This is not to say that students shouldn’t do much study; it just means that they need to be clever about how and when to take breaks. In my opinion, students should aim to take a 20 minute break every 1-2 hours. This means getting up from their desk, getting snack or something to drink and getting some fresh air. Taking regular breaks has two benefits. Firstly, it allows students to refresh their minds, clear their heads and start again with renewed energy. Secondly, it means that students will be more productive during work time; it is more likely that they will be motivated to work hard if their know that they can relax later.


2. Ask Yourself Questions

People love questions. All exciting books, movies and television shows rely on unanswered questions. Will the main character survive the explosion? Will the couple fall in love by the end of the movie? Who was the jewel thief? When the brain is given an unanswered question, it creates what is called a knowledge gap. A knowledge gap is something mysterious, something just out of reach, that you don’t know, but you really want to find out.

Questions and Answers signpost

So, what does this have to do with study? Knowledge gaps, as it turns out, can also be used to make study more rewarding, engaging and efficient. Students who ask themselves questions before studying are more likely to be motivated to search for an answer. Before your child delves blindly into their notes, they should write does some questions that they hope to answer. For example:

-How do I antidifferentiate logs?

-How does Shakespeare use symbolism within his sonnets?

-What was the name of the psychologist who invented the concept of Classical Conditioning?

-How am I supposed to solve question 13 from my last practice exam?

Already, your child is becoming more focused and curious about what they are about to study. Instead of just cruising through their notes, they will be hunting for answers. These questions are also a great way of gauging how successful a study session has been; if they can answer the questions by the end of their study session, they have been successful. If they can still answer the questions a week later, even better!


3. Activate Your Feelings

Close your eyes and think of the most memorable experience of your life. How do you remember it? Do you remember the sensations: how you felt, what you saw, what you heard, the smells and tastes that you encountered? Or do you remember words? Think about the last great book that you read. Do you remember what the characters looked like, what the location was like and how it made you feel, or do you remember the exact words?


Here’s the thing: the memory doesn’t like remembering words. Memories, more often than not are made up of sights and sounds and emotions. The more sensations and emotions that are in a memory, the stronger it will be. This applies to study. The more your child can use visual and emotional cues in their study, the more likely it is that information will stick in their head. Here are a few ways that they can do this.

-Use colour-coded highlighters to identify different ideas

-Use mind-maps to organise information

-Use acronyms or nemonics to remember lists of words

-Use a spatial location to remember information. Imagine all the things you have to remember sitting in different locations in your house.

-Try to develop emotional connections to characters, events within English texts.


4. Talk About It

Quite often, the best way to learn something is to teach it. This may sound strange, but it’s true. If you have to explain a concept to someone who is unfamiliar with it, your mind finds ways of breaking it down, making sense of it and simplifying it. If you can put a concept into words that easy to understand, then it is more likely that you will remember it in the long term.


I used to use this trick a lot when I way studying for my ATAR score. Fortunately for me, my mum used to like to ask a lot of questions about what I was doing over dinner. What’s your essay about? What does this poem mean? How did you solve that equation? What’s kinetic energy? Fortunately, by that point I had gotten over my moody teenage stage, so instead of ignoring her, I tried my best to explain everything to her. Sometimes, I would have to draw her diagrams, or give her step-by-step instructions. And the more I did this, the more confident I felt, and the more things started to make sense to me.


5. Look After Your Body

 The brain is not a computer; it is part of your body. It needs food, drink, sleep and exercise. If it is looked after, it will perform well. If it is neglected, it will not perform as needed. Students forget this far too often. They forget that, quite often, a good night’s sleep, a healthy meal, lots of water and regular exercise can do just as much good as an extra few hours of study. Looking after your body can help to increase focus, improve memory, enhance energy and reduce stress and anxiety. If your child needs a reminder of this, show them the following list.

 Things that your brain likes

-8 hours of sleep each night

-Half an hour of exercise each day

-Fresh air

-Study breaks

-Big, healthy meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner

-Fruit and vegetables

-Lots of water

-Talking to people

Things that your brain hates

-Energy drinks

-Too much coffee

-Too much sugar

-Late nights


-Lack of physical exercise

-Lack of fresh air

-Looking at screens for too long

-Lack of social interraction

Too much facebook


Just like a professional athlete looks after and trains their body, your child needs to think about how they are treating their mind. Hard work, does not always equal success; it is not necessarily how hard your child works, but how cleverly, efficiently and productively their use their time that will determine how happy they will be when the ATAR scores arrive. If they can step back, think about their habits, and make plans to get the most of their study, their brain will thank them.

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.



Four Forgotten Skills Your Child Needs To Master


There are many ways that teachers and parents assess children’s intelligence: problem solving skills, mathematical ability, memory, spelling and grammar skills, general knowledge, comprehension, motivation and, of course, test scores. The problem is, the more we focus on these obvious skills, the more we overlook other very important components to success. Some students do amazingly on all of their tests, have great general knowledge and amazing memories and still don’t do as well as they want to when it really matters: on their VCE exams. Why? The answer is because we assume that


This could not be further from the truth. Success is made up of many different skills and abilities. Today, I wanted to talk about the 4 forgotten skills that all successful students possess, and other students often ignore.

1. Handwriting

In comparison to students of the past, today’s students spend very little of their time actually writing by hand. Classes today are often computer based, and students just aren’t used to writing by hand for an extended period of time. This is a problem when it comes to exams. In their exams, students will be required to write almost nonstop for up to 3 hours! If they haven’t practiced their handwriting, their hands won’t be able to cope with the strain; it’s like trying to run a marathon without any training. They may not finish their essays or, even worse, their examiners might not be able understand what they have written. On the other hand, a student who is able to write quickly and clearly without any discomfort will have an amazing advantage over other students. It may seem silly, but practicing handwriting is a worthwhile investment for your child.

2. Organisation

There are a few things that students aren’t taught in high school; one of them is organisation. Teachers will assume that your child has an efficient system of storing their notes, keeping track of their assignments and revising before exams. If they don’t, their studies will soon turn into a chaotic, panicky mess. Yet its amazing how many students don’t value organisation; they assume that, if they are clever enough, or work hard enough, they will be OK. The truth is, no matter how intelligent you are, organised study will always be more efficient and productive that disorganised study.

 3. Self Awareness

Students are often terrible at this one. They lie to themselves, they make excuses, they exaggerate their abilities and ignore their shortcomings, they tell themselves that difficult things don’t matter, that small things won’t add up to big things and that everything will be OK in the end. Successful students, on the other hand, are honest with themselves. They know what they are doing well, and they know their weaknesses. They recognise when they have made a mistake and they work on improving themselves. Successful students are able to look at themselves in the mirror and ask:

  • What am I doing well?
  • What do I need to improve?
  • How will I improve?
  • What don’t I understand?
  • How can I do to find out the answers I need?
  • Am I doing enough to achieve my goals?
  • What else can I do?

This activity is not intended to make students feel guilty. Rather, it is meant to encourage them to take responsibility for their own performance and realise that they alone have the power to achieve success.

4. Creativity

Creativity is not just about being able to paint beautiful pictures or tell interesting stories. Creativity is the ability to look at a difficult situation and thing “what are the different ways that I can approach this.” There are some students out there who have one way of dealing with a problem. Whether it is a maths question or an essay prompt, they have one direct solution that they like to use every time.

The problem is, if this doesn’t work, the student becomes stuck.

A creative student is a student who knows that there is many ways to approach and interpret a question. If one formula doesn’t work, they try another. If they can’t think of enough evidence for one argument in their essay, they come up with another argument.

Creativity is not an easy thing to teach; it requires students to ask themselves questions.

  • Is that the only way I could have gotten that answer?
  • What if I had done something else? Would I have gotten the same answer?
  • How would someone in a different situation approach this question?
  • Is my answer the only answer? What might the opposing view be?

As you can see, intelligence alone is not enough to ensure success. It is far more complex.


There is no doubt that there is more to this formula that I have missed. What else do you think contributes to success? What else could we add? Let me know in the comments!

VCE Success Is Doing One Thing Each Day

[fblike url=”https://www.facebook.com/SpectrumTuition” style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”1200″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]

The older a student gets, the more they will be expected to work independently and set their own study habits. Whilst, in primary school and in the early years of high school, students are told exactly what they should be doing with their time, VCE students are expected to set their own study schedules. A lot of VCE students find this terrifying! To them, the task of studying hard in roughly 6 different subjects over the course of 2 years and achieving an ATAR score seems an impossibly huge task. When this happens, students can often become paralysed by the enormity of their task.


“How am I supposed to do all of this?” they often ask.

The metaphor of the mountain is a good way of thinking about this. No matter how strong a person is, there is no way that they could lift an entire mountain. Could you? In a similar sense, no matter how gifted a student is, there is no way they can possibly achieve VCE success overnight. So, how do we move this gigantic VCE mountain?

The answer is simple. We break it up, and do one thing each day.


When you think about it, the larger goal “get a good ATAR score” can easily be broken into hundreds of smaller tasks:

-Update my art folio each week

-Rewrite my notes after each English class

-Finish reading my Literature text

-Write a revision sheet for my Physics SAC

-Ask my Biology teacher to explain photosynthesis to me again

-Make a plan for my Psychology report

-Do another draft of my Legal studies essay

-Revise my Japanese vocabulary words every Monday night…

The list goes on!

The interesting thing about these little tasks is that students often don’t think they make much of a difference. They assume that, because these tasks are small, they won’t make much of a difference to the final result. People are funny like that; we don’t like doing things unless we are rewarded instantly. We are terrible at thinking in the long term. So we say things like…

“I’ll do that later.”

“I’ll study hard closer to my exams.”

“Just one day off won’t hurt.”

“That topic is easy, I don’t really need to study for it.”

But here’s the truth… Listen carefully… Print it out and stick it up above your child’s desk…

It is the small tasks that make large goals achievable.

Successful people are the people who do something small every day.

Every day, your child should ask themselves: “What is one thing I can do today that will get me closer to my goal?” It may not be a huge task, it may not seem vital. The important thing is that each day, they are doing something.



Because over the course of 2 years…


Small things…


Have a tendency to build up…


Into larger things…




And that is how VCE success happens.


Does your child do something small each day, or do they try to “move a mountain” at the last minute? What are some things that your child can do TODAY to move closer to their goal? Share your experiences with us in the comments! [hr]

Don’t Forget To Share & Like This Article If You Found It Useful!

[fbshare type=”button”]

[fblike url=”https://www.facebook.com/SpectrumTuition” style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]

4 Main Hurdles Getting in the Way of VCE Success

The mid-year break is finished, and students are heading back for term 3. For students in year 12, this is often a time for panic. With SACs piling up and exams creeping closer and closer, students start to really feel the enormity of the task ahead of them. How your child faces the next few months will have a profound impact on their performance on their exams in November. Now is the time for them to get over their bad habits that are stopping them from achieving their full potential. Today, I will go through the 4 main hurdles getting in the way of VCE success, and give some tips for how you can help your child overcome them.


1. Lack of a Plan

Studying hard is important, but there is a big difference between planned study and unplanned study. A student who doesn’t have a plan will read through their notes, flip aimlessly through their textbook and struggle through a pile of practice exams. And they will ultimately miss something or get overwhelmed. The best thing your child can do at this stage of the year is to take a step back and ask themselves some questions: What do I need to know for the exam? Can I break down the course into several smaller topics? What areas do I have the most difficulty on? What should I revise first? By asking these questions, your child will be able to plan more clearly what they need to study and when.


2. Excuses

It is very easy to make excuses. As a tutor, I have heard them all.

“I got a bad mark on my SAC, but so did all my friends.”

“I couldn’t study for the test, because I had too much on that week.”

“I got a bad mark on the exam because my teacher didn’t explain it well.”

Sometimes, these reasons may be valid. But more often than not, students make excuses so that they don’t have to take responsibility for their own success or failure. This is a habit that should be discouraged. One of the most common traits of successful people is that they always take responsibility for their own fate. Successful people accept that their success and their failure are in their own hands, and work hard to achieve their goals. When your child performs poorly, ask them how they can improve next time; when they perform well, congratulate them and ask them what they did to perform so well. Show your child that their performance is up to them.


3. Distractions

This one is an obvious one. Video games, text messages, Skype, Facebook, TV, comics and movies are just a few of the things that can distract students from their studies. Year 12 students are especially good at distracting themselves; some students even clean their house to avoid studying! The best way to prevent your child from getting distracted is to separate work from leisure. Your child should have a specific time and place to relax, and a specific time and place to study. For example, your child should know that when they come home, they can relax for half and hour, then spend an hour at their desk working, then have dinner, relax and watch TV. If your child has a clear study timetable and a designated study space, they are far less likely to get distracted.


4. Fear

All VCE students feel scared, anxious or nervous sometimes. This is natural; year 12 is a stressful year. What is important is how your child handles their fears. There are always some students who let their anxieties overcome and become paralysed by their fear; they don’t know where to start studying, they make silly mistakes in their exams, and they start to give up. As a parent, the most important thing you can do for your child is to look after their emotional wellbeing. Talk to them about what they are worried about, and make plans to overcome these worries. If they are worried about a particular subject, it’s not too late to seek tutoring, and give their performance a much-needed boost. By making clear plans and getting organised at this time of year, you can turn your child’s fear, anxiety and nerves into motivations, determination and success.

Setting Up A Productive Study Space

By Chris Edwards

Here is a simple fact that I have always believed to be true: good, productive study cannot be done in front of the television, at the breakfast table, or in bed. No matter how clever your child might be, it is impossible for them to get the most out of their homework and study time if they are distracted. Students need a dedicated study space, free from distractions. If your child is in VCE, then this is all the more important. The mid-year holidays are almost here, and if your child does not have a dedicated study space to use throughout the break NOW is the time to create one. Today, I will give you 4 simple tips for setting up a productive, distraction free study space for your child.

1. Get Rid Of Distractions

Students are terribly easy to distract. If they have homework on their lap, a mobile phone by their side, and a television in front of them, what do you think will be taking up the best part of their attention? I can guarantee that it will not be their homework. A good study space is one that is removed from any potential distractions: a desk or a table in a quiet room in your house, away from television, telephones, video games and younger siblings. Your child should know that when they are in the lounge room or in the backyard, they are in relaxation mode; when they are at their desk, they are in study mode.

2. Make Sure All Resources Are Available

Once your child has a nice quiet working space, the next thing that might possibly distract them is a lack of resources. How many times has your child complained that he or she can’t do their homework because they don’t have the book/file/pens/eraser/pencil sharpener/papers that they need? Once your child starts looking for missing resources, their focus is broken and it is often hard for them to get back on track. Before your child starts studying, make sure they have all the resources that they will need close by. That way, they won’t have to leave their desk until their study is done.

3. Get Organised

A messy, disorganised desk is not a productive desk. Make sure your child has a system for organising their notes. You might want to invest in a set of drawers, in-trays, or folders so that your child can keep each of their subjects separated and organised. It is also a good idea to have a calendar or to do list on or above the desk, so that your child always knows what needs to be done and when.

4. Make Sure Your Child Is Comfortable

If your child is in VCE, they may often have to study for many long hours at a time. If their study space is not well set up, this can lead to a sore back, legs, arms and neck. My mum is a physiotherapist, so when I was in VCE she was always making sure that my seat was at the right height, my computer screen was not too close or too far from my eyes, and that I was sitting correctly. This may sound a bit pedantic, but it meant that I could focus on my study for longer, without getting sore and uncomfortable. For more information, there are a lot of great blogs online about office ergonomics, like this one. Worth a read!

Does your child have a dedicated study space that you find particularly effective? Do you have any tips to share with other parents? If so, let me know in the comments!


Why University Students Make Effective Tutors

Last week, a parent of one of our students was asking about our tutors. He wanted to know whether we hired any high school students to teach our classes. He was surprised when I told him that, at Spectrum Tuition, we only hire current university students. He told me that he had been to several centres that hire high school students, and was less than pleased with the results. This conversation got me thinking about what it is that makes a good tutor, and why it is that we believe that university students are best suited for this role. So, I decided to give you my top 5 reasons why university students make some of the most effective tutors. Have a read, and let me know your thoughts on this topic.

1. They are top performers

At Spectrum, we firmly believe that, in order to be a great teacher, you have to be a great learner. As such, we only hire high achieving university students. Our tutors have worked extremely hard in year 12, achieved ATAR scores in the high 90s, received offers from leading universities, and have gone on to be immensely successful in their tertiary studies. Our talented tutors are studying to become Australia’s next generation of successful doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, accountants and academics, and are enthusiastic about passing on their passion and knowledge to your child.

2. They are enthusiastic about what they teach

What’s the difference between a high school biology student, and a university student who is working hard to pursue their dreams of becoming a pediatric surgeon? What’s the difference between a high school English student, and a university student writing a doctoral dissertation of early 20th century American poetry? The answer is passion. Our tutors love what they teach, whether it be biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry or English. And there’s nothing they love more than sharing their enthusiasm with their students.

3. Their knowledge is current

There’s nothing worse than a teacher or tutor who is stuck in their old ways, who hasn’t learnt anything knew for the past decade and just repeats the same old information year after year. One of the greatest advantages of hiring university students as tutors is that they are always learning. Because they are immersed within the academic world of their chosen field, they are always up to date with the latest ideas and developments. And because they have all completed their secondary education within the last 5 years, you can be sure that they have a current and up to date understanding of what is required of VCE students today.

Not only are our tutors top performers in their chosen field, at Spectrum Tuition, they are required to undergo regular and ongoing teaching training and development to improve specific skills relating to structuring effective classes, crafting explanations, organisation, record keeping and classroom management. They are open to learning and are determined to make their classes engaging, challenging and fun.

4. They are becoming experts in their field

Good students are full of questions. No matter what you tell them, they will always want to know “why?” A bad tutor will shrug their shoulders and change the subject; an average tutor will consult a textbook for answers; a great tutor will always have an answer. University students make great tutors because they are becoming experts in their chosen field. Not only do they know everything there is to know about the VCE curriculum, they have a wealth of extended knowledge, making it easier to answer any difficult question that they might be faced with.

5. They can relate to students

Being university students, our tutors have been through a lot over the past few years: exams, assignments, essays, tutoring, deadlines, pressure and many late nights. Most importantly, our tutors have been through all of this and have come out successfully. They have achieved excellent scores and learned how to find a productive balance between work, study and relaxation. Not only can our tutors relate to everything your child is going through, they can help to show that, they can provide a positive example of how hard work and dedication can truly pay off in the long term.

There is no doubt that, in the media, young adults are often portrayed as unmotivated, selfish and self-entitled. From our experience, this stereotype could not be further from the truth. We believe that today’s generation of university students are highly motivated, hard working and passionate about learning. The tutors that we hire see tertiary education, not just as a means for getting a high paying job, but as a valuable environment for developing their skills and knowledge. And, most importantly, we find that they are all enthusiastic about the possibility of passing on their knowledge, work ethic and passion for education onto the next generation of students. And that, really, is what tutoring should be about.

But what are your thoughts? What do you think makes a good tutor? Let me know!

6 Easy Tips To Avoid Procrastination

Studying has never been easy, but in today’s world of Internet, social networking and smart phones, it is easier than ever for students to get distracted and procrastinate. Most students, even older students, have trouble keeping their minds on the task at hand. So today, I present 6 simple tips to avoid procrastination.

1. Get the worst out of the way

Procrastination is a common way of putting off something difficult or stressful. Encourage your child to avoid this by getting the worst task out of the way first. It is always better to get the hard work done as soon as possible; otherwise, your child will be worrying about it all day anyway.


2. Preparation is the Key

If students are not prepared for the task at hand, it is very easy to get distracted. How often have you heard phrases such as “I can’t write my essay now, I left my book at school,” or “I can’t work now, I need to get something to eat and grab a pen that works.” Encourage your child to make sure they are 100% prepared before they start working. They should have all the resources that they need in front of them so that they don’t have to stop working for any unnecessary reasons.


3. Set an achievable goal

The key to avoiding procrastination is knowing what needs to be done, and when it’s OK to call it quits. For this reason, it is vital that your child sets goals before they sit down to work. Instead of just “working on my essay”, they should plan to “finish a good copy of the first 3 paragraphs of my essay.” The more specific and achievable the goal is, the less likely it is that they will give up early and get distracted.


4. Allow for breaks

Students are not machines; they can not work all day and all night. It is important to take a small break at least every hour or so to eat, drink, relax, exercise or get some fresh air. Without this valuable leisure time, the mind grows weary and is much more easily distracted. Interestingly enough, a small break can often save time in the long run.


5. Share goals

The more that students share their goals with their family and friends, the less likely it is that they will give up on those goals. Students who share what they are doing and what they are working on are more likely to be motivated and encouraged to work hard, because they know that other people are paying attention. For this reason, it is a good idea to be interested in your child’s work; ask them what they are doing, and what they hope to achieve.


6. Do something!

The hardest part of starting a large assignment is getting started. There is nothing more intimidating than a blank page. Often students get anxious about starting an assignment, because they want everything they write to be perfect. This can lead to students avoiding the work altogether. The best way to start a large task is just to accept that the first draft will not be perfect and write, write, write. Even if it’s bad, it can be improved upon later.


Those are my tips.

How do you avoid procrastination?

If you have any suggestions, personal stories or some questions, feel free to let us know!

5 Things You Can Do TODAY to Improve Your Child’s Study Habits

Achieving success in education is not just about hard work; it’s about organisation and good practices. Throughout our years of helping students achieve success, we have come to see that good students don’t just work hard; they work efficiently and in a well-organised manner.

A lot of students come to us looking for help with their schoolwork. Often, the first thing we do is to make sure that they are using their time, resources, and space correctly. If students aren’t managing their time effectively, or organising their work in a productive way, then no amount of hard work or last minute cramming will be of much help.

So, today, I thought I’d give you a list of 5 things you can do TODAY to ensure that your child is ready to be successful in their study.

1. Organise a Working Space

Let me put this simply: even the most intelligent student cannot work effectively on the couch, in bed, in front of the television, or at the breakfast table. Students need a dedicated space for homework and study, such as a desk or a table. This space should be quiet, free from distractions, and have all the resources (books, pens, paper) that your child needs to complete the work.

2. Make Sure They Are Using a Calendar or Diary

One of the most common problems we observe is when students lose track of what work they have to do, and when it is due. There is nothing more embarrassing than arriving at school to find out that you have forgotten an assignment, or more stressful than realising that you have to write a whole essay in one night. For this reason, it is important to make sure your child is using a calendar or a diary to keep track of upcoming work. Using a diary effectively is a fantastic skill that, if developed early, will help them throughout high school, VCE, University, and for the rest of their lives.

3. Help Them Create a Study Timetable

When it comes to study, consistency is the key. When I was at high school, I developed a study timetable for myself to ensure that I was doing enough work for each subject each day. On Friday nights, for example, my timetable would look like this.

4:00-4:30: Get home, have a snack, get changed.

4:30-5:00: Read novel for English

5:00-6:00: Complete maths homework for Monday

6:00-6:30: Have a break, watch Television

6:30-7:00: Revise notes for Psychology

It is important that such a timetable is realistic. Students should allow time for breaks and relaxation. If the schedule is too unachievable, it will ultimately be ignored. By breaking up the huge amount of work into smaller, more manageable tasks throughout the week, it is less likely that students will feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do.

4. Help Them Organise Their Notes

This is a simple one, but an important one. Your child should have a book and a folder for each of their subjects. In their folder, they should keep all the notes, handouts and assignments that are relevant for that subject. Your child should make sure they take the right book and folder to each class. Without a good organisation system, important information will get lost: important notes may be written in the wrong book, assignment sheets may go missing, or students may not bring their homework to the right class. By making sure your child has a good system of organising their notes in place, you will save them a lot of stress.

5. Set Goals

This is one of the most important things you can do with your child on a regular basis: discuss their goals. Obviously, you have goals for your child: you want them to get good marks, win a scholarship to a selective school, get a high ATAR score, and get into a good course in University. You should discuss your child’s goals with them and figure out what goals you share, and how you can work towards them. Here are a few tips that will help with setting goals.

1Goals should be small and achievable. Larger goals (getting a good ATAR score) should be broken down into smaller ones (getting a good score on the next SAC).

2You should have a plan for achieving the goal. Encourage your child to plan what they have to do in order to succeed. Make sure they follow through on their plans.

3You should reflect on the success of the goal setting process. Was the goal achieved? Why/Why not? What can your child do to be more successful next time?

4. Success should be recognised. If your child sets a goal and achieves it, make sure you recognise their hard work. They will definitely appreciate it.

Hopefully, I have given you a lot to think about for today. It is important to consider these things as early as possible, so the rest of the year will be successful and productive for you your child. If you have any problems or questions about your child’s performance, study habits, or anything else, feel free to call or email us. We’re here to help!