17 August 2017

11 Things to Expect in Year 11 + FREE Year 11 Calendar

Hey everyone!  Back to school season is nearly here, and to 'celebrate' I thought I would share some wisdom! I just finished year 11 and there are certain things you don't really anticipate, and sometimes you just have no idea what to expect at all.  In short, this will be the hardest you've worked in all your life so far. So, you're gonna need some help!!!

1) More independant work

The biggest change in year 11 is the shift in who decides what work you do. It changes from your teachers drilling what they want you to do into you, to you deciding what work you do and when you do it. You've got to be aware of this from day one and start implementing it immediately if you want to be even slightly successful in your exams. I don't mean you have to revise all night from the off, but taking responsibility of your actions in class and at home will set you off right for the rest of the year, because you will have to come up with a timetable and stick to it ( see how here and here).  Embracing this shift is going to be your key to good results, because YOU become the one telling yourself what to do rather than everyone else, which gets it done.

2) Chaos in classrooms

As well as the fact that you are stressed out with the amount of work, your teachers are stressed and your classmates are stressed. Contrast to your probable expectation, this often doesn't lead to harder work and silence in classrooms; often it leads to chaos.  Everyone responds differently to the pressure of year 11, and some people respond throwing pens at teachers, doing pranks, and basically pissing everyone else off. The people who aren't putting the work in at home often feel an underlying stress, so they lash out in classrooms with teachers who give that extra bit of leeway or show any lack of control.  During this chaos, you have to put your head down and DO YOUR WORK.  You've got to accept that you have to respect your teachers this year because they are your lifeline. Everything you learn in class is going to come up in the test, and although it might seem like ages away and you have time to catch up, you don't have many lessons left and odds are those lessons are going to be filled with something different every time. Basically, if you miss something, you've missed it for definite and there's no going back in class.  It is your responsibility to not get caught up in what everyone else is doing and focus.

3) Increase in Assemblies

You will find that your teachers are trying really hard to boost morale and keep you motivated for this year. While this constant pushing can be irritating, boring and sometimes a little scary, you've got to remember that they're trying their best. It is important to listen in these assemblies as often you are being given important information that may seem irrelevant to you now but will prove very useful in a few months. Revision technique, information about sixth forms and exam details are all very important to you and you should definitely look out for them.

4) You get less delegated homework

This slightly coincides with the first point, but as the year goes on the teachers stop giving you homework. In the first few weeks there will likely be a surge of homework tasks to carry out as they want controlled assessment stuff done and they want to break you in to the pressure of year 11 like a pair of shoes. However, after this there will be almost no homework at all as the responsibility is given to you. The fact that there's no homework does not mean you shouldn't be doing homework. You set your own work, and you make sure you do it. Keep a planner and record given homework, and your own homework

5) You will need to drop your activities and clubs in the new year (Jan/Feb)

While it is important to have a good range of activities to put on your sixth form applications and to talk about in sixth form interviews, you need to drop them in January or February mid year 11. This is when it starts getting tough as you may have mocks going on or mocks about to happen. You need to start focusing solely on those exams as these are good practise for when the real thing comes around, which will happen sooner than you think. If you don't drop theclubs, you'll soon find them getting in the way of the work you should be doing. 

6) More responsibility in school activities

Although you're gonna drop these early in the year, when you do take part in things like school shows, concerts, competitions etc, you will be given more responsibility and leadership tasks. While it's important to do this as it looks good on sixth form applications etc, you don't want it to take priority over revision. I was the lead in my school play throughout my first set of mock exams and I just about managed to balance it, but it is hard to do this and you need to make sure that you are prepared to work, a lot!

7) Unreliable teachers

When you have a teacher who has a sudden illness midway through your exam year, it can be really stressful. I didn't have an english teacher for the majority of year 11, which meant we had a different supply teacher every lesson for one of the most important subjects. Those doing media in my year also didn't have a teacher.  Being prepared for such an event is important as it means it doesn't have to be the end of the world. You need to attend any after school classes that you are offered and perhaps look into investing in a tutor. You can also do some research into the exam: how many papers, the mark schemes, types of questions or look at YouTubers (see my post on good revision youtubers here!). Do the work for yourself without relying on the supply teachers, who often don't have the right qualifications or the right experience.

8) Increase in workload

This is kind of an obvious one, but you're going to do more work during the school day as teachers won't let you just do nothing anymore. Your school day is going to be longer, not only due to after school classes, but to revision at home. Accepting that you're going to be tired a lot is a really good thing to start straight away haha! Don't cram into your nights though, I always stopped around half eight with many breaks in between. But yes, there will be more work!

9) Mocks. Lots of mocks.

Although mocks are not as important as your final GCSE exams, it is important to work hard for them. The results you get from your mocks are not important in the sense of getting anywhere in life, but they should be important to you as they show you exactly where you're going wrong and where you need to improve to get a better grade. Mocks are extremely useful as you experience what its like being in your exam hall and having multiple exams on the same day. Don't let those grades get you down if they're not what you want, in my year 10 mocks I got a 5 in english language, in my november mocks I got an 8 and in my march mocks I got a 9 (I shall update you on what I got at GCSE next week!!!).  Make sure you revise for them to get a taste of what you like and how much is best for you.

10) Friendship groups may shift

The pressure of revision and exams definitely changes perspective between friends. Your friendship group may change during this year as some simply can't tolerate others anymore while they muddle through. Try and avoid drama if you can to avoid distraction. It's really important to surround yourself with the best people so you can support each other through this really really really tough year.

11) The realisation that everything you do is the LAST TIME

I very often felt many surges of sentimentality over little things like buying something from the canteen or  walking into certain classrooms. With events such as school shows or special days you realise that its the last time and so you're left feeling sad in regular intervals throughout year 11!! On the flip side, you get many opportunities open to you that you didn't before and many events that you have looked forward to for many years, that finally come around, like leavers day, prom and leading events like competitions you may have at your school. Its a weird year, with so many feelings floating around. That last day is going to be one of the weirdest you ever experience because you have so many emotions!!!!

For me, year 11 was tough, but a good year. There's a lot of character building as you learn to stand on your own two feet and expose yourself to how much work you are really capable to do. I learned a lot about myself, as I hope you will do too. 

Good luck guys!!

// Jeani

13 August 2017

Coursera - Super or a scam? // My Experience + Free List of 25+ MOOCs

Hey everyone!

Some of you may already be aware of sites such as Coursera and edX, which offer short, free, online courses from many universities across the world, known as MOOCs. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and the concept is almost too good to be true: anyone and everyone (13+) can just go onto the site, sign up, and take the course!

I found out about MOOCs from UnJaded Jade in the following video. I thought it couldn't be possible to take a course without paying anything, so I gave it a try.

When I first searched for MOOCs into google, I was directed to this site where I could search for a course I was interested in.  I did not have a clue what kind of course I wanted, but it was not hard to find a course that grabbed my attention.

My course was an introduction to HTML5 from University of Michigan, as I am interested in developing my web skills as a blogger.


The first surprise was that the term 'free' is used quite loosely.  I discovered that to take any of the quizzes or graded assessments I would have to pay £37 a month after a 7 day free trial as the course was part of a specialisation, which means it was part of a 5 course series. Introduction to HTML5 is supposed to be taken in three weeks, which posed a little bit of a problem. You always have the option to audit the course, which would mean you would have access to all the material bar assessments and the certificate; however, I didn't want to go through the effort of learning to make a website without receiving a certificate in the end of it, so I challenged myself to take the course in seven days.

I did it in two. 

In my first few day of taking the course, I had completed week 1 and 2, which equated to around 2 hours plus quizzes and reading. But after having completed two thirds of the course, I decided to look at some reviews of coursera to make sure the site was safe after speaking with my mum. I found out that although partaking in a free trial, others had had money taken out of their account for the following weeks even though they had every intention of cancelling before the end of the free trial.

Furthermore, I questioned whether the five star reviews praising coursera were really genuine as they had script-like language, all sounding quite similar.

But of course there is no way to be sure if those reviewing with one-star reviews simply didn't read the guidelines properly and if the 5 star reviews are just from particularly enthusiastic students. My advice, if you want to do it for free, is to sign up for your free trial, enter your details and then immediately remove your details and unsubscribe from the course. You will still be able to complete your free trial with all assessment materials still available.

Course Quality

The course itself was very professional and was run by a professor with a PhD in computer science..  I had access to several instructional videos which very clearly explained each step to creating a website, as well as highlighting ethical issues such as accessibility and explaining what the computer does with the information you give it. The instructor immediately told you what would and would not be included in the course so when we ended up with a basic website no one was disappointed! I learned the difference between CSS, Javascript and HTML, syntax and semantics. This is what I ended up with in the final project:


The assessments on the whole were quite good. We were given small quizzes at the end of each quiz and slightly larger ones at the end of each week. All assessments were auto-graded, which was a problem for the final assessment as you could never get the html code exactly as the professor originally wrote it; however, she did a good job of making sure you could still pass the exam and test the skills required to code the website with added questions. I was impressed with the quizzes as it was made sure that the students learning was constantly tested. Your final grade was an average of scores from all quizzes, and not just the final one.


The second surprise came when it was time to receive the certificate. You had to give them a picture of your National ID?! I was very confused as why they would need that kind of sensitive information just to give the certificate after spending two and a half hours watching videos and roughly another hour experimenting with code and reading the material.  The reason Coursera needs the information is so that they can verify your identity. So far, I haven't had any problems regarding people stealing my identity!

Would I recommend coursera?

Yes, I would.  Despite slight fears over money and national identity theft, I found coursera to be a very rewarding experience and would suggest anybody use it.

Would you use coursera? Comment below!

// Jeani

9 August 2017

Why I didn't attend my own prom // Story time!

Hey everyone!

So today I am going to tell you the story of how I ended up missing my prom (and why I don't regret it AT ALL!).

About this time last year my mum, my grandad and I started planning an around the world journey. We knew we would go to Samoa, where my great Uncle lives, but we had to plan where we would go on the way. After much deliberation, we ended up with India, Singapore, Auckland and LA.

There were many obstacles in the way of our adventure: the easter holiday was too expensive, my mum had to work through the summer holidays and I was doing my exams in May. The only possible time to go on our holiday was directly after I finished my last exam!

We only realised a few months later that this would mean I would miss my prom and leavers day! I had to decide between a month-long adventure of a lifetime, or go to an evening-long prom night that I had been dreaming about since I saw High School Musical 3 when I was 7!

I asked my friends what they would do and they were divided.  Some were adamant that prom was the clear choice, and others were shocked at the idea of missing a holiday like this over a night where you wear a pretty dress. I soon realised where I stood in the conversation, and knew that the right choice was to go on the incredible once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world.

Above are pictures of what I looked like on prom night ^^^ on a beach in Samoa. Although it happened to be raining (quite a lot, for the whole holiday!) I realised that I had made the right choice.  I know that my friends had an amazing time on their prom night and really enjoyed seeing each other in their beautiful dresses and suits and partying in a beautiful hall taking photos that they will reminisce on in fifty years.

 I do feel dismayed that I am not in those photos, but I have my own photos to show my kids one day if I have them. I can show them the cows that feed in the rubbish with the poor men in India, I can show them the blue sea of the ocean in Polynesia, I can show them the architectural trees of the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, the bright saris of the women in oppression, the open-sided wooden huts people sleep in in Samoa and the streets of a modern city with no gum lining the pavements like we have in cities at home.

Old Delhi

Elephant in Jaipur
Gardens by the Bay

Climbing a cliff in Samoa

I have seen so much of the world, and I have no regrets.

// Jeani

6 August 2017

GCSE Revision YouTubers // Summer Revision + Free Checklist

Hey everyone!

Today I thought I'd share some useful knowledge I gained during the last few weeks of exam season. I wish that I had known about this so much earlier as there are so many moments during the start of year 11 and during the summer before (this summer for many of you) where you feel like you should be revising but really can't be bothered but end up doing nothing. This is what I suggest:

These YouTube videos should not replace your kinaesthetic revision (e.g. flash cards or notes) but they can be useful addition. They should be used for refreshing information you've already learned but perhaps forgotten, or for a quick summary of things you are about to learn in the next year so that its a little easier to understand.

I don't have YouTubers for every subject, but for a lot of subjects using videos won't even help you, and so the ones I put below are the ones which were useful for me. Please feel free to add any in the comments if you know of others!

Mr Bruff - English Literature and Language

Mr Bruff has a very detailed and extensive list of videos covering every book and poem on the AQA syllabus. I'm not sure if he covers other exam boards in his videos, but I know he has revision guides and stuff for you!  I found his videos extremely useful as they had SO much detail and taught me many techniques and how to portray my point of view. If it turns out that I am successful in English, I will at least partly owe my success to him!  Remember that with poem analyses, or any analyses really, that your opinion is what is going to impress that examiner and while its important to learn other points of view and what the text could mean, however you see it is what will get you the marks!

Primrose Kitten - Science and Maths

I found summary videos like the one above extremely useful in the last few weeks to refresh all the subjects, as I really struggled with science in my first year and a half. After doing past papers and watching videos I finally managed to get my head around it. As I said, these videos in particular are good for refreshing basic information that you may have forgotten, and they do it very quickly! Primrose Kitten has other types of videos too so make sure you go through and find some that are useful to you.

Christopher Thornton has quite short videos which explain simply, but efficiently, majority of subjects on the syllabus of most exam boards.  I used these to try and get my head around subjects that I could not understand by reading my original notes or the textbook as they explained the subject in different words and in a manner in which I could actually I understand. I would take the video and transfer what I was being told into a mindmap or a set of notes to prove to myself that I understood. 

Others like Christopher thornton: Free Science Lessons, My GCSE science

UK Maths Teacher - Mathematics

I didn't actually use these videos, but I thought I better add some maths in here! I think videos can be very useful for maths as it can be a difficult subject because it isn't very visual. Watching a video allows you to visualise the problems and remember the process the teacher in the video goes through. The way to improve maths is to practise and do past papers, but the thing about maths is, you really do have to understand the process and isn't that easy to just wing it. 

Eve Bennett/Revision with Eve - General/How to
I discovered Eve Bennett quite early this year. Eve is year 12 currently and is about to go into year 13 but she got all A*s (I think) so I would certainly take her advice!  Eve's second channel Revision with Eve mainly contains how-to videos, such as "how to revise for languages" featured above. These are good if you want to start revising but you don't know how to go about it for each subject. There are other types of videos as well, such as the recently uploaded "how to have the MOST productive summer EVER".

Others like Eve Bennett: UnJaded Jade, Ibz Mo, Holly Gabrielle

I hope you found this useful and that you will watch a few videos to relieve the stress you may be feeling right now about the upcoming year. You will be shocked at how quickly this year will fly by, so its good to start preparing now, even if it is just by watching a couple of videos here and there!

Good luck!

// Jeani

2 August 2017

How to make a GCSE revision timetable pt 2 // flexible and no time constrictions

Hey everyone! For this blog post, you should read part 1 here which will make this a lot easier to understand.

In part 1 I explain how much you should revise per day and how much you should revise each subject per week. in this post, the same two week format applies, but with more flexibility.

What to do 
The first thing you need to do is buy a weekly planner with each day of the week like mine here:

Once you have bought your weekly planning paper, you need to split your page into week A and week B as shown above. Next, you should indicate which subjects you will study on each day using your study timetable.
You should choose four subjects from each day (obviously the ones which are relevant to your revision, excluding mandatory PE for example). At the end of the two weeks, you should have the right amount of subjects as dictated by your priority subjects, which I explain in part one.

Where to buy


Hope you found this useful!  Make sure you subscribe to the mailing list for reminders about future revision blog posts!

// Jeani