Tutor view: Dr Sonia Nayyar, Edge Ahead Tuition, Birmingham

Spot the difference, Sudoku, Kakuro and chess are great ways of building spatial and reasoning skills, says Dr Nayyar from Edge Ahead Tuition in Birmingham.


Top tips for maths: Create skills maps listing all your techniques and spot which you use most often, and which you don’t use enough. Early on it can include times tables, prime numbers and square numbers. As your knowledge progresses it will have fraction conversions to percentages and rules to multiply decimals.

It is a great way of summarising work and spotting areas that need support.
As testing and mock exams become more important, you can visualise your map and the techniques. It is a great way to deal with exam nerves. I love seeing students redesign their maps and take things off that are too easy, when a few weeks earlier they hadn’t heard of the method. That progression being so clear builds confidence and helps parents to see how far their child has come.

One thing that is often overlooked in CEM preparation is looking at the potential answers to help. Often you can choose the correct answer midway through the working out, as the last digit of the sum eliminates the other answers. You can build this habit by looking back at previous tests and seeing when in your calculation you could have stopped. It may only knock a few seconds off a question, but this can build up across a section of 20 questions.

Top tips for English: Read sports reports and watch cookery shows. They are packed with vocabulary and interesting ways of using language to keep you hooked. It especially helps reluctant readers as it doesn’t feel like a long task. After reading the report, list the vocabulary and make flashcards.

For any words you don’t know, try to guess the meaning from the report or show. Using context in this way builds inference skills, helping with shuffled sentences, cloze and comprehension.

A week later check if you still know what the words mean. Then a few weeks later, try writing your own report and see how much vocabulary you can use. It’s a fantastic way of building vocabulary, creative writing and inference skills.

Top tips for verbal/non-verbal reasoning: Start with word and picture puzzles. Spot the difference, Sudoku, Kakuro and chess are great ways of building spatial and reasoning skills. Also try standing in front of a mirror and writing out letters with your hand. It sounds easy, but letters like “e” can be surprisingly difficult!

It may sound like a strange thing to try, but it builds consideration of horizontal, parallel and diagonals, as well as perspective. Once that has been mastered, try numbers and then words. You will find rotations, reflections and plan views become much simpler.

Are you now offering online tutoring? Yes. We had online provision alongside our tuition centre and transferred all our students to online as soon as school closures were announced.

How are children responding? Brilliantly, I’m so impressed with how they’ve coped. They love the mini one-to-one sessions and work packs, alongside our online testing.

When should a child start preparing for the 11-plus? How long is a piece of string? There is no perfect time, but earlier will always mean the process is less stressful and more enjoyable. Most students start in early year 4.

How many hours a week does a child need to study? In the current circumstances, that depends on how much school work they are getting. Provision from schools varies dramatically so some students get nothing from school whilst others are in virtual classrooms 9am-3pm. The key thing is to keep your brain alert – and that isn’t done by filling in worksheets all day. Read, go in the garden, play sport, play chess and do formal work.

After school, 45-60 minutes a day of work (including reading) is great as it matches the length of one paper.

Best materials to use: Initially, CGP and our online testing platform, as
they are tailored to CEM prep. Once these are mastered, use as wide a range as possible, so that you don’t get used to one format.

Schools tutored for: Grammar and independent schools across the West Midlands.

How long have you been a tutor? Over a decade.

Price of tuition per hour: £35 one to one and £30 for our group pack.

Website: www.edgeaheadtuition.co.uk

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