Exam prep stress? Here’s how to combat it

maths and science tutor

Is it too early to prepare for exams? Of course not. In fact, the earlier you start, the more time you have to focus on things that concern you by asking for extra help to iron out those creases. If you are a little pressed for time, no worries. What matters is that you are using whatever time you have left to make a difference to the exam preparation. We have included tips on how to combat exam prep stress, including prioritising your subjects and getting an English, maths and science tutor.

Ensure you have all the exam information you need

Once you are sure of things such as date, time and venue, you will have one less thing to be stressed about on exam day. Go a step further by ensuring that you also know what section of your work to prepare for. Nothing can cause extreme anxiety like studying the wrong thing and showing up to your exam not knowing any of the work.

Prioritise your subjects

There are subjects you are really good at, and some that need you to spend a little more time trying to gain a better understanding. Those that need the most attention should be at the top of your priority list. This does not mean the subjects at the bottom do not need your attention; however, these are ones you could do well in with less time invested towards them. You will also be able to get through this work faster. To figure out which subjects should be your top priority, list all your subject and add a number, from 1 to 10, next to each one with 1 being the subject you are least comfortable and 10 being the subject you do really well in.

Make a revision timetable ahead of your exam date

Timetables are there to keep you accountable and on track – don’t set any unrealistic expectations for yourself. If you know that you struggle to stay focused due to lack of sleep, don’t set a study schedule that will leave you with 3 hours of sleep. An unrealistic timetable will eventually demotivate you, resulting in you possibly falling behind schedule. Here is what you should include in your revision timetable:

  • List of things you will do each day
  • Actual time allocations
  • Regular breaks
  • Time to read through the day’s work
  • Study goals for the day
  • Regular commitments, such as sport and extra classes
  • When to complete past papers

It is also okay to revisit your timetable as you progress through the work. If you dedicated 5 days for your English work and you understand it in 3 days, use the 2 days to revise another subject. This will help you make the most of your time rather than sit through repetitive sections.

Consider getting help from an English, maths and science tutor

The one-fits-all approach to teaching methods may be the concept you are struggling to grasp. English, maths and science are subjects that may require that you get an individualised approach to the work. At Spark, we focus on the overall development of the student so that they are equipped with the knowledge to solve their English, maths and science work, even when their tutor is not there. Our science lesson structure places emphasis on understanding theory.

Avoid other stressed students

You may think that your stress will bring you together to reach common ground, but the result could be the complete opposite. They could be worried about things that are not an issue to you, however, you will begin to stress about how they could be right. Remember, your strengths are not the same so try to focus on what is beneficial to you.


Bonus points

  • Take realistic breaks. Don’t use these to do any other schoolwork.
  • Split your study time into bite-size sessions. You can use a timing method such as the Pomodoro Technique.
  • Get active. Sitting in one place the whole day can cause you to become lethargic. Go for walks regularly.
  • Use your phone, but not for social media. Your phone has many capabilities and tools to make studying easier
  • Stay away from caffeine and maintain a healthy diet.


Tutoring centres offer many benefits, which include building confidence and accountability. Spark Academy’s tutoring classes are small so that each student is assisted and engages through peer learning. If you are looking for an English, maths and science tutor, get in touch.

Celebrating Pupil Progress

images - Spark Academy

As our parents will know, at Spark Academy we have just finished completing our Spring term assessments. Although we see progress every lesson when we see our students, we understand that it’s important for students and parents to see progress in test scores too – both at Spark and at school.

We have been very proud of our students this term. Across the board we have seen improvement from last term in every class – and some of our students have absolutely outdone themselves!


Which students have progressed the most?


While all of our students have progressed, it’s always nice to celebrate a few individuals or classes. Spark Ideas would like to say a big congratulations to:



Radhika (Year 5 at Belgrave)


Radhika has worked very hard since joining Spark in the Autumn term. She has progressed fantastically well in her sentence writing and understanding of spelling, punctuation and grammar, as well as making big strides in her Maths work. Her determination to succeed is definitely paying off!



Maya-Diyaa (Year 4 at Belgrave)


Maya-Diya has made great strides in her spelling and reading comprehension since she joined Spark. Her hard work has been supporting her both at Spark and at school – keep it up!


Eshaan (Year 3 at Oadby)


Eshaan never fails to be positive during his lessons at Spark and has worked exceptionally hard to improve his own understanding of literacy and numeracy. Eshaan’s hard work has been noticed both here and at school – his teacher has been impressed by his improved number skills and his understanding of similes!


Our Entire Year 4 Oadby Class


Yes, the whole class! This group of students have worked consistently throughout this term to improve their understanding. In English specifically, every student made a significant improvement from last term – before Christmas most were finding spelling, punctuation and grammar difficult, but through dedication the whole class has come on in leaps and bounds. Well done Year 4!


Adnan (Year 10 Oadby)


Adnan is an individual who is totally determined to succeed in his GCSEs next year. He consistently puts in 100% every week and in every homework, which is helping his progression enormously. In his tests at school, Adnan has already improved by almost two full grades since October. Congratualations Adnan and keep it up!


Rahul (Year 11 Belgrave)


Rahul is a student who has really sat up and took notice this term – he has begun working hard in lessons and submitting homework every week, which has made a big difference to his work. He is progressing well and on his way towards achieving his target grades when he sits his exams in a few weeks.


Congratulations to all of our pupils who have made progress this term – we look forward to celebrating you again soon!

What are the benefits of Group Tuition?

IMG 20170517 WA0004 - Spark Academy

Whenever it comes to tuition, it always boils down to two methods of studying: either in a group, or in a one-to-one scenario. At Spark Academy, we are all very strong advocates of group study, and this blog post will give you some of the reasons why we think group learning is the best!


IMG 20180228 WA0010 - Spark Academy
Year 3 students at the Belgrave branch writing stories using cue cards they created themselves.


Avoiding Boredom and Learning Faster


Studying by yourself, especially for long periods of time, can and will become boring! This is especially true if it is a topic or a subject that you are unsure about the first place. It’s easy to become distracted when you have questions that need answering.


By joining group tuition, you can blow the boredom away. Because of the social factor of group study, you can always find someone to support you if begin to struggle with something. At Spark, tutors teach through the content during the lesson so students are more confident approaching tasks.


IMG 20170704 WA0025 - Spark Academy
A little bit of silliness at the end of lesson just goes to show our students really do form good relationships with each other and their teachers.


In general, students that work in groups learn faster than students that work on their own. This is because of the collaborative factors involved in group tuition. For instance, if there is a topic you cannot get your head around, there might be someone else who understands it straightaway. Whilst studying in a group, rather than wasting time, you can simply get the answer by simply asking someone else. If someone struggles with a topic that you understand, you might be able to help your fellow student as well!

Group tuition allows you to find new study techniques. Your tutors can help you see different ways of revising and remembering key information. These can help you in your own revision and at school.


Gaining new perspectives


In one-to-one tuition, you will only view your revision material from one perspective: yours!

Whereas this is not necessarily a problem, you might just need a fresh perspective to help you learn the material more thoroughly. Particularly in subjects like English Literature, talking about different interpretations and idea can hep you dive deeper into a text and have more to say in your exams.


IMG 20180228 WA0007 - Spark Academy
Year 7s prepare to teach each other about the characters in A Christmas Carol and share their ideas.


By being in a study group, you notice a wide variety of viewpoints on the same subject. This could help you see the position from another’s points of view, therefore developing your critical thinking skills while helping you study.

By comparing notes and methods with others, you can patch up the gaps in your knowledge a lot faster than doing it on your own. One the flip side, you can help others fix their misunderstandings and help them learn better techniques as well.


Holistic Benefits of Group Tuition


One hidden benefit that no-one really talks about is that group tuition is a way to help build confidence and social skills as well as supporting students academically. Many of the students who come to Spark are shy and feel lost in a class of 30. By studying topics in a small group, our students build their confidence to a higher level. We often find students become more willing to join in and offer ideas during their group tuition and this new-found confidence translates to school as well.

IMG 20170704 WA0029 - Spark Academy
A Year 6 class at our Oadby branch, based in Manor High School. The school offered Year 6 up until 2017 and thought Spark’s SATs preparation was top notch.

Group tuition at Spark Academy


The staff at Spark Academy practise what we preach! We believe group tuition is best way for students to gain the support they need for their school work, as the benefits are not just academic.

So, let’s see what group work can do for you, we’re just a phone call away!

Optimus Prime, Prime Minister… but what about Prime Numbers?

prime 2 - Spark Academy

Spark Academy’s Maths department are so excited to introduce you to a new mathematical discovery. It’s all about the prime numbers here!

We are only in the second month of 2018 and the Mathematical community has already been shaken by the discovery of the largest prime number known to date!


Wait wait wait. What is a Prime Number?


Students at Spark begin to look at prime numbers in Year 6, and are taught that a number is a prime number only if they have only two factors; 1 and itself.

Some basic examples include the first three prime numbers;




These numbers can only be divided by themselves and 1. 2 is something of an odd one out in this list… Can you guess why? Leave your ideas in the comments.

We can check to see if a number is prime by factorising a number. Factorising is where we break a number down into its smallest possible numbers of factors ie. numbers that divide into a bigger number.

For example: the factors of 30 are 1, 30, 2, 15, 3, 10, 6, and 5. These are all of the numbers that you can divide 30 by.


Can you find the factors of 50? What about 124? Comment your thoughts below!


For a number like 719, the factors are 719… and 1.

If there are exactly 2 factors, then it will be prime! Pretty simple, right?


What’s the easiest way to find out if a number is prime?


Now this is where the property of prime numbers comes into play; is there an efficient way to determine if a large number is prime or not?

Unfortunately, this very question has stumped the best mathematicians over many centuries, and there just doesn’t seem to be any simple way to factor a number efficiently. Computers use brute force and processing power to work it out. This involves checking every possible combination of factors to see if it is divisible by any number.


Prime number1 - Spark Academy


What is the number then?


To put into perspective the size of the new largest prime number is 23,249,325 digits long. The factorisation process took six complete days of non-stop computing to verify it.

To get some idea of the size of this number, and to see this number in all its glory, it would take just over 9,000 A4 pages if printed out fully. It’s a little too big for us to print here!

This new number is 910,807 digits longer than the previous record holder, which was discovered only 12 months ago!


But you ask: What is the point of all this?!


It was during the 1970’s, along with the advances of computer processing technology at the time, that it became apparent that prime numbers become very important to the encryption of data. These numbers are used to hide important secrets. Governments and intelligence agencies use data encryption all the time.

calculator character - Spark Academy


Encryption algorithms rely on the fact that it is very easy to multiply two (very large) prime numbers together, whilst it is extremely difficult to find a possible factor by dividing. This makes it very difficult to just simply guess what number was used in the encryption in the first place.

It is because of prime numbers which can allow intelligence agencies around the world this such as MI5, the CIA and the KGB to transfer national secrets without it falling into the wrong hands and spilling the proverbial beans. Did you ever think numbers could be linked to spies?

In an upcoming blog, we will be looking further how you can find your very own record breaking number, so stay tuned!

Student Thought: No Stuffy SATs Prep at Spark

sats - Spark Academy

When we think of students preparing for exams, most of us think of GCSEs. We even posted about Spark’s GCSE preparation here but they aren’t the only students in an important year. Our Year 6s are in full SATs swing now and enjoying the support that Spark offers in the run up to their exams.

It’s not just in our own after school lessons that we offer SATs support. Over the past two years Spark has been supporting schools with their preparation – you can read all about our successes here.


What do the Year 6s study at Spark?


Like all of our Year groups, the Year 6s follow the national curriculum. For them, this includes the content that they will be tested on in May and exam skills practise. They will be tested on numeracy and numerical reasoning for Maths and spelling, punctuation, grammar and comprehension in English. This is exactly what they spend their time at Spark studying.


What do the Year 6s have to say about Spark?


Rhea told us that she enjoys


learning interesting things


to support her SATs preparation. Mohammed said that at Spark


they go over stuff that school doesn’t […] and adapt lessons to your learning


which goes to show the dedication that the Spark teachers put in to making sure that SATs preparation is relevant to each class and each individual student.

Many of the students commented on how much they enjoyed the lessons each week because of


a variety of activities


SATs related games and because they


enjoy how the teachers teach


Of course, much of the preparation for SATs involves exam-style questions and practise papers, but we’ll thrilled to hear how much our students enjoy our lessons!


Is Spark the best place for SATs prep?


Over half of the students we asked told us that they didn’t look anywhere else for tuition. We thought that was a big compliment! The others told us that they chose Spark over other providers because


it gave me better education




it stood out from the rest


which is always fantastic to hear.


Are there any places left for Year 6?


Now that we’re so close, our classes are filling up quickly. There are a few spots left across our two sites but you will need to be quick; book your free trial today!



What’s the link between Maths and Pancakes?

images - Spark Academy

When it comes to interesting facts and fantastic blog posts, our Maths department is on fire! They even have a way to use maths in your pancakes today…


What’s so special about Pancake Day?


In the Christian calendar, this Tuesday is officially known as Shrove Tuesday, and is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.


Shrove Tuesday is also known in parts of the world as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, giving reference to the last day of gorging before the fasting period of Lent.


But what do pancakes have to do with Lent, hear you ask? Well, it was tradition that foods such as eggs, butter and fats were encouraged to be used up before Lent began – all common ingredients that are used in pancakes. That’s why lots of people eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

download - Spark Academy


And here comes the Maths-y part to the blog…how do you make the perfect pancake?


Well luckily for us, the University of Sheffield’s Maths Society has cooked up a formula for the exact measurements required:


Mixture per pancake: pancake 1 - Spark Academy

Total mixture required:pancake 2 - Spark Academy



Frying pan diameter:                      D cm

Desired thickness of pancake:     T cm

Number of pancakes wanted:     P


To go one step further, the maths society has even created an excel document to show how much of each ingredient is needed, depending of course on the desired quantity of pancakes, and size of the frying pan. The quantities are given based on a recipe by Delia Smith.

download 1 - Spark Academy

To view the excel spreadsheet, you can view it on the University of Sheffield website

How does the formula compare to your usual pancakes? Please let us know in the comments section below!


Spark Top Tips for GCSE Maths Exam Success

Success loading - Spark Academy

For those of you who are looking towards your GCSE revision now, here are our Top Tips for GCSE Maths success!

Getting formulas onto one page.


calculator character - Spark Academy

When revising for Maths, creating a formula sheet is an effective way to kick-start your work! You should include formulas that will and will not be given to you in your exam. This will also give you a quick point of reference when doing revision practice. By constant referral to your formula sheet you will find it easier to memorise them and to use them more accurately.

Past paper practice.


This is single-handedly the most important tip out there. With Maths, there is nothing more valuable than practising questions. By marking your attempts against official mark schemes you can see where you have gone wrong and what examiners are looking for.

image002 - Spark Academy

Balance revision.


In GCSEs, pupils often miss out revising certain topics because they think it is beyond their understanding. If you have a weak link, work to improve your confidence because it can stop you gaining marks in questions that relate to your ‘strong’ topics. Focus your revision on the topics you are struggling with so you aren’t blindsided in the exam.

Revise your calculator.


You NEED to know your calculator inside out. It is so easy to mess up the answer to a whole question because you inputted a number incorrectly; you rounded too soon; you put the brackets in the wrong place. Don’t let your hard work and revision be ruined in the exam by silly mistakes on a calculator.

image003 - Spark Academy

Time yourself.


When attempting past papers to begin with, give yourself more time than is allocated because you will need to refer to your notes and look things up. The closer the exam gets, though, the more important it is to practise papers in timed conditions. Furthermore, you need to get to a point where you don’t use your notes to help you. You might think to yourself that you will be fine and remember them on the day, but if you don’t try to go ‘blind’ beforehand, there is a risk you will draw a blank with certain methods and formulas when you really need them!

If you take these tips on board, success will follow.

Who is December’s Student of the Month?

20171204 134246 - Spark Academy

It’s time to celebrate another student of the month here at Spark Academy. Our holidays mean that our lessons end this week – but that doesn’t mean that our student of the month is any less deserving.

As you know we’ve already nominated two students to celebrate: Neha Patni and Shreya Kumari. You can read all about their nominations by following the links.


What should we know about December’s student of the month?


This month we are celebrating a student from our Oadby site – for the first time this year! Once again we have chosen this particular student because he (yep, another first for this year!) has been nominated by more than one teacher.

In fact, this particular student had nominations from three different teachers. We have to say we were very impressed by all of the wonderful things everyone had to say.

We’d like to offer a huge congratulations to Adnan Ahmad, December’s Student of the Month!


Tell us more about Adnan!


Adnan is a Year 10 student at our Oadby site, attending Spark for English, Maths and Science. His nominations all came from English and Maths. Adnan’s Friday night class is in the unique position of being partially shared by both English and both Maths teachers. Therefore, Adnan’s efforts and determination have been noticed by everyone.

Let’s have a look at some of the wonderful reasons the teachers gave for nominating Adnan!


Working 1-1 with Adnan, I have seen the huge progress he has been making since he first joined. He uses feedback to improve his work, and remains positive if ever he is unsure of a topic. He continuously strives to improve his work, and tries his hardest every week.

Adnan definitely deserves this award.

Charlotte, English.

  book character e1510520205445 - Spark Academy

Adnan always tries really hard in his Maths lessons. If he does not understand anything he always makes sure he asks for help and has a good understanding by the end of the lesson. He is polite to everyone and always says thank you for helping him.

Katherine, Maths.

 calculator character - Spark Academy

Adnan is always very positive during his lessons. He is always fully focused and ready to learn each week. This shows that he always puts in 100% effort. His work ethic and determination to improve his English work is very admirable, and he has a positive impact on everyone in the class.

Rebecca, English


Congratulations Adnan! Keep up the good work!

Teacher Talk: Countdown to Christmas!

countdown 1 e1513193614977 - Spark Academy

In this week’s Teacher Talk we asked the Maths department to give us a taste of some of the fun things they do at Christmas. One fun starter or plenary is playing Countdown – let’s have a look at how they do it.

Onto the Countdown to Christmas!

On behalf of the Maths department at Spark, we’ve decided to give you all some gifts that only a maths teacher can give;

Countdown Puzzles!


How do you play Countdown?


We give you a target number and 6 numbers to work with… The aim is to make the target number and you can only use each of the 6 numbers once.

At Spark, we always give worked examples in our Maths lessons, so this will be no different!

So for the first puzzle, we have these numbers:


countdown 1 e1513193614977 - Spark Academy


So we need to use the numbers 100, 25, 1, 7, 10 and 7 to get to the grand total of 510.


Have a go yourself and see what answer your get!


countdown 2 e1513193641438 - Spark Academy


It looks like Chris got the right answer! Hope you did too!


Let’s try another one!


countdown 3 e1513193694104 - Spark Academy


Before you scroll down to see if Chris has figured it out… Can you get to the target number? Comment if you managed it!


countdown 4 e1513193720263 - Spark Academy


Whoops! Chris was only one away from the final answer! So near, yet so far! Could you get the right number?

Oh dear, it looks like Chris is struggling with this next one. I think we should leave this one to you guys to have a go at yourself! Comment below with your closest answer and method!

countdown 5 e1513193746515 - Spark Academy


Happy Christmas everyone, don’t forget to enjoy some pi over the festive season!

Parent Perspectives: Raves in our Reviews

review 4 - Spark Academy

In this week’s Parent Perspectives post, we thought we’d look somewhere a little different than usual. Many parents have been rating and posting reviews for Spark Academy for years – it’s time we celebrated their views!


www - Spark Academy

Where can you rate and review?


Spark’s Facebook page is a perfect place for anyone looking to give us a rating or write a review. In fact, many parents have been doing just that! You might also know that we recently launched our Spark Forum. This is another amazing place where you can review or leave comments for the Spark team. You can even give us suggestions on how we could make Spark even better.


ebi - Spark Academy


So now you know where you can go to rate, review and rave about us…


What sort of things have our parents been saying?


The first fantastic point we noticed when we looked at our Facebook reviews is that we have an amazing 5 star rating! This rating is averaged out over the years since our first Facebook review, which just goes to show that Spark is providing the same high quality tuition it has since opening.


review - Spark Academy


Here are some highlights from our favourite reviews. It was tricky to choose from some many wonderful comments from our parents!


My boys will be joining this great teaching academy soon in January 2018. They will be working to their school level […] Spark Academy is far better – classroom based and a more professional set up.

P. S.

We strive to provide excellent tuition to support our students in their education, so it is always wonderful to hear that parents can see and appreciate everything we are doing!


The support has been priceless […] A designated time to study is key in getting excellent results. I knew I needed a great tutor service and was so pleased when Spark was recommended to me by a friend.

N. W.

Recommendations are another fantastic way so many of our parents review Spark. It’s great to hear that from their perspective, we’re so good they just can’t wait to tell others!


It’s clear to see the passion you have to teach and the desire to make every child a winner. I can’t fault anything you guys do. My kids love coming to Spark and they’re making great progress.

B. P.

Our small class sizes are key to our ability to make every child feel successful and vital to our lessons. And we’re always glad to hear our students enjoy coming to Spark!


How can you get involved?


If you’re a parent and you want to share your perspective on Spark, there are lots of ways to get involved. You can use our Facebook page, our Spark Forum, or you can comment on this post with your reviews!