How to write a personal statement

Getting into university is no walk in the park…

You have to first decide what exactly you want to study (which isn’t easy if you have a number of niche subjects!), then shortlist a set of universities you feel are best suited to you (after battling between big questions like whether to stay at home or the internal battle between a university’s reputation versus their nightlife!), and then of course you have to make sure you meet the conditions of your offer (i.e. getting those all important grades)! On this long road of hurdles, there’s one that can give you a head-start: your personal statement.



Your personal statement is a chance for you to do something you would not usually do… Blow your own trumpet! It’s an opportunity for you to truly capture exactly what is so unique about you and your academic journey. It’s your chance to stand out! Your personal statement can be a real  game changer and a chance for you to even out the playing field if you feel what you lack in a grade or two is compensated in your work experiences/hobbies and/or other interests. I have many friends who have been made offers from their top choice universities despite not being in their advertised grade bracket, purely due to impressive personal statements. This is not to say that three C’s will get you into Oxbridge because you’ve emphasised your love for Beethoven or an internship shadowing David Cameron, as competitiveness in academia will only continue to soar. However, whilst it is true that it is important to be an all-rounder to have a chance at a top university, the impact of a succinct and articulate personal statement should not be underestimated.

There are many ways to write a personal statement and its important to keep it as original as possible because no two personal statements will ever be the same and it is your writing style that will carry the most original flair. Here is the structure I used for my personal statement, after looking through various examples I felt this was the best style.
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Create A Test – The Ultimate Maths Assessment Package

Are you able to create assessments in seconds? Do you currently produce completely bespoke, personalised Maths tests for your students? Are you able to say exactly what your students can and can’t do? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then Create A Test could be the solution you need.

We have been helping teachers and private tutors produce professional test papers to assess their students for the past five years. This summer we made huge changes to the site to make it more useful and more accessible. Firstly, we made it completely free to sign up, so that every teacher and tutor in the country can have access to the questions and papers that we’ve created, as well as the questions and papers produced by every other teacher and tutor. Secondly, we added Primary and A Level question banks, so that every Maths student in the country can benefit from the system we’ve created. Thirdly, we’ve made changes to the functionality of the site, to make it quicker and easier for you to create your tests.

So, what are the benefits of using Create A Test?

1.     We have a huge bank of questions. We currently have over 7000 questions, with more being created every day. This means that your test papers can test every topic in Maths, to ensure that your students are secure in all areas.

2.     Almost all of the questions have variations, which means you can produce alternative versions of the same questions, enabling you to set the same paper with different numbers, but testing the same skills. This means you can give each student a different paper, so that they can’t copy one another, or you can use almost identical papers to demonstrate progress.

3.     You can create your own questions, or personalise the ones we have at the moment. This means that you can change your papers to include your students’ names, or add a question that targets a particular topic you’ve covered, in the unlikely event that it doesn’t already exist.

4.     Create A Test is a community. You will have access to all of the questions and papers created by other users, and you can share yours with them. This saves everyone time and means you can spend more time planning incredible lessons.

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Results Day: A Teacher’s Perspective

Students and families wait anxiously for their GCSE results. But what is it like for the teachers? Mrs C, a maths teacher describes the pressure.

The clock ticks 12, a long 8 hours wait. The day draws near…

The summer holidays have been sheer bliss but as time ticks by the fear and a sense of nausea increases – GCSE results day is nearly HERE!  It’s more nerve wrecking than my own results day where I was only anxious about letting down my own parents. The anxiety of letting down my students, their families, and my colleagues.

So I set an alarm after weeks of relaxation and attempt to sleep. Over the years I have become all too familiar with these feelings that affect my sleep. Worrying and wandering about all the horrible scenarios – what will Ofsted think of the results? Where will we place in the league tables? How much progress have we made? Tossing and turning I finally doze off.

The next morning awaits a steady drive into school, full of dread. Parking the car and taking a minute to breathe before I meet and greet colleagues and students after weeks. Their faces show unknown and angst for what is sealed in each brown envelope will determine the fates of us ALL!

All the hours of interventions, data trolls, parental support meetings. A distant memory of the words “progress and attainment” ringing in my head. To think it all boils down to the letter next to Maths – one letter to change the course of the rest of our lives.
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Coasting student to national young entrepreneur of the year

The word ‘coasting’ perfectly sums up the majority of my secondary school experience. Coasting is when an individual knows what they are capable of (let’s call that a 10 out of 10) whilst also being aware of the failing criteria (let’s call that a 2 out of 10) so sits perfectly in the middle where it is both safe and not too difficult (a comfortable 6 or 7).

I tended to do ‘just enough’, this meant that I would always put in just enough effort to stay out of trouble whilst not stepping too far out of my comfort zone and stretching myself. For a period of time I was absolutely fine with this; it meant that I did not have to work overly hard and knew that my results would most likely be just enough to pass.

This attitude changed one day after a conversation with my Dad after what I had thought was a successful parents evening. I had approached the evening with the same tactical mind as always; this meant planning the order I would see teachers in, to ensure that the teachers whom I knew would be kind to me where at the beginning and the end of the evening with the bad reports spaced out in the middle. Of course I had also been working extra hard in the approaching week which in my mind meant that the teachers wouldn’t be too harsh. Each meeting was generally the same, “Kamal has a lot of potential but…” followed by a list of things that were not so positive such as talking too much, getting distracted or not completing homework on time. I was happy with this as the word ‘potential’ to me meant that I was able to succeed even if I wasn’t right now! However once I got home the very opposite was to be expected, my Dad told me that when I “hear the word potential” I should start “worrying”. I was encouraged to learn the meaning of the word so after grabbing a dictionary I found out the true meaning. Potential – Capable of being, but not yet in existence.


It was like a slap in the face! This whole time I thought teachers were voicing their confidence in my natural ability whilst actually they were telling me I need to get my backside in gear! Just in case that wasn’t enough I also got my mock results back which fell far below what I expected and I remember being extremely disappointed and upset with the results!

I brought these results home to my parents who were not impressed. My Dad told me to sit down and said “from now on, C stands for Crap!” I was shocked! I nervously asked what B stood for and he said “better”. Better?! Better?! I was baffled, better than crap? That’s just average! I thought there would be a saving grace with the A grade. I thought he would say amazing, awesome maybe even astounding. I asked what A stood for… his answer shocked me even more and changed my whole attitude towards grades from that day. “Acceptable”.
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Preventing the “Summer Slide” with Online Courses for Students

Starting in May of each school year, the horizon of summer vacation starts to linger in the minds of students in every grade from kindergarten to 12th grade. With end-of-school year activities popping up, warmer weather arriving, and a host of plans for summer trips being settled, it’s no wonder that as kids get closer to summer break they start to lose focus on school lessons. The freedom of summer lingers in the air, and when summer vacation finally begins, kids are all too happy to leave the lessons and tests behind for a couple of months.

The Summer Slide

Unfortunately, during the summer, a lack of educational experiences results in what has been dubbed the “summer slide”: a significant loss of learning that is one of the main causes of underachievement in our schools. Research has found that on average, students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer! This common decline in students’ academic skills over summer break results in students starting the school year with below-level skills and having to play “catch-up” with lessons.

Preventing the Summer Slide with Free Online Summer Courses

The good news is that the summer slide can be prevented, and one of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to have children engage in lessons in various subjects over the summer. The CK-12 Foundation offers one such online program that is free for students to use on a computer, tablet, and even on their phones. The program, BrainFlex, is available in a format that is easy to use anytime, anywhere. Experts agree that it doesn’t require several hours of lessons each day over the summer to avoid the summer slide; with only a few lessons each day, consistency in learning is maintained, giving children a powerful advantage once school begins again in the fall.

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Why you should try online tuition

I have been an independent academic tutor for twenty five years now, the last two of them exclusively online.

Business is now booming and I teach many satisfied clients online worldwide. However, when I first started offering online tuition I encountered a lot of resistance from potential clients who were unwilling even to try this new technology. The ironic thing is that once they were persuaded to try it, in excess of 95% of them were hooked within minutes and declared it ‘better than the real thing’.

Let’s look at the advantages of online tuition over face-to-face tuition.

Firstly, no travelling time for either client or tutor. You just log-on in the comfort of your own home and you are away, cup of coffee by your side and relaxed and ready to go. Petrol is expensive and time a rare commodity. We all claim to have some sort of ‘green’ credentials so why pollute the world and stress yourself and your child unnecessarily?

Secondly, no pathogens! I used to get up to eight colds a year. Since I started online tuition this has been reduced to zero.  Why trail around a chilly, germ-laden environment (or invite a germ-laden tutor into your home) when you can stay snug and warm and minimise your exposure to lurghies?

Thirdly, online tuition is intensely intimate and concentrated. One major so-called ‘objection’ from the uninitiated is that they feel that their child’s attention will wander. If anything I have found the exact opposite to be the case…the younger generation are used to spending hours on end staring at screens in concentration. With headphones and a skilful tutor you are immersed in a total learning environment – the time just flies by and learning is rapid and effective.

Fourthly, the technology is so advanced now that an online tutorial is delivered in EXACTLY the same way as a face-to-face one. It annoys me when people talk about ‘skype tutoring’. That’s a bit like calling classroom education ‘blackboard teaching’ – it misses-out half the technology. Nowadays we have interactive electronic whiteboards (I use Scribblar but there are many others) on which both student and tutor can put notes, papers, mark schemes and so forth and write on them in real time. What the tutor sees the student sees in real time and vice-versa. It is identical to a face-to-face tutorial with a tutor and a piece of paper between tutor and tutee, except that you have all of the advantages listed above.

Fifthly, with online tuition you get the very best tutor rather than what happens to be available locally. Nowadays my 25 years of experience and unparalleled knowledge of the examination boards can be beamed into the home of anyone with a broadband connection worldwide.

So that’s five pretty compelling reasons to at least try online tuition. But what of the possible objections? Read more


Why does one-to-one private maths tuition work?

Private tuition, once reserved solely for the privileged few, is now more accessible than it has ever been. It has been reported that 25% of London parents alone hire a private tutor for their child. Parents have been shown to be willing to spend up to £60 an hour investing in their child’s education. The government were so convinced by the power of private tuition; they decided to invest millions into the one-to-one tuition program in schools. So we know that private maths tuition works, but why? In this article I’ll break down six crucial factors driving the success behind private maths tuition.

It allows learning to be personalised

One-to-one means just that, one teacher, one student. Each student receives both unique focus and unique attention. Learning becomes personal to the learner, and this factor is crucial not only in determining how much an individual learns, but also the depth to which they learn. Learning is a personal experience. We each learn differently at different times in our lives. If a teacher sets out to teach an entire class how to measure bearings for example, but there are a few students who are able to grasp the concept within the first 10 minutes, it is a lot more difficult for that teacher to personalise their learning experience. With private tuition, the tutor is able to move on to something which extends learning at the precise moment it is required to do so.

Differentiation is a lot easier to achieve

Differentiation is the practice of teaching different aspects of a learning concept at greater and lesser degrees of difficulty. For example, a classroom teacher, when teaching how to find percentages of amounts, needs to prepare the lesson so that students who can find 10% of amounts, as well as students who can find 17 ½ % of amounts, both not only have something to do, but are both equally challenged. The private maths tutor is in a better position to do this effortlessly. As soon as students show signals that the work is too hard, or indeed too easy, they can change the task, ask a different question or consolidate prior knowledge. Which brings us to my next point.

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Is “Average” the ultimate goal for schools?

The relentless focus on C-grades in schools grinds away at aspiration and makes achieving the average the ultimate goal I am a maths teacher working in a secondary school in East London.

We have a “hit list” of 60 year 11 students in our school; their portraits neatly adorn the walls of our staffroom. These students wander the corridors in a permanent state of ashen-faced grimness, wearily dragging their feet as they move from room to room. They are the intervention cohort. The C/D borderline students who may as well wear sandwich boards marking them out as so, just in case their peers had somehow missed the fact they are being mysteriously removed from registration, summoned to endless booster sessions and harangued by every member of the senior leadership team who has had a quick look over the mark book of late.

They are victims of the C-grade culture: an insidious little plague affecting students and teachers alike.

The energy devoted to those students would likely be enough to power several counties. In of itself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I wholeheartedly believe all that can be done to help students to achieve their goals, should be done.

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Practice Makes Perfect

I recently read about an interesting experiment conducted by a table tennis coach, Ben Larcombe [1]. Ben became fascinated by the idea that one could achieve mastery by practice, not innate talent. So he recruited his childhood friend Sam, a “computer geek” without any sign of sporting talent, and put him through a programme of over 500 hours of 1:1 coaching. Sam made dramatic progress – although one year of daily practice didn’t prove enough to make it as a top-ranked table tennis player.

Malcolm Gladwell popularised the thesis that to become an expert in anything one needs to put in an average of 10,000 hours of practice  – after 7 years at University, and 20 years of tutoring I can certainly vouch for the value of practice!

And as a tutor what really excites me isn’t table tennis, but the parallels with kids at school – as Matthew Syed, a former Commonwealth table tennis champion, rightly points out: “In subjects like mathematics, if young people are not very good at the beginning they tend to give up because they don’t think they have got a brain for numbers.”

I can concur with those sentiments. New students often come to me lacking severely in confidence. They have often given up because they have convinced themselves they are “bad at maths.”

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A Real Bankers’ Bonus

Banking transactions are powered by the most sophisticated and complicated backend database, middleware, and front-end technologies. But as technologists we have to instruct these instruments by way of coding, applying logic, and maintaining its longevity.

However, let’s start with one of the biggest turn-offs for most people when it comes to coding: ‘if my maths is terrible, am I a lost cause?’

It depends what you want to do. To develop websites and applications, your elementary maths skills. The maths you learn in primary school will see you through nicely. Thinking logically and conceptually is also very important.

To understand this you need to understand what the programmer or developer, is actually doing. Firstly they identify and define a task, setting out a number of actions that need to take place in sequence, in order for the desired outcome to be achieved.

To take a suitably festive example, say you wanted to write a simple code to create a Christmas tree with a countdown to Christmas. You’d use a series of while looping logic instructions to produce something like this:

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