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Understand your child’s GCSE, IGCSE or A level

It is hard to understand your child’s GCSE, IGCSE or A level if you do not have a background in education. Parents often tell us they are completely confused by the courses their children study at school.  This is perfectly understandable, as the GCSE/IGCSE and A level courses certainly appear complex and confusing.    Everything in education seems to have an acronym or an abbreviation, with no clear explanation of exactly what they mean.  Therefore, in the first part of our parent’s guide, we have put together this blog post to explain 3 of the most common acronyms and abbreviations used in GCSE, IGCSE, and A Level.

AOs = Assessment Objectives

Teachers and tutors will be very familiar with the Assessment Objectives for the course. These tell you the skills and knowledge that your child should be learning whilst they study the course.  The AOs will be tested in the exam.  The AOs are extremely important and are usually the key to raising a grade, because your child will have to meet the AOs at a higher level to get a higher mark. To get the top grades, your child needs to understand and apply all the AOs to a very high standard.

Therefore, knowing the AOs for the course your child is studying is vital if you want to understand your child’s GCSE, IGCSE or A level.  You can usually find the AOs online, on the specification for the exam board.   You need to find the correct exam board, the correct course and view the specification. If your teenager is studying Cambridge Pre-U, this is called the syllabus.

You will find a table somewhere in the specification that gives the AOs for the course and explains what they are testing.  Pay attention to the weighting for each AO in each exam paper and exam question.  It is pointless to work with your child on AO4, for example, on an exam question where AO4 does not apply.  You will see that the AOs also feature prominently on the mark schemes for each exam paper.  This is a big clue to how important they are!

To be fair, AOs are pretty difficult to understand and not designed for the layman.  That is why, of course, parents pay tutors to interpret them and to show students how to apply them.  However, understanding the outline of the AOs, and that these are the criteria for marking exams, will help you to understand your child’s GCSE, IGCSE or A level.

Essay Writing – What do teachers mean by analysis?


SPAG = Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar

To understand your child’s GCSE, IGCSE or A level, it helps to know about SPAG.  Tutors and teachers always have a keen eye on spelling, punctuation and grammar which is, of course, vital to raising overall literacy levels as well as raising, or lowering, an exam mark.  SPAG is particularly important for any subject that requires written work.  It is absolutely vital in English exams. On many English papers there are extra marks available for SPAG, and this can also be the case for GCSE history. SPAG can boost (or reduce) a mark.

If your child has been in mainstream UK education from a young age, or at a British International School, they should be familiar with SPAG.  In fact, they will probably be able to tell you quite a lot about it.  Checking your child’s work for SPAG is a relatively straightforward way to help them increase marks.

Find your GCSE or A Level Tutor


Home Learning

PEE(L) = Point, Evidence, Explain (Link)

This acronym is important for English, the humanities and any extended writing.  To understand your child’s GCSE, IGCSE and A level, and what gets good results, it is worth learning about PEE(L).   Tutors and teachers know all about PEE structure and it is widely used.  It is the basic structure of a clear, analytical paragraph – the type of paragraph that gets good marks in exams.  If your child is in UK education, or a British International School, it is highly likely they will understand PEE.

Schools may use slightly different terminology to describe it, but the technique remains the same.

P = the point sentence i.e. the main theme/idea of the paragraph

E = evidence (or example) i.e. a direct quote from a text, a clear example etc.

E = explanation i.e. a deeper level of meaning, why it is important/effective etc.

Personally, as a tutor, I also teach L for Link.  The link technique either links onto the following paragraph so that essays are coherent or, more frequently, links back to the question.  In the latter case, it is a structural device to keep students focused on the question.

PEE(L) is widely taught and important because it tends to stop rambling in essays and ensure that students stay focused on the question.

PEE paragraphs: why are children taught PEE?


A bit about me

As well as being a mum, grandmother, practising tutor, historian and education blogger, I am the Founder & Managing Partner of The Tutor Team.   We are a family business, where I work with both my daughter Tess, my son Anthony and daughter-in-law Anita.  I am also assisted by Lisa, my capable and efficient PA.   We are proud to have a team of 80 qualified, experienced teachers and university lecturers offering high-quality private tuition online.
Dr Janet Rose

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