How to concentrate on study – our top ten tips

Staying focused while studying for exams can be one of the hardest things for students. But we understand that it’s not always easy to remain focused for long periods of time, so these are our top ten tips on how to concentrate on study.

how to concentrate on study

1. Find a suitable space

While we do recommend studying in quiet areas like libraries, we won’t strictly suggest this. We know that not every student can study in total silence. Some might prefer to study at home too. It all depends on preferences and what works best for you. Students can figure out what areas work best for them by testing out different settings, whether it be at home, in a library or even in a café.

2. Create a plan

Before you begin studying, set out a realistic schedule. Include your goals – what you want to achieve or complete this study session and by when. Make the plan strict and precise. Try your best to stick to it too. When you have a guide to follow there’s a sense of structure and organisation. It’ll make things easier when you have something to follow.

3. Block distractions

As a student, your biggest distraction is likely going to be your mobile phone and social media, but it’s not difficult to block these out. Simply switch your phone off for a while or delete Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, whatever it is that distracts you. It’s all about self-discipline and it’s distractions like these that are really going to break your concentration.

4. Take breaks

Studies have proven that taking breaks do improve concentration while studying, but it is easy to forget to take them, especially when you’re in the zone. Set an alarm every couple of hours to remind yourself to take a half hour break. Use this time to eat, exercise or just relax. If you’ve been looking at a screen while studying, we recommend taking time away from it while on your break.

5. Stay hydrated

Don’t forget to stay hydrated while studying too. Drinking your recommended daily amount of water can help improve your mental performance and attention span. But aside from this, taking care of your health and well-being is just as important as studying for exams. Dehydration can be a major distraction and can lead to fatigue.

6. Keeps snacks nearby

Just like dehydration, hunger can also be a major distraction. But by keeping snacks nearby, we don’t mean crisps, chocolate and sweets. Think of well-balanced snacks that can help your focus and energy levels, like fresh fruit, yogurts and nuts.

7. Reward yourself

You could reward yourself with some snacks every so often while studying. Or, after a study session, treat yourself to some retail therapy, a nap or TV time. Make your reward something you enjoy, and that way you’ll have something to motivate you to get the work done.

8. Make it fun

Studying doesn’t have to be boring. There are many ways you can liven things up. Make colourful spider diagrams, read notes aloud, create a presentation, put your notes into rhymes or even just buy new stationary. When studying is made fun, the chances of remembering things is more likely. It doesn’t need to be plain old note-taking and reading.

9. Find a study partner

Studying can also be made fun by doing it with a partner. Have someone there who you can research and share strengths with. But most importantly, someone who can help motivate you. Your study partner will likely be feeling the same way as you, so knowing you’re both not alone can relieve the stress. Be sure to choose someone who you know won’t be a distraction.

10. Know your peak study time

There really is no best time of the day to study. Students may feel their brain is sharpest in the morning, while others may find their brain more active in the evening. There are pros and cons to each of these, and just like where you study, when you study also all depends on what works best for you.

Saturday School Ltd offers completely free advice to all parents and students on study revision, as well as course choices and levels.

Do not hesitate to get in contact with us if you would like further information on our services. You can call us on 0141 846 0219 or email us on [email protected]


How to get UCAS points outside of school

Some students could just be a few UCAS points short of getting into university. Luckily, there are some ways students can earn themselves extra UCAS points other than sitting school exams. We’ve created this small guide on how to get UCAS points outside of school, for students who might be a little short of them.

how to get UCAS points outside of school
Why UCAS points are important

Essentially, UCAS points are important as some colleges and universities make offers to students based on the amount of UCAS points they have achieved. Students may also need a specific amount of points to gain entry to a certain course.

Students achieve UCAS points after passing a qualification.

It is important to note that not all colleges and universities use the UCAS points system. Students should double check with the education provider. Students can also check how many points they need for a certain course through that university’s website.

Current UCAS tariff point system:

Scottish Highers UCAS Points
A – 33
B – 27
C – 21
D – 15

Scottish Advanced Highers UCAS Points
A – 56
B – 48
C – 40
D – 32

A Levels UCAS Points
A – 48
B – 40
C – 32
D – 24


ASDAN Qualifications

Asdan is a British educational charity who offer a range of programmes and qualifications aimed at students to help them develop knowledge and skills. Some of ASDAN’s qualifications allow students to gain extra UCAS points.

Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE)

The Certificate of Personal Effectiveness is recognised as a qualification by the SQA. Students can study this in S4 and S5 of school and also in college. The aim of CoPE is to develop skills and knowledge in areas like communication, citizenship and community, beliefs and values, the environment, health and fitness, and independent living.

Students can earn the UCAS points by taking part in activities such as:

• Detailed research projects
• Taking on a leadership role
• Work experience
• Volunteering placements
• Overseas expeditions

Activities are chosen from the following modules:
• Active Citizenship
• Work Related Activities
• Career Planning
• Global Awareness
• Enrichment Activities
• Extended Project

Each activity can take 20, 30, 40 or 50 hours to complete. The qualification as a whole takes approximately 150 guided learning hours.

UCAS points for CoPE

The course comes in 3 levels and after successful completion of level 3 candidates receive 16 UCAS points.

Award of Personal Effectiveness (AoPE)

The Award of Personal Effectiveness is another ASDAN qualification that is recognised by the SQA. The AoPE is a shorter version of the CoPE and students can move on to the CoPE afterwards.

To gain the UCAS points at level 3, students must complete enough challenges to gain eight curriculum credits. This equates to around 80 hours of work. Challenges and activities can be done both inside and outside of school.

Assessment units for AoPEs are:
• Team Working
• Planning and reviewing learning
• Tackling problems
• Research skills
• Improving skills in preparing and presenting information
• Learning through work experience
• Career exploration

UCAS points for AoPE

Like a CoPE, an AoPE also comes in 3 levels. However, it is only at level 3 students can receive 8 UCAS points after successful completion

Wider Key Skills

Wider Key Skills qualifications are aimed at anyone, not just school pupils. There are 3 Wider Key Skills qualifications available, these are:
• Working with Others
•Own Learning and Performance improving
• Problem Solving

To earn the qualification, candidates can take part in activities like: work experience, employment, voluntary or youth work.

UCAS points for Wider Key Skills

Like the other qualifications above, each skill comes in 3 levels and after successful completion of level 3, students earn 6 UCAS points.

Achieving qualifications like the ones ASDAN has to offer is a great opportunity for students to earn themselves extra UCAS points outside of school and potentially secure themselves a place in university.

More information on these courses can be found on ASDAN’s website, as well as other courses and qualifications.


How to Answer Close Reading Questions: National 5 and Higher

Close Reading or Reading for Understanding, Analysis and Evaluation is an important part of the external assessment in both the National 5 and Higher English courses. This article looks at how to answer closer reading questions at both National 5 and Higher.

In both National 5 and Higher English, close reading is the first paper of the examination.

What does close reading involve?

Assessment in this area involves reading a previously unseen passage – usually an extract from a broadsheet newspaper) and answering a selection of questions. The process of close reading requires that you closely examine a piece of writing.

But even though the passage you are required to read may be unfamiliar, we can still prepare very effectively for this part of the exam.

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Close Reading Question Types

The first key to your close reading success is the realisation that the questions can be divided into three main types:

U – Understanding Questions

These questions are testing your understanding of WHAT is in the text

A – Analysis Questions

These questions assess whether you have grasped HOW meaning has been conveyed

E – Evaluation Questions

These questions expect comment on HOW WELL meaning has been conveyed or impact has been created.

Recognising close reading question types

We can usually tell what type of question it is by the language used.

Understanding questions will often ask you to explain or summarise part of the text, and they mostly ask you to use your own words.

Analysis questions will ask you to analyse how the writer uses language or they might state: by referring to word choice or sentence structure, analyse how the writer…

The numbers help too!

The number of marks for each answer is also given and this varies from question to question. The language of the question, combined with the number of marks, gives a clear indication of how to respond to a question, as well as how much you might be expected to write in your answer.

Unless specifically asked to quote, you will be expected to answer the question in your own words.

Getting Started!

Always look at any italicised writing at the start of the passage. This is given by the exam board and may prove very useful in helping you appreciate the writer’s point of view, or just understanding the passage more easily. If they have given you the information, there is a reason for it!


Close Reading Questions Types: An In-Depth Look

What follows is a brief summary and set of guidelines. If there is anything you are not sure of, ask your teacher to go over it, or if you are already part of Saturday School, send us a question online.

1) Understanding Close Reading Questions

Always try to answer in your own words — you need to prove that you have understood the vocabulary

You do not have to write in sentences – for some you might be able to use   bullet points (make sure the number of points you make matches the marks available).


The context of something is what surrounds it, its setting if you like. When you are asked to derive the meaning of a word or an expression from its context, you need to look at what surrounds that word or phrase in the passage. Your answer should offer a meaning for the word or the phrase and then an explanation of how someone might have been able to work out –even guess! — the meaning from what was round about it.


These questions don’t just test your understanding meaning, but also the structure of the sentence, — so it can be both an Understanding and an Analysis type of question!

You will be asked to show how the sentence joins two paragraphs together. What you must do is pick out some word(s) from the sentence that refer back to what was said in the previous paragraph, then pick out some other word(s) that refer to what follows in the next paragraph. You will be quoting from the sentence as well as summarising what has been said.

E.g. Making new friends, is not the only benefit of going hill walking, it has health benefits too. For example, regular exercise can improve fitness, burn of those extra calories and improve circulation.

In this example the writer had previously being talking about the social benefits of hill-walking, shown when they refer to ‘making new friends’ but the sentence then introduces ‘health benefits’ to explore how this activity can improve our fitness, which the writer goes on to discuss in the rest of the passage.


Here you will be asked to list or sum up all of the points that have been made in a given section or paragraph. You need to show the examiner that you have understood what has been said as well as perhaps identifying the particular point of view that the writer has taken (e.g. being for or against a particular idea).

2) Analysis Close Reading Questions

Any Analysis question means that you have to take something apart and show how and why it has been put together in that particular way. Before you even begin to answer an Analysis question, you have to be sure that you fully understand what is being asked — and that is usually something about what the writer was trying to achieve.

This means you need to be able to identify then technique that has been used as well as the effect that it has on you as a reader. Just make sure you read the question carefully before you start!


These questions look at how sentences have been put together, how they have been built. They are not simply about what the sentence means!! Take a good look at the sentence; is there anything unusual about it?  Think about the following….

  1. The length of the sentence
  2. The type of sentence it is
  3. The punctuation that is used
  4. Are there patterns within the sentence?
  5. Is there anything unusual about the word order used in the sentence?
1) The length of the sentence
  • Is it longer or shorter than those around it?
  • Does it stand out for this reason?
2) The type of sentence that it is
  • Is it a statement? (e.g. It was very quiet)
  • Is it a question? (e.g. Was it  quiet?)
  • Is it an exclamation (e.g. Isn’t it quiet!)
  • Is it a command? (e.g. Be quiet!)
  • Is it a minor sentence? (e.g. He went int the room. ( a statement)  Total quietness. (a minor sentence)
Each of these types of sentence is used to create a particular effect
  • The statement is generally found in narrative or factual writing
  • The question may be to try to involve the reader more directly in the subject
  • The exclamation is designed to suggest shock or surprise
  • The command is found in instructions or perhaps in advertising or persuasive writing
  • The minor sentence omits the verb to create a dramatic effect, often in a tense situation.  It can also be used to create a closer bond with the reader by being more informal.
3) The punctuation that is used
  • Comma – used to separate a number of things on a list, or to create a pause in a lengthy sentence – the pause might be there to create impact too.
  • Inverted commas – are usually used for a quotation but can also be used for the titles of books, plays, films, television programmes etc. You may also find a writer using them because he wants to suggest that he is not taking something too seriously.
  • Colon – mostly used to introduce a list or perhaps a quotation, but it can also be used to introduce an explanation of a point that has been made.
  • Semi-colon – this separates longer phrases within a list in a sentence, or it can be used to join two ideas together, ideas which could be expressed as separate sentences but are too closely linked to be separated by a full stop.
  • Single dash – used to add extra information about a point that has been made
  • Pair of dashes  – the writer might use these or might use a pair of brackets  and they contain extra information on a given point. You should be able to take out of the sentence what is between the dashes or brackets and the sentence will still make sense
  • Ellipsis – is a row of dots (…..) which allows a sentence to trail off, as though there might be more that could be said
4) Are there patterns within the sentence?
  • Inversion – this means changing the normal word order, so that what might normally be at the beginning of a sentence could be left to the end. It is done to create impact
  • Repetition  — this is where words or even whole phrases are repeated within the sentence, again to create impact
  • Climax – the building up of ideas in ascending order with the most important one being kept to the last
  • Anti-climax – again building up the ideas in ascending order but the (anticipated) most important one never happens, which creates a feeling of deflation
  • Sentence length – (referred to also in Understanding)  You need to look at the lengths of the sentences around the given sentence as well as the sentence itself. Be on the lookout for contrasts

REMEMBER  A question on sentence structure is NOT about meaning! You MUST discuss how the sentence has been put together and the impact of that. The best marks are awarded for answers that focus on the effect of the structure within the given context.


Questions on imagery are exploring the way in which a writer has put a picture, or image, into your head. There are many different techniques that writers use, but it is not enough that you simply name the technique in your answer. You have to show the effect that the writer was trying to achieve. When writing about imagery, you will identify the technique and go on to explain the literal meaning of the words as well as the picture that it creates in your head.

Some terms you should know:
  • Simile – This is a comparison of two things which will ALWAYS involve the use of the words ‘as’ or ‘like’ – for example “ my brother is as greedy as a pig when it comes to chips”
  • Metaphor – This is also a comparison but this time one thing is said to BE the thing it is compared to – for example “ my brother is a pig when it comes to chips”
  • Personification – this is where a thing, or an object is described as though it was a human being – for example – “ the sun came creeping in through the curtains”
  • Onomatopoeia – this is where a word sounds like the thing that it represents – for example – “ feet squelching through mud, meowing of cats, booming of guns

Word choice

Despite the fact that each and every word will have been chosen by the writer, there are likely to be questions that explore specific examples and you will be required to explain why you think these particular words have been used — i.e. the effect that they have. In answering these questions you might have to think about the connotations of certain words, that is, the ideas that come into your head when you think of that word. For example, the word ‘dove’ is associated with — or has connotations of — peace


Many candidates find this difficult. You should try to imagine how something might be said, the tone of voice that might be used. There is a huge range of possibilities but some that you might be expected to meet in the exam are…

  • Humorous
  • Angry
  • Sarcastic
  • Critical etc.

When answering a question on tone, you need to be able to show how it has been achieved and this will involve looking at the word choice, the structure and type of sentence(s) used, as well as any imagery.

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3) Evaluation Close Reading Questions

Remember that any question involving Evaluation requires that you also offer some analysis.

It is simply not enough to say that something has been well or badly done! You must provide the evidence to support your point of view.

To do this you need to comment on any techniques that may have been used – imagery, word choice, sentence structures etc.  — as well as the impact that these have had on your reading.

In Evaluation answers, you may well find that you have to use quotations from the passage, but make sure that you also comment, offering your perspective on the effectiveness of the technique or feature you have identified.

Final Tips


Make sure that you are reading regularly. Netflix is nice and Fortnite is fun, but one of the best things you can read to help with Close Reading is a quality such as The Scotsman, The Glasgow Herald, The Independent etc.

If you look at Past Papers, you will see that many of the extracts have been taken from these newspapers. Reading them on a regular basis will help you get to grips with the kind of language that they use.  Many of these newspapers have online content available for free too.

The best way to use them is to read an article then identify:

  • the subject
  • how the writer feels about it
  • language features which show this
  • Practice Papers


Practice Papers are available from bookshops and on from for free!

Using these provides the real key to effective preparation because you learn how to respond to the questions (they do follow patterns!) and knowing what is expected helps to relieve some of the stress and understand how to answer them.

Be prepared and you will have nothing to fear!

Our top 8 tips on how to write your National 5 English Critical Essay

Your critical essay is an essay that allows you to demonstrate your analysis, interpretation and evaluation of pieces of literature. Your national 5 English critical essay is worth 20 marks (or half of the critical reading exam) so it is important to make this count. In this post, we have outlined our top 8 tips on how to write and pass your National 5 English critical essay.

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SQA English Portfolio Template (Higher and Nat 5)

What is the SQA  English folio template?

All National 5 and Higher English candidates are required to submit a portfolio which contains TWO  pieces of writing.

In order to do this, you must use an official Folio template to produce hard copies of your portfolio, which will be sent to the SQA.

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Why do we need to use the official SQA English template?

Since 2016  portfolios have been e-marked. This means that each candidate’s portfolio must be scanned and then read by the marker.

As you can imagine, having all types of fonts sizes, line spaces and margins could make reading the folios difficult. If the information is missing or any part of the Folio is impossible to read, this could result in a lower grade for the candidate. Therefore, a template with standard fonts and margins makes the process much smoother and improves your chances of getting a good result.

Where do I find the template?

Click on this link Download SQA English Folio Template.

What format does the SQA English folio template use?

The template is available in a Word format. This means if you are using a Mac rather than a PC you should use Word for Mac.

How do I use the SQA English folio template?

You can download and/or print copies of the template as required. The SQA recommend that candidates type directly onto the template. But, you can also copy and paste your writing from another file. The template has a straightforward format and is set up with a common font and font size.

Do you have to type into the SQA English Folio Template?

If you prefer to write by hand, you could also print the template and write directly onto it. But this means you have write very neatly and carefully. Most candidates prefer the electronic method.

If I type into it, can I just send my English Folio electronically?

No. You or your teacher must print out a hard copy which must be submitted through the school or centre in the usual way. It would also be wise to keep a saved version of your final version.

Do I need to use a different template for each piece of writing?

No, Both portfolio pieces can be contained within one template. Just make a clear indication of where each piece of writing starts by using a description and title.

  • Discursive Writing: Are Drones Flying Above the Law?
  • Personal Writing:  Holiday Disaster.

Do I have to include the pieces in a certain order?

Yes. Please ensure that the pieces follow the order of the flyleaf, – broadly creative followed by broadly discursive.

It is recommended that the portfolio pieces are printed double-sided where possible. This just allows for quicker processing and helps save trees too.

Important points to remember



Each portfolio must be accompanied with the SQA flyleaf. These are the front covers, which the school or centre provides.

They will require you to include your name, school, candidate number, as well as the title and word count of each of your two pieces. Please ensure all of the information on your flyleaf is completed and accurate. Any errors or incomplete sections could delay your exam results, which is never a good thing!


Your school or centre will have strict dates upon which the Folios will be collected. These are given to the school by the SQA and are non-negotiable.
This means that it is really important that have your Folio completed by your official deadline. Check with your teacher to confirm you know your deadline.

How much of my mark is my English folio worth?victoria rose english tutor glasgow

Your Folio is potentially worth a whopping 30% of your final grade.

So it is worth ensuring it is the best work you can produce. Getting it right, reduces the pressure

of your final exam. If you are unsure about any aspect of it, speak to your teacher for advice.

Best of Luck from the team at Saturday School!

Scottish Highers vs A Levels

Scottish Highers vs A Levels

Scottish Highers and A Levels are the main qualifications that allow student to progress into higher education or gain employment after secondary school. Nowadays, a lot of people, parents especially, often get confused with the difference between these academic levels. We’ve put together this blog post “Scottish Highers vs A Levels” to cover what these are and what exactly the differences are.

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