At Tutorspot, we partner with many passionate and dedicated tutors, working to help students improve their studies and grades for a variety of subjects, including GCSE Biology, GCSE Physics, A-Level Maths and many more. We also have a number of Chemistry Tutors on hand to work with students of all academic levels and abilities, arming them with the skills they need to go from strength to strength and achieve their individual goals, whether working at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3, GCSE, A-Level, graduate, or beyond.
Our tutors come from a range of backgrounds, including teaching and lecturing, working professionals with experience and expertise in their respective fields, as well as some carefully selected university students and recent graduates with excellent current knowledge of the education system. This broad range of backgrounds allows Tutorspot tutors to help all students excel, whether that’s with dedicated sessions during the exam period or throughout the academic year, as there is a tutor to suit everyone.
In this article, Tutorspot speaks to two excellent Chemistry tutors to discuss their backgrounds and passion for the subject, as well as some of their expert study advice for students working towards their A-Levels. We speak to Hayley, who has 20 years of experience tutoring Chemistry and six years working as a qualified Chemistry teacher and to Gareth, with 21 years of experience teaching Chemistry in secondary schools to students in KS3, GCSE and at A-Level.
Background: Qualified Science teacher with Chemistry specialisation. Prior to retraining as a teacher, Hayley worked as a chemist in industry and academia, both in the UK and Australia.
Also Teaches: Biology to A-Level and Physics to GCSE, as well as Maths to GCSE.
Background: Teaching in secondary schools, ages 11-18, delivering Key Stage 3, GCSE and A-Level Chemistry, and in Further Education, teaching A-Level Chemistry and equivalent, BTEC Forensic Science and Applied Science, Science for HE. Gareth is also an examiner, writing and delivering Chemistry exams for a range of exam boards including Pearsons, Edexcel and AQA, marking and moderating exams as well as producing resources for Science qualifications.
Also Teaches: A-Level Physics and GCSE Biology and Physics.
Hayley: I have always had a passion for science and love to share this passion with students. I specialise in Chemistry, because although I loved Chemistry at GCSE and A-Level, I found it a struggle and it didn’t come easily to me. I had to find alternative ways to learn and once at University, I found I had an aptitude for it.
When I started tutoring in 2000, I met many students who struggled with Chemistry the same way I had done, so I started to develop different ways of teaching to simplify concepts and make them more accessible. When I left research to train as a teacher, it made sense to specialise in Chemistry. I love teaching at A-Level because of my research past, and the opportunity to share my deeper subject knowledge.
Gareth: My first degree is in Chemistry, which is where my interest began. A-Level Chemistry (and equivalent level-3 courses) is where the study of pure Chemistry begins; where key chemical principles are first introduced to students with an interest and application in science.
Hayley: I love how Chemistry explains much of the world around us. The ancestors of modern day chemists were alchemists, who were almost seen as magicians. Chemistry has that same ‘wow factor’, and it is the one subject where you are completely able to blow the minds of your students everyday.
Gareth: Chemistry addresses how the nuts and bolts of the universe work; opening the door to understanding the properties of substances and the interaction of materials with the environment.
Hayley: I think that textbooks and classroom teachers often over complicate the subject matter, which can have a negative impact on student confidence. By the time students come to me, they have a misconception that the subject is hard. Tuition is as much to do with rebuilding self-belief that has been lost as it is with teaching content. The other day a student said to me “I wish I could go back to my younger self and show her what I am doing today. She would never believe it was possible”. There is a misconception that Chemistry is an elitist subject but I feel that, with the right teacher, any student is able to excel in it.
Gareth: Problem-solving. It’s an important aspect and requires a strong understanding of the subject. The mistake students make is assuming they can just learn and recall everything. They need to develop and apply problem-solving skills.
Hayley: Many years ago, I taught two girls who were in Year 11 and wanted Chemistry tuition as their mock grades were D and E, respectively. They wanted help to bring their grades to a minimum of C. The first thing they both told me was that they were not good at Chemistry and they didn’t like it. This I saw as a challenge and wanted to prove that ability in Chemistry was mostly mind over matter. I worked with them for the remainder of the year and watched them grow in confidence over the months. After the exam results came out, I received a thank you card in the post – their grades had gone from D and E to A* and A, respectively. Not only that, but one of them had chosen Chemistry as an A-Level and hoped to go on to University to study it.
Gareth: Many. It’s probably wrong to say this, but on a personal level I’m happiest when students tell me they’ve decided against studying (at university) mathematics or physics, and are applying for a Chemistry-based degree instead. In terms of students, I’m most pleased for the students who I remember struggling through Chemistry content in Year 12, who have since graduated, with some going on to complete Chemistry-based postgraduate courses.
Hayley: I would suggest that revision begins on day one. Twenty minutes every day summarising learning will go a long way to helping embed knowledge for the long-term. And constantly revisit topics by tackling past paper questions. The same way with any skill, you need to keep practising.
There are lots of great resources on the internet that have collated past paper exam questions, an hour a week should keep the wheels oiled, and will pay dividends when the exams come round.
Gareth: It’s important to start early, i.e. on their first week and keep a consistent and diligent approach. The key to progressing in Chemistry is to understand and practice applying key chemical concepts. Focus on the principles involved and practice using them to problem-solve. Of all the Science A-Levels, Chemistry is the one that requires the least memory.
Hayley: One of the biggest challenges at A-Level is overcoming misconceptions. With so much content and the relatively little time you have in the classroom to cover topics, it is inevitable that misconceptions will form. Having a tutor can help students to navigate this minefield. Tutors can not only work on subject content, but also on exam technique, which is often a big stumbling block to achieving those higher grades.
Gareth: I think most students originally choose to study with a tutor to improve their grade. However, tutorials offer students the opportunity to engage with the subject on a one-to-one basis: to discuss their strengths and weaknesses in the subject, and thus achieve a more thorough appreciation for the subject. As a tutor, you look to students developing a greater interest in the complexities of the subject. If a student likes studying Chemistry, then they will dedicate more time to it and they are willing to work harder to break through any barriers in their understanding.
Hayley: The most important thing is that the student wants the sessions and that a lesson is at a time which suits them best. To get the most out of tuition the student needs to be receptive to learning and prepared to put in the hard yards. When the match of tutor/student is right and the student is keen to learn, real magic can happen.
Gareth: Students must be proactive. A tutorial should not be viewed as an extended lesson; it is a one-to-one discussion between tutor and tutee, aimed at identifying and developing weaknesses in the student’s understanding and approach to content of the specification. Tutorials should be targeting the individual student’s needs. Ideally, students should identify or bring specific content with them to work through.
Hayley: Make sure you make a timetable for your study and exam prep, and schedule breaks and “me time” (doing things for yourself like watching movies, reading books, catching up with friends, etc.), as well as revision. You will be more productive if you take regular breaks, plus you will feel more relaxed when you do stop for things and won’t be riddled with guilt that you are not studying. Your mental health is as important as your academic success, and you can’t achieve the latter without the former.
Gareth: Excellent study/examination skills are vital to achieving top-grades at A-Level. Marks are missed in exams due to the poor reading and interpretation of exam questions. Teachers/tutors can support students improving this aspect of their preparation. Work on past questions using mark-schemes to build experience and self-confidence to tackling exam questions with a methodical and disciplined approach.
If you’re interested in working with a Chemistry tutor for your A-Levels to help you achieve your goals, get in touch with Tutorspot today. You can also book directly with Hayley or Gareth by clicking through to view their profiles. All our tutors are available for online or in-person (when safe to do so) tuition sessions at dates and times to suit you.
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