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Can a Science Tutor Provide Past Papers?

11/01/2024 / Science Tuition

When it comes to preparing for science GCSEs and A-levels, seeking out tutoring is a smart decision for many reasons. It can decrease anxiety and exam nerves, increase confidence, and, of course, improve a student’s skills and knowledge.

Whether a student is revising for combined science GCSE, separate sciences at GCSE, or biology, physics or chemistry at A-level, tutoring provides many things that classroom learning just doesn’t.

Another smart move when you’re preparing for GCSEs or A-levels is to seek out past papers from your exam board. In fact, this is such a common piece of advice that it’s probably the first thing you’ll hear when you start looking into tips for success!

Given that tutoring and past papers are both such effective ways to revise, you might then wonder whether you can get help with past papers from a science tutor. Past papers are a concept that makes sense to a student who’s just starting Year 10 – but you might not know where to look to find them in your own.

So, can a science tutor provide past papers for you?

The short answer is yes, they can!

The longer answer is a little more complicated – and that’s the topic we’ll dive into in this blog.

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The accessibility of past papers

It’s very understandable that if you’re just beginning to think about revising for GCSEs, you might not know where to look for past papers. You might even be unsure as to whether you can get them for free anywhere or not.

Fortunately, there’s good news! The exam boards make some of their past papers available for free on their websites to students as well as to teachers and tutors.

For example, if your exam board is Pearson Edexcel, you can use a simple search functionality on their website to look for past Edexcel science papers.

There are also archives of AQA past papers, OCR past papers, Eduqas past papers, CCEA past papers, and WJEC past papers.

In fact, the exam boards are quite transparent about their examination standards. They often include mark schemes for each exam in those same past paper archives – and sometimes more information such as examiner reports and guidance.

But that brings us to our next point …

A tool is only useful as far as it can be used correctly

Past papers can be amazing – but in order to get the most benefit out of them, you need to be able to use them and the mark scheme in order to analyse your own work on the paper and craft an approach to tackling the exam.

One big mistake that students can make is just to complete exam papers and then put them aside. While practice on its own helps a little, this isn’t the best way to get the most out of the papers.

One way to use a past paper is to take it under exam conditions and then use the mark scheme to see what mark you would have earned. But that requires you to understand the mark scheme and be able to apply it properly – something that’s not necessarily easy for a student.

Another way to use a past paper is not to take it under exam conditions. Rather, you analyse it, examining how the paper has been structured, where there are tricks or traps, and how it could be best tackled on exam day.

For both of these approaches, expert guidance is highly beneficial. That’s where we can see the value of a tutor in any exam subject, including an English, maths and science tutor. Past papers might be available to anyone, but a student likely won’t be able to get the full value from a past paper on their own. A tutor can help you steer your way through a past paper, assess your own performance, learn from mistakes, and improve your skills in a deep way.

A tutor can use the past paper together with the mark scheme and any other guidance or information documents to create a deeper understanding of the paper in a way that a student just couldn’t. Also, if you were to read through all of the extra information included with past papers – the examiner reports, mark schemes and more – it would add a heap of reading to your workload, which is the last thing you need! Students need to spend their time focusing on revising content, while tutors can become expert in past papers and share their knowledge with students.

What’s more, when a science tutor has been working with a certain past paper for a while, they’ll come to know it pretty well. They’ll be familiar with its details, which just makes them far more able to guide you through it efficiently.

In short, you can get some past exam papers by yourself, or science tutors can provide them too. But what’s important is the expert guidance of the tutor, which helps you to get the maximum value out of the paper.

Past paper archives can be confusing

Another reason there’s great value in working with a science tutor is that there can be lots of different versions of past papers floating around out there, and sometimes it can be hard to know which ones are the ones you should be looking at.

Let’s take GCSEs as an example. Will you be doing a foundation or higher tier paper? Combined or separate GCSE? If it’s AQA, will it be AQA Synergy or AQA Trilogy?

Don’t forget also that the science GCSE was revamped in 2016 (as were the science A-levels). If you’re searching online for past papers, it might be easy to run into an old paper by accident – which wouldn’t really be useful at all.

Crafting an approach to past papers with your tutor

Another reason it’s a huge asset to work through past papers with your science tutor is that they can help you to craft a programme of revision.

When you’re making your own decisions about how to revise, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you spend your time on past papers first? Or focus on memorising formulae and terms? Learn exam techniques? There are so many aspects to exam revision that it can be overwhelming.

A qualified tutor can help you to design a way of revising that suits you and lets you use your past papers in the best possible way. For one student, that might mean starting with a past paper to establish a baseline, then stepping back and focusing on specific tricky topics for a while. For another student, it might mean doing a past paper at regular intervals. Either way, with a science tutor, past papers can be implemented cleverly within a larger plan designed to meet a student’s individual needs.

What about last year’s papers?

If you browse through past papers in exam board archives, you might notice that papers from last year aren’t available to you. But they are available to teachers!

Does that mean that if your tutor is a qualified teacher, they can allow you to use that paper as a past paper too?

Sadly, no, it doesn’t. Teachers need to keep these papers private so that they can be used for mock exams. However, a good, well qualified science tutor will make sure that you’ve been able to make use of all possible past papers available to you.

Thriving in science GCSE and A-level with Principal Tutors

An individual’s efforts in revising for their own GCSE and A-level exams will always be of paramount importance. It’s also great when students take ownership of their own learning and take initiative to seek out resources online.

However, when it comes to past papers, there’s nothing like a qualified tutor for ensuring that you get the absolute maximum benefit from each paper. It’s the partnership between student and tutor here that can really help learning and achievement to zoom to new heights.

In this blog so far, we’ve referred to “qualified tutors.” That’s because we believe the best science tutors are fully qualified teachers who have experience with the UK science curriculum. When you’re working through a past paper, you want to be receiving advice from a teacher who truly understands the requirements of your exam and knows what’s tripped up other students in the past.

And, in fact, at Principal Tutors that’s exactly what all of our science tutors are – fully qualified and experienced teachers.

We’ve also mentioned that a tutor can help personalise a student’s revision process. We know that every student is different, and that the personalised, individual approach is one of the great assets of private tutoring.

That’s why we pride ourselves on our student-tutor matching process. We ensure that each student is matched with a tutor who suits them down to a T in terms of learning needs, learning style, personality and more.

Of course, it goes without saying that our science tutors’ expertise in past papers is just the start of what they can do to help you or your child. If you’d like to know more about what our tutors can offer, call us on 0800 772 0974.

We’d love to chat more with you about you or your child’s tutoring goals and how we can help you achieve them. You can also get in touch with us and start the tutor matching process through our online form.


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