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Moving from a GCSE to A Level Science Tutor

19/02/2024 / Science Tuition

Finishing your GCSEs is a huge achievement – especially for students who have been working hard with tutors to ensure they learn as much as possible and attain the very best marks they can.

The end of GCSE courses is also a pivotal moment because it’s time to begin planning for A levels. There’s lots to think about when you’re preparing for sixth form studies and choosing your A level subjects. What are you most interested in? What kind of career would you like, and what do you need to do at university to get there? If you’re a big fan of science, what marks will you aim for at A level to get into the science course you want?

Given all the challenges of beginning your A levels, it can be very reassuring to know that you have a tutor by your side to guide your way. If you already benefited from a great GCSE science tutor, that’s even better, as it means your tutor already knows your learning style and needs.

However, it is important to remember that tutoring for science at A level won’t be just like tutoring for GCSE sciences. Moving into the sixth form isn’t just about wearing your own clothes rather than uniform – it’s a big shift in mindset and goals.

Fortunately, a good science tutor will know how to adapt their tutoring to suit the needs and demands of A level science studies. Students may also need to ask themselves some questions about what they need from an A level science tutor, and whether they need to switch up some aspects of their tutoring.

In this article, we’ll run through some questions you can ask yourself and your tutor when you’re moving on from a GCSE science tutor to an A level science tutor.

1. Are you focusing on the same science discipline at A level? Are the goals of your tutoring the same?

There are many reasons why students may seek out a GCSE science tutor. Some may already be achieving very highly in GCSE science but want some extra help to increase their chances of achieving a mark of 8 or 9. These students might focus on biology, chemistry and physics equally in their tutoring.

Others may love science and want to take a science at A level, but feel that they are stronger in some science disciplines than in others. In that case, a student who feels they need more help in biology might primarily focus on that area in their tutoring.

In the second scenario, let’s say this student is now moving on to take physics at A level. While previously their tutoring centred on biology, their least strong science discipline, now they’re seeking tutoring in physics, their strongest. This will require a distinct shift in tutoring style.

This student might even want to seek out a different science tutor. Perhaps their GCSE tutor was an expert in biology, and now they have the opportunity to choose a tutor who specialises in A level physics. That sounds like great preparation for the studies ahead, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that changing to a different tutor is necessarily at all times, or even often. It just means that students should re-assess the style of science tutoring they want at A level and their goals rather than just automatically continuing in the same manner without re-assessing.

2. How will your A level science tutor prepare you to work with greater depth and with more advanced material?

An obvious difference between GCSEs and A levels is that the A level material is more advanced and in-depth.

But there’s more to A levels than just “harder” work. Students are expected to engage in critical thinking and exhibit higher levels of understanding, as well as to come to their own conclusions and judgements. In short, they are meant to approach their learning in a more mature, thoughtful way.

That’s another reason why a GCSE science tutor who’s now tutoring A levels will take a different approach to tutoring. They will work to be more of a guide to the student. They might ask probing questions to challenge a student’s thinking. If a student has a question, they might encourage them to try to investigate the answer on their own rather than simply providing the answer.

While this change in style might feel very different, it’s actually just the right thing that a student needs. What’s more, this type of approach allows students to develop confidence in their own knowledge and critical thinking abilities so that they are prepared to tackle the challenging questions on an A level exam paper.

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3. How will your A level science tutor help you to take charge of your own learning and develop your executive functioning skills?

You might never have heard of executive functioning, and it’s not listed on any A level science syllabus. But it’s actually a type of skillset that’s invaluable at A level and through university and the world of work.

Executive functioning means the ability to make plans and execute them – as a CEO or the leader of a country might. These people make judgements and decisions and then ensure these plans are carried out.

When you’re in the early stages of high school, it’s normal for your guardians, tutors and teachers to be more in charge of your learning. You might typically just follow their instructions when they tell you what to do. When GCSEs begin, this changes a little. You are expected to be a little more in control of your own learning. In fact, we encourage GCSE science students to reflect on their own learning and to take charge of directing their focus toward the topic areas that need it.

In other words, your executive functioning skills become more important when you’re preparing for your GCSEs. When you begin A levels, these skills need to be even stronger. You’ll have a lot of time to yourself in which you’ll be expected to do your own revision and learning. You’ll need to be the executive of your own learning, deciding what you need to work on and when.

If you have ADD or ADHD, you might already be very familiar with executive functioning skills. In fact, tutors for ADD and ADHD often work on this type of skillset. But, in fact, executive functioning is important for everyone, so you might want to ask your A level science tutor to help you in this area as well as in the topic of science.

How might your A level science tutor do this? There are any number of ways, but they might guide you to…

  • Set your own goals.
  • Look at your calendar and divide up your work.
  • Make a plan for your learning time when you’re not in the classroom.
  • Set up effective routines for revising.

4. How will your A level science tutor help you prepare for the demands of A level exam papers?

While A level exam specifications vary more than GCSE specifications, it’s fair to say that A level exams are more challenging. They’re often at least a little longer, and the question types tend to be more complex and thought-provoking.

Of course, some revision and exam preparation techniques that were useful for GCSEs will also be useful at A level. For example, it’s nearly always true that staying up late the night before the exam to cram in some last-minute revision is not a good plan. Conversely, spreading your revision out over a long time and just getting a good rest the night before the exam is generally a far better route to good grades.

But a good A level science tutor will also help you to get used to the more challenging exam papers. They’ll push you to answer in a deeper and more complex manner. They’ll also help you to understand the difference in the type of thinking required at A level – an answer that might have been good on a GCSE exam paper might not be enough on an A level paper.

Making a smooth transition from science GCSE to A level with Principal Tutors

It goes without saying that science tutoring isn’t just about knowing science facts. Both a GCSE science tutor and an A level science tutor should know the curriculum, know the relevant exam specification, and have the pedagogical abilities to teach students how to push themselves to greater heights and greater independence.

In other words, the best GCSE science tutors and A level science tutors really need to be qualified teachers with experience teaching the UK curriculum. If you’re wondering where to find such an expert tutor, search no more – at Principal Tutors, every one of our tutors has all of these qualities. That means your tutor doesn’t just know about science. They know about teaching and about the expectations and demands of each student’s course of study.

What’s more, we understand that all students are different, with different goals, requirements, learning styles and personalities. We pride ourselves on our tutor matching process in which we ensure each student is matched with just the right tutor to fit their needs and wishes. After all, one of the biggest benefits of a GCSE science tutor or an A level science tutor is that you’re getting a truly individualised approach. We know the magic that can happen when a student and a tutor “click,” and we know the importance of personalising tutoring approaches to every student’s situation. If you’re looking for a GCSE science tutor or an A level science tutor, we’re here to help. Just reach out to us on 0800 772 0974 if you’re like to chat with our expert team about tutoring for either GCSE or A level science. Or, if you’d like to start the matching process now, just fill out our online form. We can’t wait to begin helping you or your student with A level or GCSE science studies.


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