8 Questions You Should Ask A Potential Physics Tutor To Guarantee Your Success In IB Physics Exams

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Are you feeling any of these worries when it comes to IB Physics?

  • You’re falling a little bit behind on the IB Physics course content.
  • You've done a couple of class tests and found that they've not borne the grades you were hoping.
  • You understand the content, it's just that applying that knowledge into exam-style questions is tricky for you
  • You're not really seeing the results you had previously achieved in IGCSE or MYP physics.

If this sounds like you, it's totally natural that you might consider hiring a physics tutor.

In this blog post, I'd really like to talk about the questions you should ask a potential physics tutor to make sure you're getting value for money.

Before you even think about a physics tutor, I'm hoping you've downloaded my GradePod IB Physics Study Kit, because that will show you how to revise for class tests and exams.

I'm also hoping that you've attended my masterclass, because that is really where we drill down into strategies into improving your grade in IB physics.

If you've done those two things and you still feel you need extra help, then a physics tutor might be something that you're considering.

Let’s think about questions you might ask a potential physics tutor.

I know the questions I would ask if I was 17 and was interviewing for a physics tutor. The first one would be,

Is the physics behind "The Big Bang Theory" and "Interstellar" really correct?

I'd really like to know that, and I'd want to know if they know that, too.

And the second question I would ask would be, is it true, this is a dodgy one,

Is it true that Einstein was a cold-hearted misogynist?

Now, I don't want to offend any Einstein relatives out there, but I've heard that he was pretty mean to his wife, so I'd want to know that.

But they are perhaps silly questions you would ask a potential physics tutor.

Let's drill down into the more serious questions you'd want to ask.

Question 1: Have you taught IB Physics before?

This may sound silly to ask this, but it's a really important question. Many tutors are recent graduates, perhaps with no teaching experience. To truly understand the IB physics course, I really do believe you should be an IB physics teacher.

I am absolutely sure a physics tutor would be very capable of explaining the physics concepts to you, like impulse and magnetism and so on, but it's the nuances behind those concepts that make IB physics different. It's the way that they examine them and it's the style of examination questions that make IB physics, particularly higher level, quite tricky. So I would be asking the question, have you taught IB physics before?

I have taught IB physics before. I've been teaching it since 2004, and the longer I teach it, the more I realise that it's not this massive unsurmountable (and difficult) course. It's actually designed to be quite strategically studied, and they give you lots of clues in the exam papers on how to study IB physics more strategically.

I've learned the strategies behind tutoring IB Physics from having taught the subject for nearly 20 years, and you'd want some of that expertise from a possible or a potential physics tutor.

I would suggest that's a question that's really important for you to ask.

Question 2: How many years of experience do you have?

There's definitely a temptation to find a recent graduate of IB, perhaps somebody who's got a seven in IB physics, 45 score overall. You see theses students advertising their skills in IB Students Worldwide Facebook group and on Reddit and so on.

Actually, a erect graduate of the IB is quite a tempting prospect, right?

The IB physics specification will be very clear in their mind and they're obviously quite good at exam technique BUT are they any good at teaching?

Teaching requires an empathy with the person you're working with, and it requires years of experience in terms of how to explain concepts easily. Recent graduates may have picked up IB physics very easily on their own, but can they then go and explain it to you and help you? S

Sadly, I'd love to say that I look 25 and I've only been teaching for three or four years, but actually I'm 42 and I've been teaching it since 2004, so I have many, many years of experience with IB physics, and I've written two books on IB physics.

Anything you need to know about IB physics I think really comes with years of experience and teaching. So, something to bear in mind if you're approaching a potential physics tutor.

Question 3: Do you have any testimonials, success stories, or references?

You should be looking for past students of theirs and looking at their success stories or their explanation of their journey with them as a tutor.

Independent reviews and success stories are something we take very seriously in GradePod. We used to have our testimonials online on our website, and we still do, but I just didn't feel like they were real enough. I didn't feel like we were really putting the real person behind it, so we went on to a website called Trustpilot.

GradePod reviews on Trustpilot are from independent sources where I have no control of. Whereas the reviews on my GradePod website, I have control of.

I believe it is very important to show potential students of GradePod that the reviews of past students and success stories of past students are verified. They're independent, and that's something you'd be looking for from a physics tutor. Can you contact any of their previous students to see if they experienced success with your potential physics tutor?

Question 4: What are your tutoring strategies? How will you help me improve?

Here are some methods that tutors will use to help you improve:

Past Paper Method

Some tutors will want to just simply sit down and go through past papers with you. You would complete a past paper, and you'd mark it together. If you got a question wrong, you'd try and work out where you got it wrong with the tutor.

Concept Explanation Method

Some tutors might have the strategy of just talking you through concepts. You'd tell your tutor what you learned in class that week and they would test your understanding of the concepts by explaining it again.

Homework Completion Method 

Some tutors might have the strategy of doing homework with you. This will help you impress you teacher and help you improve problem-solving skills. Also quite an efficient way of getting through your work.

Strategic Revision Method

I use this method.

This method is very different.

I actually see IB physics as a great course, but at the end of the day there's an exam to be sat. That exam requires three things.

  1. It requires a knowledge of the exam content,
  2. excellent exam technique,
  3. advanced problem-solving skills.

In a normal classroom setting or in a weekly tutoring setting, these three skills take a long time to develop. In fact, guess what? It takes two years to develop, and that's why IB physics is two years long.

But the way I see it to focus on the concepts that are most heavily-weighted in the exams, because those concepts are the most important ones for you to revise. So when you work with me to get better at IB physics, we focus on the most heavily-weighted concepts first. So that's the first thing I would do with you as a tutor. That's my first strategy.

My second strategy is to go through past papers on those topics to teach you an exam technique specific to that topic.

And my third strategy is to then test and test.

That's the three step method I would use and you would be looking from a potential physics tutor something to wow you, something to say, right, this person knows what they're doing, and this person has a strategy to help me personally improve. 

Question 5: How many sessions will I need?

This is a little bit to do with cost and a little bit to do with expectations.

With a traditional physics tutor, you'd probably look at a weekly session, an hour long, and I'll be honest with you. These sessions can cost around £40- £50 pounds per session. So from a cost perspective, you'd really want to know how many sessions you foresee needing to make sure your costs aren't going to get out of control.

For example, say you got a physics tutor in week three of year one of IB, and you had your physics tutor every week during term time for the whole of IB. I mean, those costs can add up to around about three to £4000 - so you really want to set out in stone to begin with, how many sessions do you think I'll need? Because you don't want to keep going onto the next week and the next week and the next week with no end in sight.

That's why something like an online course is actually a really good idea, because the cost is fixed, so you can spread the cost over a couple of months, but the cost is fixed, but you also have a money-back guarantee if it's not right for you. But if you have a physics tutor and you maybe go through three or four weeks, and it's not really gelling, you can't ask for your money back. You can't get £200 back for after four sessions or five sessions. You just have to put that money down to experience and say, well, it wasn't the right tutor for me.

With an online resource, it's a fixed price. You can, you know, you get, there's usually a guarantee with it, and actually the costs are not going to spiral out of control. 

Question 6: Are you able to answer my questions between sessions?

The likelihood is you're probably going to get a weekly hourly session, and between those sessions, you'll be in class, you'll be doing homework, you'll be studying for tests, you'll be doing your internal assessment, and you may want to ask your tutor a question.

Do you really want to wait until next week to ask that question?

And you may strike it lucky. You may find a tutor who is willing to answer your questions between sessions.

I know in GradePod, we have a system where you can ask any question at any time, and we get those answers back to you.

I'm not gonna pretend. I get those answers back to you as quickly as possible. I do have people who help me in GradePod with things like social media and technical things, but all of the physics, all of the teaching, all of the support comes from me. So you would get, if you joined GradePod, for example, instead of a physics tutor, you would get a response from me answering your physics questions, and you'd be looking for the same thing from a physics tutor.

Question 7: How experienced are you in ensuring tutoring sessions will be valuable and productive online?

When I was a physics student, I was pretty good at physics BUT I was not very good at history. I used to go round to a a tutor's house every Thursday and I'd sit in their dining room for an hour and we'd go over history and we'd write essays and so on.

Tutoring used to be one-to-one, face-to-face learning.

COVID changed all that. COVID has now meant that we can learn online through Zoom, through videos, much easier and more readily than we were before. But it is a skill, it is a skill to make sure that somebody learns from you online, and that's a question you'd want to ask a potential tutor. Like, how experienced are you in ensuring tutoring sessions will be valuable and productive online?

If they've had to adapt, if your potential physics tutor has had to adapt their teaching style to go online - how effective is that teaching style? And that's a question you really have to discuss to make sure you're getting value out of these online tutoring sessions.

Question 8: Have you had direct experience with the IB Physics Internal Assessment?

If you're interested in producing an excellent internal assessment, those things need knowledge, they need skill, and it's very specific to a very specific mark scheme.

You need to have real experience in your internal assessment to make sure you get those high marks.

The ideal situation is that your physics teacher has significant experience in internal assessment to make sure you get the marks on the mark scheme for your internal assessment.

If not, you might be looking for help from a physics tutor. It's extremely important your physics tutor knows exactly what they're doing, 'cause if they lead you down the wrong path with an internal assessment, it can lose you a lot of marks. I'm being brutal here, and it's just that it's so specific and I really would worry about that. So you need to check if your physics tutor has had experience with the internal assessment.

In GradePod, I have created a course called the Step-by-Step Guide to Writing the Perfect Physics IA. That comes as part of GradePod when you join, and you also get access to me to help with your internal assessment, as well.

Am I Biased Against Physics Tutors?

Obviously I am a physics tutor.

I have been a physics tutor in the past

I'm aware that this video is probably erring on caution of physics tutors.

That's not the case at all. If you feel like you've found a good physics tutor who meets all the criteria of someone you need to get a seven in IB physics, then I wholeheartedly suggest you go with it, okay?

If that's a personal relationship that you want to progress with, I wholeheartedly suggest you go with it.

The Modern Version of a Physics Tutor

What I advocate now is something different.

I advocate online learning

The reason I advocate online learning is because when I was teaching in schools, I noticed that students don't learn in the same way that I did when I was at school. So when I was at school, I'd use textbooks, I'd ask my teacher for help, maybe get a tutor if I needed to, but things have changed.

Society's changed.

When I was at school, I used to only have four channels on the TV. I could only watch what was on TV. Everything's changed. We live by a more demanding society. We want something when you want immediately. Look at Netflix, look at YouTube, all those things.

Learning's changed, too.

I don't believe that you learn with a textbook and a teacher and a tutor anymore. I believe that you learn with YouTube. I believe you learn with online revision resources. I believe you get help and support from communities like Reddit and Facebook and Discord and so on.

Learning has changed, and that's why I've developed an online course called Ace Your IB Physics Exams. That is how the new style of learning is there to help you, and that's why I have written and developed and made available to you Ace Your IB Physics Exams, which is an online learning platform that you can use to learn and to improve in IB physics in the most efficient and effective way.

All those strategies that I talked about earlier, all the questions you should ask a physics tutor, I'm there, I've got it, right? That's not me being arrogant. I just have been teaching IB physics for nearly 20 years. I've been doing so very successfully and I have hundreds of students behind me who'll testify to that. So I've taken all those questions and I've made it available in a modern way, and I've made it available to you in a modern way.

  • So if you felt you wanted to go with a physics tutor, please do.
  • If you felt you wanted to go with an online course that will help you with IB physics, please do, as well.
  • If you don't need anything to help you with IB physics, that's brilliant!

I care about your progress. I really want lovely people like you to go out into the world and be fantastic physicists, so whatever way works for you, please use it.

If I can help in the process, just let me know.

Have a great day!

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