I'm a highly experienced and successful independent A-level Philosophy tutor for the AQA board's
I'm a full-time, independent philosophy tutor; so my time is devoted solely to my private students: I'm not squeezing you in at the end of a hard day, or at weekends!
I'm frequently asked "What do you need to do to get an A or A* at A-level Philosophy?". It is in answering that question that I've devised, and developed over the years, my recommended tuition system.
It is a well-established fact of educational psychology that relatively little information is absorbed in lectures or watching instructional videos.
Rather, genuine progress is made through the virtuous cycle of reading, thinking and writing about some topic; and then reflecting on the detailed, contextual comments of an expert.
Occasional tutorials can then be inserted, strategically, when the learning need dictates. This also has the advantage of making the tuition budget go much further!
My system of online A-level Philosophy tuition, is delivered via a combination
of Skype and email. It's central focus is on the 25-mark essay questions that have
been causing difficulties for students since they were introduced in the last AQA Philosophy syllabus
Once students are clear about the demands of the 25-mark question, their note taking improves, which in turn also improves their grades for the 12-mark questions.
The A-level Philosophy Tuition System comprises four elements:
I'm often asked how to get an A* in A-level Philosophy. Students come to me who feel they have prepared well
for their mock exams and yet still didn't achieve the A* that they hoped for. My first response is to ensure
that they are getting the fundamentals right: Are they allocating time proportionately to the different
question types? Have they revised by preparing checked essay-plans for the 25-mark questions? Do they
understand the nature of philosophical argument as it is described in both the AQA A-level Philosophy
Aims and Assessment Objectives?
Next I encourage students to study the top-level of the marking schemes that are available. Three criteria stand out: precision, logical links and lack of redundancy. For the 25-mark questions there is also the requirement for a sustained argument.
My essay-writing masterclass is designed to bridge the gap to A* by helping students consistently meet these demanding criteria.
My philosophy essay writing masterclass imparts the core knowledge and skills required to answer
the AQA's troublesome 25-mark exam questions in the appropriate style. This includes an introduction to the examiners'
My student's essay writing skills are then honed by writing a series of essays, carefully
selected to develop their understanding of each topic systematically. IN doing so they accumulate
a bank of high-quality, vetted essay plans which they can revise from.
Each 25-mark essay is returned with:
So each essay is a rich, formative learning experience: the breakdown against assessment objectives
is particularly useful in showing where effort must be concentrated.
We have occasional tutorials, of course; to introduce a new topic, or to discuss an essay that has not gone too well: but the bulk of the student's efforts should be on developing the core skill of writing exam-style essays.
As the exams approach, we switch to hand-written, timed essays under exam conditions, addressing mock questions
My advice is to treat each 12-mark A-level Philosophy explanation question as preparation for
a complementary 25-mark argument question. I therefore set my students a 12-mark question
as preparation for a related 25-mark question. This ensures that they understand
correctly the essential nature of the philosophical position they will be probing
next in the accompanying 25-mark question.
Students should also be aware of the mark scheme criteria for the 12-mark questions that emphasise precision and lack of redundancy with correct use of technical philosophical language.
My detailed contextual and summary comments show students precisely how to improve their answers. Just a few example exercises are often all that is needed.
A-level philosophy revision, like all of your exam preparations, should be driven by the
AQA assessment objectives: A01, A02 & A03.
I therefore recommend organising your revision materials — including notes from books, classes, podcasts, videos etc. — into sections for each of the objectives.
If you subsequently discover that, on a certain topic, you have little material to help you satisfy one or more of the objectives, then you know where to concentrate your effort.
Generally, when revising for A-level philosophy, students tend to neglect A03 at the expense of the other two objectives.
Epistemology is often taught poorly by philosophy teachers without a proper grounding in the theory of
knowledge. Fundamentals, such as the distinction between practical and theoretical knowledge,
the concept of a proposition, and the logic of necessary and sufficient conditions are not properly
I was an epistemology tutor at the University of Oxford and have extensive experience of helping students overcome the conceptual challenges that the topic presents. Usually all it takes is single epistemology tutorial to iron-out any difficulties.
As well as my own epistemology revision materials I can recommend various free, but reliable internet sources.
In my experience the most challenging aspect of the A-level Philosophy Moral Philosophy unit
is meta-ethics. There is considerable scope for confusion by conflating three possible
ways of drawing the cognitivism/non-cognitivism distinction. What is seldom recognised by tutors
is that this requires the appropriate grounding to have been given in the epistemology unit.
Having taught moral philosophy at the University of Oxford, and having been an external A-level examiner for ethics, I understand and appreciate the special difficulties the topic presents. Often a single meta-ethics tutorial is sufficient to make the logical relationship between the different meta-ethical theories clear.
I also have various readings, essay plans and revision materials available for the moral philosophy unit, as the exams approach.
I taught the Philosophy of Religion paper at the University of Oxford, and have been an external
examiner for A-level Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, so I appreciate the conceptual difficulties
posed by the A-level Philosophy Metaphysics of God unit. It is the spirit of the times in which we live
that their is a lot of trite, superficial God-bashing by public commentators. For students striving
for an A or A* in this unit, it is crucial to appreciate
fully the subtlety and nuance of many philosophical positions with respect to the metaphysics of God.
As with meta-ethics, in the Moral Philosophy unit, the religious language topic requires a proper grounding in epistemology in order properly to grasp the distinction between cognitivism and non-cognitivism with respect to religious language.
My various Metaphysics of God revision materials, essay plans and tutorials have been honed to address and resolve these impediments to understanding.
My masters degree at the University of Cambridge was in Artificial Intelligence, and
my doctorate at the University of Oxford was in the Metaphysics of Mind, and I went on to
teach the Philosophy of Mind paper there. So if you want to improve your grade to an A or A*
in the Metaphysics of Mind unit, I understand very well the various sophisticated
arguments proposed to explain the nature of mind.
I have various revision materials, essay plans and tutorials available, accumulated over many years' experience of teaching the metaphysics of mind, to help you achieve your academic goals.