Meet Tim Prichard, one of our authors of our Secondary school Science books! 🧪

Tim Prichard has more than 30 years of experience teaching Biology, Chemistry and Physics across the O-Level, A-Level and International Baccalaureate programmes. Before his current position as the head of a secondary school Science faculty in England, he had taught the three Sciences in the United Kingdom and Thailand. He is the author of two Science revision guides: Chemistry by Example and Physics by Example.

The “Science by Example” series was started when Tim was making a revision guide for his daughter. Since then, the series has expanded to the three sciences: Biology, Chemistry and Physics, help multiple students with understanding different concepts and scientific facts for their GCSE exams.

Chemistry by Example
GCSE O-Level Guide Chemistry by Example

Science as seen through 30 years of experience

I have always been fascinated by science; I loved my science lessons at school. I worked in a steel plant in Yorkshire in Northern England where I was in the chemistry lab. This application of science to industry and real life really brought home to me the importance of the subject. I felt I wanted to study science further and loved talking about it.

I decided I wanted to teach students about science as I believe it is a fascinating and really interesting – it is the way the world works and gives a reason for everything. Science is fact and cannot be questioned. That certainty is both comforting and motivating.

Science teaches us about the world all around us and how everything interacts with its surroundings not only in our immediate surroundings but also around the world or throughout the cosmos. Science is involved in just about everything we do, see, eat, touch and even explains how our bodies work.

Science has been the driving force behind communications from fibre optics, computers to even chatting to people across the internet on the other side of the world.

Our health and average life expectancies have increased because of science through public health, disease control and even providing enough food for us all to eat. Using Isaac Newton’s laws of motion even sent man to the Moon in 1969, which was only possible through knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology.

This is a really interesting question as the sciences can be seen as separate and they all work together – they complement each other and work alongside each other.

If you go to any hospital, you will see all of the 3 sciences being used to help cure or make people feel more comfortable. In large modern hospitals there are medical physics technicians working in X-ray or CAT scan departments to look at a range of complaints from broken bones, using radioactive tracers to investigate kidney problems or using scans to detect tumours inside the body.

Advances in chemistry, in particular pharmaceuticals and medicines are used to cure cancers, diseases or injury through burns for example. Scientists use their knowledge of biology to identify diseases, parasites or blood disorders in pathology labs which are found in many large hospitals. Hospitals use all of the sciences to great effect to improve our health, life expectancy of all the people they treat and are a great example of the 3 sciences working together for the benefit of mankind.

Science can lead you into a myriad of careers. Doctors, nurses, veterinarian, farming, horticulture, food scientist, brewing and spirits, ship building, architecture, manufacturing, crime scene investigators, Astro scientist, accountant, mathematician, computer programmer, electrician, hospital pathology, teacher, environmental protection…

This is just a short list of some careers that require a good knowledge of science! Science can also give confidence in research skills and discovery which is relevant to any employment field.

I think all students no matter where they are in the world are much the same. Above all, keen and interested students who want to learn will benefit from studying science and I am sure will do well. Self-discovery, independent learning and applying what has been learnt are the more relevant studying techniques that are thankfully far removed from the rote learning of the past.

Science has universal languages like chemical formula, physics equations or biological similarities between species. After all, scientists from universities and companies carry out research all of the time together and share their data and results. A recent example being the Covid-19 pandemic where research was shared worldwide to produce several vaccines and ways to treat infected patients and equipment to keep medical staff safe while treating infected patients.

The world has got smaller through technology, and we can now embrace this.

I have taught for 30 years now so there are many, one of my standout memories was taking some sixth form students to the European space agency to study physics and they took part in real Russian cosmonaut training exercises which they loved doing. Another memorable experience was with a group of year 8 students who reached the final in a science competition where they designed and built their own biodome to support life on the moon!

Overall, the standout feature was the everyday interaction with students and the thrill when they finally understood the question or managed to reach their goal in a subject. That moment when you see the light come on in a student as they find the answer or a way of finding the answer – I think that is why every teacher teaches. I hope my books provide those moments too!

I would first of all say, “never give up, keep trying”. I would then try and break down the problem holding them back. Another strategy would be to get students to work in pairs or groups so they can help each other.

Another way to help and encourage students I have always found is to ask them how they would like to do the work and how they would like to present their efforts. This encourages ownership of the work and can make even the most difficult work fun and enjoyable. Also keeping work relevant to real world problems is a good way of encouraging students, for example setting tasks on how to purify water or design experiments to see which material is the most waterproof.

These are all approaches addressed in my books which are inclusive and aimed at all abilities.

Above all always be positive and ask how they are getting on. Get the student to explain what they are doing, sound interested and above all listen and don’t take over. Ask to look at their work but always be positive about what they have done. You don’t need to set aside particular times, ask them about their studies over dinner or on the bus! Just being interested and talking is enough.

More about Tim's book and how students can study chemistry better

Above all I think my books will improve a student’s confidence in approaching exam-style questions with independent learning and skills, subject specific vocabulary, and precision.

The books will help students to improve exam techniques such as understanding the language used in questions like spotting key phrases or information, and analysing how they can break questions down into specific sections.

The books will also teach the student how to keep answers concise and to the point.

The best way to approach my books is to understand that they test the quality of the student’s revision. They are great in supporting the student’s learning and building their confidence when preparing for an exam.

First, check through your own notes and familiarise yourself with the topic when doing revision. Then carefully read the worked examples for the topic you are studying. Next, attempt those same questions but cover the answers.

Finally, when you are satisfied with your revision thus far, attempt the end of topic short-revision questions. If you are stuck, go back to the examples. Use the space provided and check your answers again.

Self-heating cups and the meals you eat when camping for example use exothermic reactions. Alkalis are used in most cleaning reagents like bleach or bathroom cleaner. Acids like ethanoic acid make up the main part of vinegar and is used to preserve food like pickles.

All plastics come from crude oil which are refined using fractional distillation along with paints, lubricants, petrol, diesel, make-up and clothing. The list is endless. Modern polymers are being used in nanotechnologies which will lead to “smart” clothes, bendy phones, medical implants – once again resulting in endless applications.

Implants into the body rely on the reactivity series from chemistry, so that the fillings in your teeth or replacement hips don’t corrode or react with your own body.

Make up a revision timetable and stick to it. As with all subjects, ask when you don’t understand, be persistent and speak up if you feel that something is still unclear. Don’t doubt yourself and see the work as a process of discovery and not something that is designed to trick you.

Break the chemistry syllabus up into sections so you can concentrate on single topic areas. Set aside a section on practical experiments to revise as they will come up in exams and are usually worth lots of marks. Make sure you are familiar with chemistry terms and language by doing a “Mind map” which is good for quick recall.

Don’t just practice the questions or subjects you like; go through everything. Manage your revision time effectively by working in 40-minute blocks of time, set realistic revision targets and give yourself little rewards at the end when you have met them, like a quick game on your phone or have your favourite ice cream.

Another good tip is to practice writing out common chemical reactions like the ones in the Haber process or the limestone cycle for example. Make up some flash cards with chemical formula and symbols on them, which are easy to use, and you can get anyone to test you, which is always fun.

Students often forget to really look at the Periodic Table and think about what it really means and shows you. The table shows us patterns of behaviour in groups and periods, predicts trends, and can show us how individual elements behave and react with other elements. It can indicate melting and boiling points of elements which are solids, liquids, or gases at room temperature.

Another area where students make mistakes is in writing formula. Check every letter and number and make sure the equations balance. When looking at calculations check the units used in the questions and what unit the answer should be in.

Students often label lab equipment wrongly in diagrams so make sure you are familiar with all labels and how the equipment works. A good example of this would be in the section on separation techniques like distillation or chromatography.

I think students become disaffected when they don’t understand the work in front of them, so I think they should do all they can to try and understand and ask when they feel that something is unclear. To break down problems into manageable chunks so it becomes less intimidating. If students do this, they often understand far more than they realise.

Chemistry is a practical subject so make sure to take part in every experiment and take time to think about what the experiment shows you. Collect your results clearly and try to explain what has happened. Completing your work fully and successfully is a great reward in itself!

  • Remember the notation for chemical nomenclature.
  • Remember to use your Periodic Table.
  • Always try and balance any equations you write down.
  • Graphs should have appropriate scales, and they should be the right way around!
  • Always remember units and include the state the reactants or products are in, such as the solid, liquid, gas or aqueous state.