A-level science - Support and resources for the summer 2018 term

Friday 13 Apr 2018

The summer term is always busy with lots going on. As we all gear up towards the exam and awarding season, things can feel challenging and confusing; we’re here to make that journey a bit easier.

To help you find what you’re looking for quickly, this update contains information and links to useful resources, events and support.

You can also read the top things for this term for GCSE science

Have you downloaded our updated practical handbooks?

In response to your feedback, we recently made some changes to our ever-popular practical handbooks, available on our practicals resources page. The changes are:

  • the handbooks for all three sciences have been updated with information released in summer 2017 that relates to the monitoring visit process for the September 2017 to May 2019 cycle
  • teachers no longer need to fill in a JCQ survey to register their centre for a monitoring visit. Exam boards will now use the previous summer’s entries to provisionally allocate visits
  • in the Biology handbook, we have made additions to practicals 3 and 6 to more tightly address the technique of serial dilution
  • the handbooks for all three sciences have had minor corrections and clarifications in response to your feedback.

Reminder of the practical endorsement process and administration

Make sure you’re up to date on all things related to practical assessment. Don’t forget, it’s essential that any lead teachers have completed the free, online practical endorsement training. In addition, it’s worthwhile re-familiarising yourself with the practical visit timeline and the guidance for monitoring visits.

AS and A-level Biology: Updated guidance on essay questions

We know the essay question is a big focus for a lot of teachers. We’ve updated our guidance for this aspect of assessment to help you support your students in the run up to exams this summer. There is now an additional full page of guidance that accompanies the essay mark scheme and further clarifies the wording used in the mark scheme.

AS and A-level Chemistry: Naming organic compounds and the revised definition of the ‘mole’

We know that the naming of organic compounds is a focus for teachers. Section 3.3.1.1 of the specification states that AQA uses ‘IUPAC rules for nomenclature’. Exemplification of these rules can be found at the start of each mark scheme in Section 3.13. AQA will apply the IUPAC rules in a form suitable for students studying at this level, as set out by the Association for Science Education’s Signs Symbols and Systematics book.

IUPAC have recently revised the definition of the ‘mole’. We will not penalise students this summer if they provide the old definition. However, we are currently discussing whether minor specification changes are required with our senior examiners. We will inform schools and teachers if there are any changes, with due regard given to the amount of time needed to implement the changes in the classroom.

AS and A-level Physics: Significant figures and uncertainties – guidance and protocols

We know that significant figures and uncertainties are a focus for teachers. Guidance on the use of significant figures in AS and A-level Physics papers can be found at the beginning of the 2017 mark schemes in Section 3.8.

There is also additional guidance on significant figures and uncertainties in the practical handbook. The guidance we have produced is not intended to be exhaustive in terms of possible eventualities but rather provides the information required for students studying at this level.

Say hello to us at a conference this term

We’re delighted to be exhibiting at four events before the summer break, and we’d love to see you there.

Institute of Physics Conference (Rugby) – 7 June

Association for Science Education (ASE) Technicians Conference (Hertfordshire) – 14 June

ASE South East Conference 2018 (Surrey) – 20 June

STEM National Technicians Conference (York) – 5 and 6 July

Contact us

To get in touch with your dedicated support team, call 01483 477 756, email alevelscience@aqa.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @AQA