Changes to AS and A-level Chemistry for first teaching in September 2015

Friday 20 Jun 2014

Ofqual and the Department for Education (DfE) have made changes to AS and A-level Chemistry, which will be introduced in September 2015. 

Linear exams

Linear means that students will sit all their AS exams at the end of their AS course and all their A-level exams at the end of their A-level course.

What we're doing

To help you prepare your students for linear exams, we'll be providing practice papers and other useful exam resources.

AS and A-level will be 'decoupled'

This means that the AS will be a stand-alone qualification and AS marks won't contribute to the A-level. A-level grades will only be made up of the exam results your students receive at the end of their A-level course.

What we're doing

To make teaching these separate courses easier for you, we've made sure that you can teach them together. This means that the content for AS and the first year of the A-level is identical.

Exam times

There is a total minimum exam time of 6 hours for the A-level and 3 hours for the AS.

What we're doing

We're keeping to these exam times. We will have two AS exams that are 1½ hours each and three A-level exams that are all 2 hours long.

A new approach to the assessment of practical skills

Knowledge and understanding of practical work will be assessed in written exams. About 15% of total marks in our AS and A-level exams will be based on practical questions.

What we're doing

We'll provide practice papers, exemplars and commentaries so that students are prepared for exams.

Endorsement for practical skills

Students will be awarded a separate endorsement of practical skills, which will be assessed by teachers. This will not be graded. If students pass, it will be reported on their certificate. Otherwise it will not be reported.

What we're doing

We will have a Teachers' practical handbook available to support you through the new approach to practical work. Further guidance on the endorsement will be published in spring 2015.

Mathematical skills

About 20% of the total marks in our AS and A-level Chemistry exams will require the use of Level 2 (Higher tier GCSE) mathematical skills.

What we're doing

Our exams have been testing mathematical skills for some time, so there will be little change. Students will be able to use our past papers to practise their mathematical skills for upcoming exams. Exampro has tagged mathematical content in our past papers to help you find questions to help students prepare.

Improvements we've made

We've used these changes as an opportunity to improve. In creating our new specifications we've involved teachers in every step of the development process. The content of the AS and A-level will be split into three sections based on physical, organic and inorganic, as teachers have told us that this is the natural way to teach chemistry.

We have removed a few sections and modernised some of the content. We're introducing new topics such as biochemistry (chemistry for medics) to support the many students who want to follow a career in medicine.

In the exams, we will include multiple choice questions to enable students to be assessed on their knowledge across the full breadth of the course. Following what you've told us, these multiple choice questions will be placed at the end of the exam papers.

The outcome of these changes will be a new Chemistry AS and A-level specification that allows you to teach in a way that suits you and will benefit your students.

View our new draft specifications, specimen papers and companion guide from 26 June on our website.

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Information in this update is about changes to qualifications led by the Department for Education and Ofqual for schools and colleges in England.