Practical work in new A-level sciences from September 2015

Monday 28 Apr 2014

To: Heads of A-level Biology, Chemistry and Physics

AQA supports purposeful practical work in A-level science

On 9 April, Ofqual announced how assessments will work in a number of new GCSE and A-level qualifications, including A-level Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Our new A-levels are evolving and will put practical back at the heart of science – right where you've told us it belongs. I am confident that both you and your students will benefit from the improvements we're making.

Improving practical in A-level Biology, Chemistry and Physics from September 2015

You've told us that the current ISAs and EMPAs don't work as well as they could. You want your students to enjoy their practicals and gain new skills through manipulating equipment and materials, taking measurements and processing data. You've told us that students love discovering hands-on how science comes to life. We listened and our new A-levels will be current, relevant and manageable. Our fresh approach will give you the freedom to tailor practical activities so you can teach in the way you know works, to bring out the best in your students.

More practicals in science

  • Students will do a minimum of 12 practicals across their A-level course
  • Questions in our exam papers will test students' knowledge and understanding of their practical work
  • Students will be awarded an A-level grade based on their exams, and a 'pass' or 'fail' for practical work in lessons
  • Students will better develop the vital skills they need for further study
  • 85% of teachers who recently reviewed our draft specifications said they would do the same amount or more practicals as now.

Your support is invaluable

We led the way in making improvements to ISAs and EMPAs, based on your feedback, and all other exam boards have now strengthened their arrangements too. We know these changes may have been inconvenient and we are grateful for your patience and flexibility as we improve our qualifications. With your ongoing support and passionate teaching, we believe that science students will be better equipped to enter the world of science.

What's next?

We recently travelled around the country gathering teachers' views on our draft specifications and specimen question papers. We're currently building that feedback into our new A-level Biology, Chemistry and Physics draft specifications for first teaching in September 2015. You will be able to see them on our website when we send them to Ofqual at the end of June.

If you'd like to be the first to know when they're available, register for our email updates at In the meantime you can find out more about changes to qualifications from September 2015 at

Please contact us if you want to know more about our new science A-levels or have questions about the current ISAs and EMPAs. We always appreciate hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Stella Paes

Head of Science


Tel: 01483 477 756