Changes to 2021 exams for GCSE, AS and A-level Science

Monday 21 Sep 2020

We’ve been working hard to make the relevant changes to our qualifications following Ofqual’s decisions on summer 2021 exams, so here are the changes you need to know about for GCSE, AS and A-level Science.

These changes only apply to the 2021 exam series.

GCSE Science specifications (8461, 8462, 8463, 8464, 8465)

There are no planned changes to our assessments for GCSE Biology (8461), Chemistry (8462), Physics (8463), Combined Science: Trilogy (8464) or Combined Science: Synergy (8465) in 2021.

Ofqual’s decisions on summer 2021 exams will mean that exams in GCSE science qualifications will follow the same structure and format as those in summer 2019, and will assess all of the components and objectives described in the specifications, including students’ knowledge and understanding of working scientifically, the apparatus and techniques and the required practical activities.

We understand the challenges involved in providing frequent hands-on practical experiences for all students. For summer 2021 only:

  • students can study the required practical activities through the use of demonstrations and simulations, if it’s not possible for them to carry out all of the practical activities.

AS level Science specifications (7401, 7404, 7446, 7407)

There are no planned changes to our assessments for AS Biology (7401), Chemistry (7404), Environmental Science (7446) and Physics (7407) in 2021.

Ofqual’s decisions on summer 2021 exams will mean that exams in AS level science qualifications will follow the same structure and format as those in summer 2019, and will assess all of the components and objectives described in the specifications, including students’ knowledge and understanding of the apparatus and techniques and the required practical activities.

We understand the challenges involved in providing frequent hands-on practical experiences for all students. For summer 2021 only:

AS Biology, Chemistry and Physics

  • students can study the required practical activities through the observation of demonstrations and/or simulations, if it’s not possible for them to carry out the practical activities personally.

AS Environmental Science

  • students can observe demonstrations and simulations of practical activities to cover the required skills and techniques, if it’s not possible for them to carry out the practical activities personally
  • you’ll no longer need to provide a written statement to say that students have been given the opportunity to undertake two days of fieldwork.

These permissions only apply to students who are following an AS level science pathway and aren’t intending to progress to A-level in 2021-2022. Students following or intending to follow an A-level pathway in Biology, Chemistry or Physics are required to carry out practical activities in order to routinely and consistently meet the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC).

A-level Science specifications (7402, 7405, 7447, 7408)

There are no planned changes to our assessments for A-level Biology (7402), Chemistry (7405), Environmental Science (7447) and Physics (7408) in 2021.

Ofqual’s decisions on summer 2021 exams will mean that exams in A-level Science qualifications will follow the same structure and format as those in summer 2019, and will assess all of the components and objectives described in the specifications, including students’ knowledge and understanding of the apparatus and techniques and the required practical activities.

We understand the challenges involved in providing frequent hands-on practical experiences for all students. For summer 2021 only:

A-level Biology, Chemistry and Physics

  • students will be assessed against the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) across the minimum number of practical activities required to demonstrate competence in all aspects. The minimum number of practical activities required will be at teachers’ discretion but you must be confident that individual students are competent in all aspects of the CPAC, which includes coverage of the apparatus and techniques stipulated in the specification
  • exam boards will monitor a school or college’s application of CPAC by remote means for students following A-level Biology, Chemistry and Physics courses. We’ve already sent you details about this. The information be found on the A-level Science Practicals pages of our website
  • you’ll still need to submit a signed centre declaration form for students taking exams in A-level Biology, Chemistry and/or Physics in 2021.

A-level Environmental Science

  • students can observe demonstrations and simulations of practical activities to cover the required skills and techniques, if they’re unable to carry them out personally
  • you’ll no longer need to provide a written statement to say that students have been given the opportunity to undertake four days of fieldwork.

Students following or intending to follow an A-level pathway in Biology, Chemistry and / or Physics are still required to carry out practical activities in order to routinely and consistently meet the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC).

We’ll be publishing further guidance about the summer 2021 exams over the coming months.