The development of practical skills is central to science learning - Ofqual

The way practical skills are assessed is changing. Our students won’t be assessed by ISAs anymore. Instead, they’ll do a series of required practical activities throughout the academic year, then the exams at the end of the course will assess their practical skills. If you are entering exams as a private candidate, you should familiarise yourself with the practical requirements for the exam board of your choice, which we have detailed below.

Practical skills feature prominently whichever board and specification you choose but the precise requirements may vary. The JCQ Awarding Bodies, AQA, Edexcel and OCR, are consistent and stipulate a minimum number of required practical activities to ensure that all apparatus and techniques are covered. Candidates selecting to follow a Cambridge International Examination (CAIE) specification will have their understanding and application of practical skills assessed during timetabled examinations. We have outlined the different structures below to ensure you are well informed when making an application.

Whichever option you choose, time spent in a laboratory honing your skills and techniques will be invaluable. For the JCQ exam boards, a minimum of 15% of the questions on the written papers will assess skills learnt through undertaking practical activities.

You can apply to sit your practical activities with MTC and book laboratory sessions with one of our tutors. Lab sessions can also be booked as preparation for the CAIE practical exams. Each session provides sufficient time for at least one practical and often two but this may vary dependent upon candidate ability and further sessions may be required.

It is a requirement of the UK examination regulator, Ofqual, and therefore each of the JCQ examination boards (AQA, Edexcel, OCR, WJEC), that a candidate be given the opportunity to undertake the Practical Activities at the same centre where they are entering the exams. What this means is:

Unless an exam centre can also offer you the opportunity to undertake the Practical Activities, you CANNOT be entered for GCSE Science qualification there, even if you elect to opt out of taking the Activities altogether.

GCSE Specification Code Minimum Number of Required Practical Activities
Combined Science: Synergy 8465 21
Combined Science: Trilogy 8464 21
Biology (exams from 2018) 8461 10
Chemistry (exams from 2018) 8462 8
Physics (exams from 2018) 8463 10

 

For Private candidates with AQA, it is not mandatory to sit the practical activities as listed above. The centre where you are entering to sit the written papers must be able to offer you the opportunity to undertake the practicals but you are entitled to opt out of this component. If you choose to do so, you will be required to sign the MTC waiver form to acknowledge that this was your decision.

Given that 15% of the questions on the written papers will test your understanding of practical skills learnt whilst working in the laboratory, MTC would always advise students to book some time in our lab.

GCSE Specification Code Minimum Number of Required Practical Activities
Combined Science 1SC0 18
Biology 1BI0 8
Chemistry 1CH0 8
Physics 1PH0 8
GCSE Specification Code Minimum Number of Required Practical Activities
Gateway Science Suite – Combined Science A (9-1) J250 16
Gateway Science Suite – Biology A (9-1) J247 8
Gateway Science Suite – Chemistry A (9-1) J248 8
Gateway Science Suite – Physics A (9-1) J249 8
Twenty First Century Science Suite – Combined Science B (9-1) J260 16
Twenty First Century Science Suite – Biology B (9-1) J257 8
IGCSE Specification Code Minimum Number of Required Practical Activities
All IGCSE Science qualifications All Timetabled Practical Test or Alternative to Practical (Written Paper)