The development of practical skills is central to science learning - Ofqual
Practical skills feature prominently whichever board and A Level Science specification you choose but the precise requirements may vary. The JCQ Awarding Bodies, AQA, Edexcel and OCR, are consistent and assess candidates against Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) whilst 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.
You can apply to sit your practical endorsement 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.
By purchasing an MTC Science Practicals class or package you have the opportunity to:
- meet the requirements of the A level science practical endorsement, or
- undertake valuable preparation for the CAIE science practical examinations
- develop the practical skills which will be required as you move onto university and into the workplace
- acquire a more in-depth knowledge of your science subjects and improve your grades
I would like to say thank you for letting me do the EMPA exams and giving me many hours of Biology revision. All the staff were welcoming, friendly and professional. During my experience at Macclesfield Tutorial College, I recognised the high quality of teaching and the profound experience that you have. Maybe travelling from Middlesbrough to Macclesfield and back on the same day was ambitious but I really think it worth the effort.
The staff were very helpful and the practical sessions were highly informative and also enjoyable. I valued the company of the tutors who were very knowledgeable in their fields. I benefited from one to one tuition which ensured a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and practical aspects of the experiments.
A science practicals package includes:
- one-to-one laboratory time with one of experienced science tutor meaning you get undivided attention
- every effort will be made to arrange your timetable to meet your particular needs meaning laboratory sessions can be arranged around your work/school/family.
i) A laboratory session is a morning or afternoon session of approximately 3 hours. A day of laboratory time means consecutive morning and afternoon sessions.
ii) We endeavour to schedule each day of laboratory time at the candidate’s convenience but this is subject to laboratory and tutor availability (this does not apply for practical endorsement classes). Availability for both the tutor and the laboratory will become increasingly difficult as the deadline for completing the endorsement is approached. If you book a package and are unable to adhere to the agreed timetable, the College cannot guarantee being able to reschedule any sessions missed which could, under certain circumstances, mean the endorsement is not passed.
iii) Science Practicals Packages can only be used for a single subject (Eg. a practicals package cannot be split between biology and chemistry).
For GCE AS and A Level courses in Biology, Chemistry and Physics with Edexcel, AQA and OCR, the assessment of practical skills is a compulsory requirement of the course. It will appear on all students’ certificates as a separately reported outcome (Pass/Unclassified), alongside the overall grade for the qualification.
The arrangements for the assessment of practical skills is common to each of the JCQ awarding organisations and includes:
A MINIMUM OF 12 PRACTICAL ACTIVITIES FOR A FULL A LEVEL QUALIFICATION
A MINIMUM OF 6 PRACTICAL ACTIVITIES TO SUPPORT AN AS LEVEL QUALIFICATION
What is the Practical Endorsement?
As per the cross-board statement on CPAC:
The assessment of practical skills is a compulsory requirement of the course of study for A-level qualifications in biology, chemistry and physics. It will appear on all students’ certificates as a separately reported result, alongside the overall grade for the qualification.
The arrangements for the assessment of practical skills are common to all awarding organisations. These arrangements include:
- A minimum of 12 practical activities to be carried out by each student which, together, meet the requirements of Appendices 5b (Practical skills identified for direct assessment and developed through teaching and learning) and 5c (Use of apparatus and techniques) from the prescribed subject content, published by the Department for Education. The required practical activities will be defined by each awarding organisation in their specification;
- Teachers will assess students using Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) issued jointly by the awarding organisations. The CPAC are based on the requirements of Appendices 5b and 5c of the subject content requirements published by the Department for Education, and define the minimum standard required for the achievement of a pass;
- Each student will keep an appropriate record of their practical work, including their assessed practical activities;
- Students who demonstrate the required standard across all the requirements of the CPAC will receive a ‘pass’ grade;
- There will be no separate assessment of practical skills for AS qualifications;
- Students will answer questions in the AS and A level examination papers that assess the requirements of Appendix 5a (Practical skills identified for indirect assessment and developed through teaching and learning) from the prescribed subject content, published by the. Department for Education. These questions may draw on, or range beyond, the practical activities included in the specification.
In order to achieve a pass, students will need to:
- develop these competencies by carrying out a minimum of 12 practical activities, which allow acquisition of the techniques outlined in the requirements of the specification;
- consistently and routinely exhibit the competencies listed in the CPAC before the completion of the A-level course;
- keep an appropriate record of their practical work, including their assessed practical activities;
- be able to demonstrate and/or record independent evidence of their competency, including evidence of independent application of investigative approaches and methods to practical work.
The practical activities prescribed in the subject specification will provide opportunities for demonstrating competence in all the skills identified, together with the use of apparatus and techniques for each subject. However, students can also demonstrate these competencies in any additional practical activity agreed and selected with the guidance of the tutor which covers the requirements of appendix 5c.
Do I have to obtain the Practical Endorsement?
For a Private Candidate, taking the Practical Endorsement is NOT compulsory in order to obtain an overall grade, however, please note:
- If a candidate does not pass, or opts to omit the practical endorsement, their final certificate will show the endorsement as “Unclassified”
- Many UK universities and further educational establishments require an applicant to have passed the practical endorsement in order to enter into an undergraduate course. We recommend that each student verifies whether that is the case for their preferred institution(s).
- Overall, 15% – 25% of the marks for all A Level Science courses from AQA, Edexcel and OCR will examine the candidate’s knowledge of practical skills. In order to be able to answer these questions, students need to have acquired competence in the appropriate areas of practical skills. The Practical Endorsement covers all required practical skills.
Science examinations with Cambridge International Examinations differ from those with AQA, Edexcel and OCR. For GCE AS and A Level Science courses with Cambridge International Exams, candidates’ experimental skills will be assessed by way of practical examinations. In Paper 3 and Paper 5, the questions may be based on subject matter not included in the syllabus content, but candidates are assessed on their practical skills rather than their knowledge of theory.
Paper 3 will be a timetabled, laboratory-based practical paper including 2 or 3 experiments, focusing on the following experimental skills in timed conditions:
- manipulation, measurement and observation
- presentation of data and observations
- analysis, conclusions and evaluation.
Candidates should be able to:
- plan experiments and investigations
- collect, record and present observations, measurements and estimates
- analyse and interpret data to reach conclusions
- evaluate methods and quality of data and suggest possible improvements.
We recommend that candidates undertake preparatory lab sessions in advance of the science practical exams in order to fully develop the skills and techniques which will be assessed.