GCE Science Practical Requirements

GCE Science Practical Requirements

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

NEW! A Level Science Practical Endorsement Classes!

Attempt the practical endorsement at a greatly reduced rate

A 4 day class in our laboratory covering the skills and techniques required for the A Level science practical endorsement, all for just ₤900 (T&Cs apply)

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.

There are three ways to book the practical endorsement with MTC:

  1. Individual lab sessions. This is the most flexible option and the best choice if you are unable to commit to a timetable. Book individual lab sessions on an ad-hoc basis and work towards the completion of the mandatory practical activities.
  2. Purchase a science practicals package. Enjoy the benefits of one to one tutor support and a timetable constructed to meet your need. If you wish to build a schedule of lab time to fit around work, family and other commitments, this popular option will work for you.
  3. Subscribe to a science practicals class. Classes run on fixed dates and involve 4 consecutive days of lab time. This is the most cost effective way to attempt the practical endorsement.

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

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 take the Practical Endorsement 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 Endorsement, you CANNOT be entered for an A Level Science qualification there, even if you elect to opt out of taking the Endorsement altogether.

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.
3hr session of laboratory time
Support and guidance of one of our expert science tutors
Covering 1 of the required core practicals for an A Level Practical Endorsement with AQA, Edexcel or OCR, or as a CIE preparatory session
£250per Practical. Price not incl VAT.

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).

  1. Unless you book the complete number of required practicals (6 for AS Level, 12 for A Level), due to limited laboratory and tutor availability, we cannot guarantee timetabling of the minimum number of practical activities for a qualification with AQA, Edexcel and OCR. We do however make every effort to enable the candidate to complete the required practicals in the allotted time.
  2. In each session, the number of practicals completed will be dependent upon candidate ability and speed. If a student fails to complete the targeted number of practicals in the designated lab session, further sessions will need to be purchased at an additional cost to the student.
  3. Completion of the minimum number of practicals does not guarantee a pass for the endorsement.

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:



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:

  1. If a candidate does not pass, or opts to omit the practical endorsement, their final certificate will show the endorsement as “Unclassified”
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

If you choose to apply for an AQA, Edexcel or OCR AS/A Level Science qualification without attempting the practical endorsement, you will be required to complete and sign the Macclesfield Tutorial College Practical Endorsement Waiver form.

Science Endorsement at Macclesfield Tutorial College

How does it work?

To enter for AQA, Edexcel or OCR AS or A Level Science exams with us, the entry cost can be calculated as the per unit entry cost detailed on our Exam Entry Fees page PLUS the cost of at least 6 or 12 practicals respectively, if you opt to sit the practical endorsement.

For example, if you wish to apply for as AS science qualification the cost would be for entry to 2 units plus 6 practicals. For a complete A Level science qualification, the entry would be for 3 units plus 12 practicals.

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:

  1. plan experiments and investigations
  2. collect, record and present observations, measurements and estimates
  3. analyse and interpret data to reach conclusions
  4. 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.

CAIE GCE Science entry at Macclesfield Tutorial College

How does it work?

To enter for CAIE GCE AS or A Level Science exams with us, the entry cost can be calculated as the per unit entry cost detailed on our Exam Entry Fees page PLUS the cost of one practical session to cover the practical examination (Paper 3).

For example, if you wish to apply for CAIE Biology 9700/AX the cost would be for entry to 4 units plus one practical session (correct as of Summer 2023 exam series).