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New GCSE science 2016

Most of my students use Edexcel and so at present that's the new specification I have looked at most. I will get around to them all within a few days so at present take what I say to be mainly about Edexcel.

From September 2016, there are 4 GCSE qualifications in science that students can take: 

GCSE (9-1) BiologyGCSE (9–1) ChemistryGCSE (9-1) Physics

or GCSE (9-1) Combined Science (Double Award)

Ofqual say that it is expected that all students will either study the three separate sciences or will take Combined Science Double award.

Note that there will no longer be a single GCSE Science qualification (in practice this means Science and Additional Science are combined and there is no Further Additional Science).

As with all GCSEs now there a new 9–1 grading system, replacing A*–G:

- Foundation tier will cover grades 1–5 - Higher tier will cover grades 4-9.

Students Will receive two grades, usually the same for their Combined Science result, e.g. 5,5 or 8,8. Ofqual say that sometimes but rarely two different numbers will be awarded where the result is close between two grades. I take this to mean that 5,6 or 8,7 is possible but 3,6 would not be.

There are no controlled assessments in the new qualifications.  Ofqual will announce how practical skills will be assessed soon. 16 compulsory practical activities are included with no external examination but school will provide an as yet to be confirmed school statement and the content of these experiments may form questions in the written exams.

Questions assessing students’ use of mathematical skills will make up 15% of the assessments (but 20% of the marks?). There will also be some recall of equations required in physics.

Specifications will include new content, in line with subject criteria outlined by Ofqual and some "old content" is no longer included.

There will be six 1 hour 10 minute written exams, taken at the end of Year 11 but an optional Year 10 externally externally marked exam is being offered "for free" by Edexcel.

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Exam results

We would like to take this opportunity to congratuate all the GTS students who succeeded in their public examinations in summer. As always what really counted was the hard work and perseverence put in by the young people themselves for that 2 month period of intensive work.

Whilst we like to take some of the credit (and blame) for the results the examination outcome is totally dependent on the revision, preparation and dedication that the students put in. Success and failure in public examinations is crucial to their future careers but no amount of preparation substitute for the actual stress and strain of real exams with real outcomes. Well done.

The big new factor in the examinations this year was the removal of the practical skills coursework and its replacement with "integrated questions" on class practicals (GCSE and A level). Ignoring the debate about whether you can test practical work in an exam the results this year - particularly in chemistry were much lower than in previous years (for all students not just ours). As this was the first year of the new approach no-one was really sure what the new format would be like and as a result it is probably fair to say that students were not properly prepared as there was nothing to show what was needed. 

Next year's students will have the benefit of at least seeing one whole new exam format paper to prepare with and we are sure that this typical "new exam" blip will reverse itself next year.

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Preparing for public exams

November isn't June but I find it amazing that time at school between half term in October and Easter seems a matter of a few short weeks and not the months it looked at the beginning of the year. If you are lucky you are in Year 10 or Year 12 and are looking at a tutorial website as you are well prepared - but I suspect it is because the reality of upcoming exams has hit and you realise how important the next few months are.

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