Revamped science A-levels will see students making alcohol and dissecting sharks

The Independent is reporting that  sixth-formers will have to learn how to make alcohol and dissect a shark under plans for new revamped A-levels announced by one of the country’s biggest exam boards…

Pupils taking the three sciences – biology, chemistry and physics – will have to complete a minimum of 36 practical experiments as a result of the shake-up.

The OCR exam board insists that the new syllabus will focus the spotlight more on practical experiments…

At present, students only have to complete four practical assignments for their exams, although the marks from these do count towards their final grade.

Under the new arrangements, they will have to complete 12, which will be marked separately from the A-level grade as a pass or fail.

Many in the science world have complained this could see the death of practical experiments as universities will not consider them essential towards determining a student’s final grade, although exam regulator Ofqual says 15 per cent of marks will be reserved for testing what students have learned from their practical experiments…

Lawrence Herklots, head of science at King Edward VI School in Southampton, said: “In future, written papers will ask questions which test students’ practical skills, based on the knowledge that they have gained during practical experiments, so of course the practicals will have to happen for them to be able to answer the questions.”

Other examples of the experiments to be included in the syllabus are measuring light and sound wavelengths in physics, dissecting animal and plant material in biology and making aspirin in chemistry. Students will also have to familiarise themselves with “exploding chemicals”.

Harriet Jones, of the University of East Anglia, said: “Scientists are creative and students often find the visual approach of practical work helps them to understand their subject. Dissecting a rat and an earthworm were memorable moments from my own time at school.”

The proposals have now been placed before exams regulator Ofqual for approval…

More at: Revamped science A-levels will see students making alcohol and dissecting sharks

Does it sound a bit like OCR is designing a course with soundbites like ‘dissecting sharks’ to attract attention and promote the course? And if so, is that necessarily a bad thing, if it brings more students in? Please let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter…

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  1. rhcaseby

    MaryMyatt SchoolsImprove These ‘revamped’ A levels sciences sound a lot like the ones I did in 1984 (and I bet the ‘shark’ is a dogfish)

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