Ofqual confirms: exams to replace controlled assessments in GCSE science

Ofqual today announced the adoption of a new approach to GCSE science practical assessment – replacing controlled assessment with exam questions.

Chief of Ofqual Glenys Stacey said the exams regulator had “consulted widely” on its practical assessment proposals for the new GCSEs in biology, chemistry, physics and combined science.

For the new approach,  students will  be required to show their understanding of scientific experimentation; at least 15 per cent of the total marks available in each GCSE will be dedicated to this.

Exam boards will specify a minimum of eight practical activities in each individual science and 16 for combined science. Schools will be required to confirm that they have enabled their students to do the full range of practical work.

Each student must keep a record of their work, though these will not be marked, and they cannot be counted towards a grade or separate certificate.

Currently, students complete a controlled assessment component by carrying out set practical work and complete written work about it. This is worth 25 per cent of the student’s final grade.

According to Ofqual, the new approach “will best balance our aims to encourage good scientific teaching” and had received “broad support” in its December 2014 assessment of practical work in the new science GCSEs consultation.

Eighty per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to assess practical work using written exam questions, and over 60 per cent agreed with the minimum numbers of practical activities that were proposed.

Nearly 70 per cent said students would be more likely to be given opportunities to undertake a wide and varied range of practical work if such tasks were focused on learning, and not assessed.

Ofqual said that overall there was support for assessing practical work “just by exam”.

Ofqual now plans to consult on the rules and guidance. Exam boards will design the new specifications for the GCSEs against these rules, with the aim of having specifications available for review from autumn 2015.

Schools will start to teach them from September 2016, with the first exams in summer 2018.



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