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A Level Biology Empas or ISAs

Discussion in 'Science' started by Leedspecks, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. Leedspecks

    Leedspecks New commenter

    Not getting great results with ISAs, wondered if anyone does EMPAs and can tell me what they are like. Maybe people who have switched from ISAs to EMPAs or vice versa?
    Any help gratefully received!!
  2. alfredrussell

    alfredrussell New commenter

    We struggled a bit with ISAs the first year they were introduced. However, as we have learned so our results have improved a lot. The students need to practise as much as possible. Not necessarily the tasks but the papers. The best thing about the ISAs is that the students can do a second one. Our students almost all improve on the second attempt having done as many as 3 practice ones in class or as homeworks.
    One go at an EMPA late in the year is, imo, asking for trouble for the kids.
    Yes ISAs mean a bit more marking. (We have AS and A2 classes of 20). The marking, however is not difficult, support from the exam board is good when you have marking doubts or queries (AQA) and we really think the kids do better. Colleagues from another local school tell me they are glad they switched to ISAs having done both.
  3. we are moving from ISA to EMPA. We thought the EMPA would be a more level playing field. Some students in some schools have allegedly done astonishingly well; it is as if they had seen the mark scheme. It is impossible for students to cheat in an A level ISA of course and we do not believe that anyone would be so unprofessional as to allow a mark scheme to be given to a tutored student.

  4. alfredrussell

    alfredrussell New commenter

    I understand why you might say about the level playing field. However, speaking from a department that is scrupulous about the way the ISA is run. (We even hold the exam part in a single session in a hall in exam conditions) we still feel that the two attempt ISA at both AS and A2 with mock attempts in between give the kids a better result that the one of EMPA which comes as a bit of a shock, especially at AS level. We have had 150 a year through ISAs at AS and A2 since they started. We have not yet seen what you suggest. The 1st set of questions at A2 are always the same about stats and design so you get plenty of similar answers.
    No-one with mark scheme answers yet.
    We have discussed between the 10 staff in the department several times and each time decided to stick with the ISA
  5. Leedspecks

    Leedspecks New commenter

    Thank you all for your comments and debate. We do loads of practice papers and yet still even our bightest find them hard to do really well in.
  6. Ssn77

    Ssn77 New commenter

    The AQA ISA instructions say that you should only give a week's notice of the ISA topic to students and not prepare them in any further way. Is this generally ignored/not known about? It is extremely difficult to create a level playing field across all schools (my students tell me that friends at a nearby college receive extensive tuition and help for their A level ISAs)
  7. alfredrussell

    alfredrussell New commenter

    Just to make our position absolutely clear. We know of and therefore take the instructions very seriously and follow them to the letter. However there are about 4 (now out of date) ISAs out there. The there is no issue at all in using them as mock tests to familiarise the students with the nature and standard of the questions. They are just another set of past papers and have no imapact on the "in-use" ISAs. I am, however, aware of at least two local schools where (allegedly) some discussion of the theory type paper takes place. I abhor the lack of honesty on the part of those teachers who then sign the paper to say the students got go additional help.
    I still think the idea of " here is your first try at this type of exercise and it is your final coursework" is tough on the kids. If you have a practice EMPA attempt as well it would be better. After 2 years and 240 kids through A2 and and 450 through AS we still prefer the ISA

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