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As physics and chemistry Unit 3 practical tests

Discussion in 'Science' started by mmmmmaths, Aug 19, 2011.

  1. mmmmmaths

    mmmmmaths New commenter

    Just popped over from Maths for some help.
    I know very little about the AS exams and was hoping for some information. Mmmmmmmjunior just got his AS results very high unit 1 and unit 2 results; in percentage terms the UMS were high 90's but unit 3 results were grade B. He tells me that only one person in the cohort got an A in physics unit 3 and only a couple an A in chemistry unit 3.
    These were both teacher assessed.

    My first question is is this unusual? My second is will mmmmmjunior be able to request his marked unit 3's so that he can see where he has lost marks? He is hoping for an A star in physics at A 2 but is already concerned about unit 6.
  2. Are these AQA ISAs? If so it isn't that unusual as schools find it difficult preparing students for the ISAs and the grade boundaries are very tight indeed. There is no reason why he can't find out where he lost marks (although he can't improve that ISA, it's a one chance kind of coursework exam). He will be able to take a unit 3 ISA again this year (actually there are 2 in any year) so he can perhaps improve his grade this way.
  3. mmmmmaths

    mmmmmaths New commenter

    Yes, should have mentioned AQA.

    It was not the grade B for that unit but more the lack of UMS marks for that unit that bothered him as he knows it is the total that counts.

    His AS will be an A but he is concerned that if he messes up the next ISA at A2 it could lose him a chance of an A star.

    I find it strange that they did not do a second one as they were teacher marked. Do they get moderated? Wondering if they got moderated down. Will be easier to find out now that I have more information. Thanks. He is pretty good at independent study, are there any guides to ISAs that he would find helpful?
  4. If the size of the cohort is very small then it is likely that his coursework has been looked at by the exam board already - only 3 of my students didn't get their coursework sent off and they weren't that different from the rest - similar mistakes. I have found that the jump from gcse to a-level coursework is a big one. "But I have written that" is a common response, when I reply with "but not in enough detail" or "it is confused". We are not allowed to help them, and they don't prepare for it like they do an exam... of course it could be that the whole cohort have had their results scaled, and that is why it is low.

    To get an A* he needs 90% in year 13 overall anyway, so they year 12 coursework won't matter that much and they are only 25% of the As, 12.5% of the A2 marks.
  5. mmmmmaths

    mmmmmaths New commenter

    Thanks for the reply. Doesn't he have to do another ISA for A2?

    He thought he had done ok on the AS one until it had been marked and is worried he will mess up the A2 ISA as well. He does want to prepare for the next one but does not know what he can do in preparation.
  6. I know that in our chemistry and physics the A2 coursework is different from the As - the chemistry seems very different and the physics is pretty different - but we don't do AQA. In March after all the results except one exam are in contact the head of VI form and ask to see all the results and discuss how your son can get 90%. I would be happy to stay behind after school to re-do coursework with students if they wanted to - all I would have to do is supervise.

    What I mean though is that the As coursework isn't worth that much in the greater scheme of things....

    Just thinking - I think that you can do the coursework bit and just send it off to the exam board to be marked, so the teacher might not even look at it... contact the teachers at the school and ask directly how they can help.
  7. Ssn77

    Ssn77 New commenter

    To get an A grade in AQA Chem 3 this year, you needed 92%, a B was 86% and an E was 70%. This is partially because most students get 12/12 for the PSA part , and high marks are generally scored for the practical part (a further 8 marks). This leaves 30 marks for the exam to do most of the differentiation. The almost perfect scripts that bag the A grades are often from A2 students retaking the AS ISA. Given that teachers know what the paper is beforehand, there are also anecdotal reports of students from some sixth forms being told too much about what to expect as well.
    I'm sure that your son's paper has been marked correctly, he has just lost a whole lot of UMS as a result of losing a few raw marks.
  8. mm38

    mm38 New commenter

    The exam board put the grade boundaries of the AS ISA up by 2 marks this year. Last year 33/50 would have secured an E grade. This year you needed 35/50. An A was 44/50 and is now 46/50. For some students they will have got 6 fewer UMS marks this year compared to last year.
    The school may have decided not to do a second one because they felt marks from the first one were good enough to get the grades they were anticipating they were worth but sadly the board put the grade boundaries up.
    Even without knowing the title of an ISA you can guarantee that there will be certain types of calculations that they need to do which can score high marks quickly. I think the hardest ISAs are ones where the students have to make observations rather than take measurements.
    Even if he doesn't get 90% on his ISA he can make those marks up on the written papers.
  9. chemroger

    chemroger New commenter

    We have had very similar issues with the Edexcel Chemistry ISA Practical coursework. It is very difficult to get them to really take it as serious as the written exams.
    Does anybody know if the students can redo the AS coursework in the Upper sixth with the Edexcel examination. Our school has never done this but maybe we should.
  10. You can with AQA so it is worth giving your subject officer a ring to check. It will be a different coursework ISA (rather than the same one revisited) but they do tend to do it better in Y13 anyway.
  11. Orion

    Orion New commenter

    I would agree with previous posts it is getter harder in coursework to get an A. They have pushed up the marks and it does not really work as it used to do.

    The teachers should have let you know roughly the grade from the ISA but also made clear and 2-3 raw marks change even through moderation could mean a lower grade.

    I think also the test is quite hard and does tend to separate out the men from the boys. I have found that pupils who really deserve and A* get it and those that don't even when they practice and are "coached" cannot make the grade. Which is good as we need to try and push for exams which allow an A* pupil to shine.

    In some ways that is why the A2 multichoice is good as well as although you can guess some and practice there are always a few which filter out those who really don't understand the Physics.

    I say well done AQA but boo to teachers who teach to the test!
  12. Personally I would like to see the actual ISA written paper taken as a proper exam in the hall with external invigilators, I think this might solve some of the issue with grade inflation. Complete the practical component by a certain date and everyone issued with the same set of guidelines for the topics examined alongside, student reissued with their results (or an appropriate set of results if theirs are way off) at the start of the exam and then take the exam like it is any other.
  13. Ssn77

    Ssn77 New commenter

    I think part of the reason marks are so much higher in the ISA is that students just have to learn the material for one topic. I find that lazy bright students often get higher grades in the ISA compared to the other units, as they can motivate themselves to do a little bit of cramming for an exam that counts.
    It would be fairer to do one practical exam, unseen by teachers, during the main exam period. Maybe right at the beginning like art, to avoid timetabling difficulties. The results for the two written papers for all of my students were within one grade of each other, while there were some big discrepancies between written papers and ISA that you could not put down to practical skills (or lack of)
  14. Orion

    Orion New commenter

    Interesting that would suggest we go back to the practical exam only.
    Also I generally find that my pupils do the same on the ISA as they do on the written papers.
    I remember a lot of teachers being upset at the start of ISA's as the ISA was not generally more than the written papers which teachers were relying on to get them through!
  15. This is targetted to the original poster (if she / he is still following the thread):
    Your son could ask to see the mark schemes for the ISAs he sat - this may help him to recognise where he lost marks.
    He should be able to take another Unit 3 ISA this year, he will need to understand the mark structure (eg for Physics, graph is ~ 10 marks, & marks are deducted for incorrect number of sig figs in tables, precision of instruments mis-stated, table of results with incorrect units or quantities in columns etc. The written paper needs correct sig figs, error calculations, manipulation of gradients, recognition of units and, at the end, ALWAYS suggestions on how to do another similar experiment).
    It seems that the grade boundaries are getting tighter & higher each year on this paper.
  16. mmmmmaths

    mmmmmaths New commenter

    He got significantly lower in the physics ISA as did most of the other entrants. So something strange is obviously going on!
  17. mmmmmaths

    mmmmmaths New commenter

    In his case and that of others in his group the Physics ISA is not 'getting them through' but is actually pulling them down.
  18. mmmmmaths

    mmmmmaths New commenter

    Good idea I'll get him to do that.
  19. Also, go to the AQA website
    Under 'teacher resource bank' there are the PSAs for this year which will help him to prepare. There are also ISAs from the last few series so he can practise the style of questions they come up with and compare against the mark schemes.
  20. Ssn77

    Ssn77 New commenter

    I meant move the whole of paper 3 to a formal exam, so students would carry out the practical part in the morning, then have a 60 min related written paper in the exam hall in the afternoon. The whole lot would be unseen by teachers beforehand (obviously practical requirements would be released a little in advance, but under no circumstances are any details to be given to students). Or let everyone know the topic a week in advance, but keep the paper from everyone, as is the case for other exam papers.
    I have seen brief details for a chemistry ISA on the student room website, and I'm sure there are cases of friends at different schools/colleges giving details of ISAs.

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