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A Level Sciences FAQs

Your guide to the latest specifications


Q: How will the new A Levels be assessed?

A: The new A Levels are linear, so assessment of students’ knowledge and understanding of the whole course takes place at the end of two years. There are six hours of terminal assessment for A Level, and three hours of terminal assessment for AS Level.

The January series of exams has been removed, and students sitting the new AS and A Level qualifications will only be able to sit exams in June. The first assessment of new A Level courses that started in September 2015 will take place in June 2017.

AS Levels

Q: What do the new AS qualifications look like?

A: AS levels have now become a standalone qualification; AS grades no longer contribute to A Level awards. AS levels will continue to be awarded at the same standard and level of demand as the current AS levels.


Q: What maths skills will be required of my students?

A: There has been an increase in the mathematical content required for the new A Level qualifications across all three sciences, to ensure that students have the necessary skills required for undergraduate study. Minimum requirements for Level 2 maths marks in exams will be 10% in biology, 20% in chemistry, and 40% in physics.

The maths skills required will be at and beyond the level of mathematics required for a GCSE grade C. For example, there will be a need to understand standard deviation in biology and the concepts underlying calculus in physics.

Practical skills

Q: How will practical science be assessed?

A: Practical skills are now worth 15% of marks in the main exam. There will also be a separate, additional practical endorsement, which must be completed but is graded separately and does not count towards the overall A Level grade. Students will be given either a 'pass' or a 'fail' grade for the practical endorsement.

Exam boards will set out requirements for practical skills, and each student will need to carry out a minimum of 12 practical activities, to ensure that they develop vital scientific techniques and become comfortable using key apparatus. This aims to make sure that all A Level scientists develop the experimental and practical skills essential for further study.

There will not be any non-exam assessment of practical activities for the new AS Level qualifications.

Read more about the aims of the planned reforms in this speech from Ofqual's Chief Regulator, Glenys Stacey to the Association of Colleges Examinations Officers' conference on 4 February 2015.

Synoptic, breadth and depth

Q: Will my students be required to make links across different topic areas?

A: There is an increased focus on ensuring depth and breadth of content coverage, and multiple choice questions will be included to help achieve breadth.

All exam papers will be synoptic, and there will be a 'Unifying concepts' paper at A Level.