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AQA KS3 Science FAQs

AQA KS3 Science Syllabus

Q: What is the AQA KS3 Science Syllabus?

A: The AQA KS3 Science Syllabus is an approach to teaching the current KS3 Programme of Study. It has been designed to equip students for success at GCSE using big ideas and a mastery approach, promoting teaching for understanding rather than covering fragmented content. It prepares students for following the AQA 9–1 GCSE specifications at KS4.

Download the AQA KS3 Science Syllabus

Structure of the Syllabus

Q: How is the AQA KS3 Syllabus structured?

A: The AQA KS3 Science Syllabus is split into two parts, and can be taught as part of a two-year or three-year KS3. Part 1 can be taught in Year 7 or Year 7/8 and Part 2 can be taught in Year 8 or Year 8/9.

Big Ideas

Q: What is the Big Ideas principle?

A: The big ideas principle puts generalisations, principles and models which connect concepts at the heart of the syllabus, seeking to provide students with the understanding to apply their knowledge to unfamiliar contexts. The AQA KS3 Science syllabus complements the KS3 Programme of Study by exploring the links between ideas at KS3, providing an alternative approach to KS3 content that better prepares students for the AQA 9–1 GCSEs.

There are 10 big ideas: Forces, Electromagnetism, Energy, Waves, Matter, Reactions, Earth, Organisms, Ecosystems and Genes.

Mastery approach

Q: What is mastery?

A: Mastery is defined as gaining a secure understanding of the big ideas. Understanding means both 'knowing' - having an accurate mental structure of the concepts and skills - and 'applying' - being able to use the knowledge flexibly across different situations.

The AQA KS3 Science Syllabus provides clear statements of what it means for students to know and apply, as well as extend. The 'Extend' band provides more challenging objectives for those students that extend the mastery goals 'Know' and 'Apply.'

Spiral design

Q: What is spiral design?

A: The AQA KS3 Syllabus uses spiral design to help students develop an understanding of each big idea. An understanding is developed by multiple interactions with the concepts within the idea. By connecting smaller ideas to more abstract ideas, students will be better prepared to apply these concepts when approaching an unfamiliar topic.

Each big idea contains four smaller topics that build in complexity. For example, Waves topics are ordered from simpler, more concrete topics 'Light' and 'Sound,' to more abstract ones, 'Wave properties' and 'Wave effects.' These have been created to avoid repetition, draw on various scientific skills and use different contexts.

Enquiry processes: working scientifically

Q: What are enquiry processes?

A: The AQA Syllabus provides comprehensive coverage of working scientifically. Effective lessons in science should have two aspects to them: content and process. Working scientifically should be taught through and clearly related to the science content. The AQA Syllabus divides enquiry into four areas:

Analyse, consisting of presenting data, analysing patterns, drawing conclusions and discussing limitations
Communicate, consisting of constructing explanations, communicating ideas, critiquing claims and justifying opinions
Enquire, consisting of devising questions, testing hypotheses, planning to control variables and collecting data
Solve, consisting of estimating risks, examining consequences, interrogating sources and understanding how scientific ideas change over time

Working scientifically grids are provided to show how the enquiry activities cover the working scientifically skills required by the KS3 Programme of Study.

AQA Activate for KS3

Q: How does AQA Activate for KS3 support the AQA KS3 Syllabus?

A: AQA Activate for KS3 has been structured to reflect the AQA Syllabus and Big Ideas. The Activate assessment framework has been amended to match the 'Know,' 'Apply' and 'Extend' bands.

Throughout the course, Big Ideas Checkpoints provide intervention and extension to ensure students enter KS4 with the required proficiency. The assessment model also extends to KS4 and the new 9–1 grades, to ensure seamless transition and progress to GCSE. AQA command words and exam-question skills are embedded throughout.

AQA Activate for KS3 Student Books (print and digital) have been approved by AQA.


Q: I'm already using Activate. Can I still use my resources to teach the AQA KS3 Syllabus?

A: Yes - we will provide detailed mapping grids to any schools wishing to use their existing Activate textbooks and resources to teach the AQA Syllabus.