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Is it possible to do A level chemistry without practicals?

(15 Posts)
ellisbell Fri 03-Jun-11 09:29:41

My son is studying Chemistry outside school, after deciding he needed it for university entry. His tutor has not yet said anything about how we manage over practicals. Are there any boards that don't require practicals for AS/A level?

thecatisdead1 Fri 03-Jun-11 16:33:12

WJEC - AS 2 exams and a prac
A2 2 exams and a prac

AQA - AS 2 exams and a prac
A2 2 exams and a prac

OCR (A) and (B - Salters) AS 2 exams and a prac
A2 2 exams and a prac
For Salters there is also a Investigation

Edexcel - AS 2 exams and a prac
A2 2 exams and a prac

I can't think of any more major exam boards that do A level Chem.

Practicals are a key part of the subject you can't do the subject without it.

But. If you find a local college (i'd say go for the one that he'd use to sit the exam) you may find that they are perhaps willing to allow him to do the prac with the other 'normal' students, and then mark it and register his marks.

You'll probably have to pay, and it may take a far bit of phoning and going to see them, and maybe a bit of begging. But normally they are accomodating.

Hope that helps

lazymumofteenagesons Fri 03-Jun-11 20:54:37

My son also decided to do chemistry as an extra A level the year after leaving school in order to do the degree he wanted. He ended up enrolling on a one year A level chemistry course at a college because we could not work out how he would do the practicals otherwise.

I did find an internet course where you could sit an extra exam instead of the practicals. I think it was called Bright Stars or something similar, but I was not sure it was going to be any good.

lazymumofteenagesons Fri 03-Jun-11 20:56:01

Actually, if he is still at school he could ask to do the practicals at school using their labs.

crazymum53 Sat 04-Jun-11 16:35:38

If your son is entering as a private candidate then contact the exam board. They usually have a list of local centres (schools or colleges) that are willing to accept extra private candidates for practical exams.

ellisbell Sat 04-Jun-11 16:53:22

thank you all for your help. They are still at school but we haven't raised it with them yet as the school don't really like students doing extra subjects. I think I've found a private school revision course where they might be able to do a practical exam during the week but have to get more details.

IgnoringTheChildren Mon 06-Jun-11 23:11:19

It's not really just a question of doing the assessed practical components of the A level though as to perform well he will need to have learnt practical skills (eg titration) and also have practice at how best to approach the assessments.

My head of chemistry spent a lot of time looking into how best to prepare our students for the assessments (OCR A spec) so we provide our students with a lot of practical opportunities, including some in the style of the assessed practicals, and frequently still find that good candidates mess up on the day and require another opportunity to get a good grade.

I think it's really impressive that your son wants to study chemistry and is making the effort to do so out of school, but I really can't see a way that this would work (certainly not for OCR A; I obviously don't know other exam boards' requirements so well) with just home tuition.

Do look into alternatives. Is there really no way that he could take up chemistry at school in September? We had a student in a similar situation a few years ago who managed to get through both AS and A2 chemistry in a year - it wasn't easy as A2 theory obviously builds on what is learnt at AS level (she had home tuition to help) and she had to drop 2 of the subjects she had started in year 12 to make it work (so left school with 3 A levels - well 4 if you include General Studies - and 2 AS levels). She got the grades she needed for her uni course - hope that your son manages to do the same!

basingstoke Mon 06-Jun-11 23:14:57

Agree with last post. You need to learn practical skills to do well int he practical assessment. Is he in school? Is there no wiggle room in his timetable for at least some chemistry lessons?

ellisbell Tue 07-Jun-11 22:03:56

have spoken to the school. Chemistry teacher says it can be managed, but the head of 6th form says not. We'll have to wait and see if they can sort it out between them.

snorkie Tue 07-Jun-11 23:17:30

ds and some of his friends did Chem AS and one did A2 as well independently with the school's help for organising the practicals. It was a lot of extra effort for the school and I'm slightly surprised they agreed to it (except the science dept is rather fab). For their board (AQA) there was not only the ISA experiments and associated written papers to do (minimum of one for AS and 1 for A2, but 2 at each level is better as you can take the best result) but also a number of other small practical tasks (PSAs?) that had to be assessed while doing other practicals (mostly other than the ISAs).

IgnoringTheChildren Wed 08-Jun-11 10:11:51

ellisbell - that's often the way it goes: teacher says yes, management say no. Fingers crossed they sort it out so your son can do the A level. smile

mumurishad Mon 02-Feb-15 10:55:41


lougle Mon 02-Feb-15 11:03:07

It will be from next year (new syllabus).

If you're struggling to get a distance learning course, Brockenhurst College do a distance learning with practicals course. It's £750 for AS and £750 for A2.

The course is very good. We have a tutorial every 5 weeks or so, plus email support and up to 5 hours of individual tuition.

Definitelynomore Mon 02-Feb-15 20:46:40

I would add to all of this that, depending on what course your son is wanting to do at degree level, most unis would likely be keen to see someone who can handle the practical side of chemistry. It strikes me that a chemistry A level without any practical assessment could be missing something for an admissions tutor considering applications for a highly selective course that requires lab work.

catslife Wed 04-Feb-15 08:43:39

It will be from next year (new syllabus).
Just to clarify the above, from September 2015 students will still be expected to carry out practical work but the assessments won't count towards the final grade.
There are often questions on exam papers where students have to describe experiments and analyse results. It is hard for pupils to answer these well if they haven't done enough practical work.

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