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Lower tier science at GCSE - any words of wisdom about the implications please? Esp from science teachers.

(15 Posts)
promomum Mon 19-Sep-11 19:25:43

Dd is doing double science at GCSE and didn't get great grades in the modules she sat in Chemistry and Biology this summer - both D grades. She can resit and try to improve - she's bright but didn't work hard enough and science teaching at the (state) school isn't all that good.

Her teachers are advising her to sit the lower tier exams in these, saying that her coursework has the potential to lift her grades to a B.

She's keen to do so as apparently the lower tier is much easier.

She'll stick with the higher tier for Physics and Maths, both of which she enjoys more and is considering at A'level.

Can anyone offer any advice please? I had thought the most she could achieve would be a C if she went for the lower tier, but she's assuring me that's not the case if she excels in the coursework.

If she's right, would the exam certificate indicate she'd went for lower tier?

And what would be the other implications? She's unlikely to want to try for Oxbridge, so doesn't need to achieve all As and A*s at GCSEs and I'd prefer her to get respectable grades across the board so she can concentrate on great grades in the subjects which interest her.

Those who do well in sciences at the school seem to be from homes where parents can help (we can't!) - and I am sorting out extra tutoring for Physics and Maths and could do so for the Biology and Chemistry - will have to make it a tight Christmas if so as this would obviously cost £££s.

I will be phoning her teachers to talk it through, but very grateful for any advice here, especially from science teachers.

Many thanks

kritur Mon 19-Sep-11 20:58:27

The exam certificate will not show that she was in for foundation tier. That said it is a risk to assume her coursework will move her up to a B, especially with the new controlled assessments bedding in. I've had exceptional Bs from foundation tier before but that was in the days of coursework, not controlled assessment. Although if she's in Y11 then she would be on the old system?

If she's doing double science then the higher tier physics won't help her that much as it will be merged into her overall grade. She will also definitely need a B in the additional science portion of the double science or she won't be considered for A-level physics.

I would say she's better staying on the higher tier and doing the amount of work that she is actually capable of. Yes the foundation tier is easier however if she's seriously considering maths and physics at A-level then taking the easy way out is not something she should get into the habit of!

promomum Mon 19-Sep-11 21:07:57

Thanks Kriter - I've just printed off your reply and given it to her. My gut feeling is she should put more effort in, we'll sort out some tutoring, and she should stick to the higher tier.

alice15 Tue 20-Sep-11 17:44:07

Depending on the board, you should be able to access lots of past papers on line, together with the mark schemes. My daughter more or less taught herself additional science in this way, because she didn't find the teaching at school very helpful, and got an A*. A large part of the marks at science GSCE goes for answering the question in the right way as much as for the knowledge itself, and doing lots of past papers and marking them at home is an excellent way (IME) of learning what the examination board wants you to do, which is not necessarily the same as learning scientific information alone. This might save you a bit of money on tutoring, too?!

promomum Tue 20-Sep-11 19:10:18

Thanks Alice. I will definitely do as you suggest - there's quite a lot on the Bitesize website too.

I've spoken to her head of year pointing out exactly what kritur has said - taking the easy way out isn't a good start with the thought of science/maths A'levels ahead of her. He's looking at additional support to help bring her up to standard... he said her module marks would normally suggest lower tier, but agrees she's bright and capable of doing better.

EndoplasmicReticulum Tue 20-Sep-11 19:11:38

You might need to clarify a couple of things with the school - is it possible to sit higher papers in physics and lower in chem and bio if you're doing double science?

Also - are they sure that a B is achievable? I always thought that C was the most you could get from foundation tier (disclaimer - I have been teaching IGCSE instead for the last 2 years so am a bit out of touch).

In my experience though she'll find A level physics a struggle if she only gets Ds at GCSE.

kritur Tue 20-Sep-11 19:44:06

It is possible to do higher in the physics portion (if it's arranged into separate papers by the board, some aren't) but it will make very little difference. I am glad that the school has backed you in saying she is bright and capable of achieving better grades rather than taking the easy way out and putting her down to foundation tier. Now she needs to knuckle down with the past papers and make the most of her mother's kind offer of tutoring. Much washing up from now on..........

spiderpig8 Wed 21-Sep-11 17:25:05

can i just warn you that A level physics is hard.DS breezed through GCSE physics with A* in every modul & ISA and full marks in some things.He has just started AS level physics, and it is a huge jump.His school insist on an A at GCSE at least.
She may do better in her re-sits but DS's school says statistically they don't because it distracts them from the next module.

promomum Thu 22-Sep-11 14:10:57

Thanks for all your thoughts. She is going to continue with higher tier and we're currently trying to find tutors - which is proving a more difficult task than I'd envisaged. She knows she needs to knuckle down to make up for lost time. I've also asked for a meeting with her teachers.

spiderpig8 Thu 22-Sep-11 15:02:15

Good luck 'promo-DD'!!smile

Timetochange70 Sat 24-Sep-11 00:40:17

my dd did foundation science and worked really hard and achieved. 2 grade. C gcse,s . She then went on tp do A level Science as a subject on it's own and worked in the science dept voluntarily for the 2 years as part of her Duke of Ed and other things . She gained a D grade and has last week started a Degree in Science with Key stage 2 /3 qualified teacher status combined at a very good university . w are very proud of her and she would never have achieved this had she not taken the foundation gcse which was easier for her to achieve a pass and included more coursework and less exams. X Good luck

MigratingCoconuts Sat 24-Sep-11 08:24:40

I have found that students with less than a B grades at Double Science struggle to pass an A level in Biology, Chemistry, Physics.

If she is serious about doing A level physics then I do think she needs to put in the effort now, at all her GCSE science subjects. It will help her develop the commitmnet she is going to need in the 6th form. Definately sit the higher tiers!

MindtheGappp Sat 24-Sep-11 08:34:28

Which exam board is she using?

promomum Sun 25-Sep-11 17:31:20

Thanks for the additional comments. The exam board is WJEC and the exams are Welsh medium.

She's definitely going to do higher tier for everything, so will be going for extra revision classes at school and we're trying to find private tutors.

MindtheGappp Sun 25-Sep-11 19:41:07

I am not familiar with WJEC as I use Edexcel.

I imagine the boards all work in much the same way.

The Edexcel Science qualification is spread over 10 modules, each worth 40 points. The total is 400 points, with 90% being an A*, 80% A etc.

4 of the modules have no tiering. The practical skills module is 90 - 100% for everyone. The 3 controlled assessments are usually very well done. These four modules can make a huge difference to weaker students.

In the other six modules, there are tiers. In Y10, the students pick their tiers when they look at the papers. In Y11, teachers enter the students for higher/foundation ahead of time for three of the papers, and students choose for the other three.

They can do a mix of higher and foundation questions, with higher ones carrying more points than the foundation ones. The odd foundation paper among the the others is fine unless you are going for A*.

I would definitely recommend shooting for the higher tier in physics as the higher-only topics, eg momentum, are no more difficult than anything else.

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