Frequently Asked Questions - Science Practicals

The information below contains the answers to the questions we are most commonly asked.  If you cannot find what you are looking, or if you would like any more information, please contact us using the form at the bottom of this page.

I want to obtain the A level science practical endorsement, can I do this at Greene’s?

Yes.  Satisfactory completion of our starter and completer science practical courses may ensure that you meet all the requirements to obtain the A level science practical endorsement – continuous assessment, assessed skills & techniques and completion of at least 12 required practicals.  Our courses meet the requirements of the Biology, Chemistry and Physics A level specifications for all the JCQ examination boards that include the practical endorsement (AQA, Edexcel, and OCR).

I want to prepare for and sit a CIE (Cambridge International Examinations) A level science practical examination, can I do this at Greene’s?

Yes.  Completion of our science practical courses will help you prepare for the CIE A level science practical examination – Unit 3.  There are additional Biology and Chemistry A level courses which we can prepare to meet specific CIE requirements in these subjects – such as microscopy for Biology.  Please contact us for more details.  Once you feel prepared for your CIE A level science examination you can also register at Greene’s to take the examinations in either November or May.

Why do I need to complete a science practical course, I just want to sit the examination?

Apart from CIE, the starter and completer courses are the examination.  In contrast to the written units, there is not an examination in the usual sense for the A level science practical component.  Instead, the assessment for the practical endorsement requires satisfactory completion of at least 12 practicals.

In addition there are questions based on practical skills and knowledge which occur in the the written units for all the examination boards – including CIE.  For both the AS and A level qualifications examined by AQA, Edexcel and OCR practical skills questions in the written papers will account for a minimum of 15% of your marks.

Do I need to do practicals, can I not just enter for the written examination Units?

No.  The examination boards are very clear that to obtain the A level practical endorsement all candidates must undertake practical work supervised by an examination centre, such as Greene’s.  A university course that you may be applying for may also require the A level practical endorsement as part of its entry criteria.

The advice from UCAS is as follows: “Practical work in the new science A levels will be assessed in two ways.  First, 15% of the marks in the written exams will assess learners’ understanding of practical work. Learners’ performance here will contribute to their subject grade. Second, learners will have their practical skills assessed separately. They will receive an additional pass or fail result for this which will be recorded on their qualification certificate.  Each learner will carry out a minimum of 12 practical activities over their two-year course of study…UCAS will ask the school or college of an applicant entering science A levels in Apply to indicate whether they are predicted to pass the science practical assessment in the same way as the main A level exams.  Individual universities and colleges will have their own policies in relation to the science practical result and the requirement for it is likely to vary.  However, it is likely that they will ask for a pass in the science practical for courses that involve laboratory and practical work from the outset, such as STEM courses.  Where this is the case, they will make it clear in their entry requirements.”

What are the assessment requirements for the A level practical endorsement?

The examination boards falling under JCQ in England (AQA, Edexcel and OCR) have harmonised their assessment criteria – common practical assessment criteria (CPOC) and these can be found in the examination board specifications for each subject.  Broadly, the practical assessment for A level science can be divided into four main areas:

  • you must have demonstrated the appropriate skills and techniques;
  • you must have met the assessment criteria;
  • you must have completed a minimum of twelve practical activities; and
  • you must complete and retain an appropriate written record of your practical work.

Our tutors and demonstrators all have extensive knowledge of the different requirements for each board and subject and will ensure that your practical course is both rewarding and enjoyable as well meeting all the examination board requirements.

What subjects can I study?

We offer practicals in BiologyChemistry, and Physics.

Which examination boards does the course cover?

We can cover all examination boards – AQA, CIE, Edexcel and OCR.

Can I study more than one subject?

Yes.  The courses are timetabled so that you can attend practical courses covering all three sciences should you wish.

Can I study a science A level in one year?

Yes.  However, we would suggest that you do your “starter” practical course in the autumn – covering the first six of the required practicals; and then complete your practicals in the spring.  This gives you time to complete any additional practical work you may need.  Please bear in mind that in addition to the practical endorsement 15% of the marks from the written papers will be based on a knowledge of practical science.

What do the A level science practical courses at Greene’s cover?

We offer A level science practical courses in Biology, Chemistry and Physics, covering all the examination boards (AQA, CIE, Edexcel and OCR).

The course covers everything you need to know to successfully complete the A level science practical endorsement and to prepare for the practical based questions of the written papers.

Can I fail the practical endorsement?

Yes.  To obtain a “pass” grade for the practical endorsement you need to have met the assessment criteria of the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC).

The arrangements for the assessment of practical skills are common to all examination boards in England (AQA, Edexcel and OCR). These are called the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC). The CPAC define the minimum standard required for the achievement of a pass.  You will need to complete a minimum of 12 specified practical activities; provide evidence of independent application of investigative approaches and methods to practical work; and keep an appropriate record of your practical work, including your assessed practical activities.  If you demonstrate the required standard across all the requirements of the CPAC you will receive a “pass” grade.  This will be assessed by Greene’s and the quality of the assessments made by Greene’s will be externally inspected.

What is the course fee?

Information of our course fees can be found here.

How do I pay?

Once your application has been accepted, you will be enroled on your course and sent an invoice for your course fees.  You can pay by direct bank transfer, by cheque, or you can call us to make a card payment.

Do I need to pay for examination entry separately?

Yes.  Examination entry fees are not included as part of the science practical course fees.

Why does the course cost what it does?

The science practical courses at Greene’s are comprehensive, taught by highly qualified tutors with the assistance of laboratory technicians, and include the use of laboratory facilities and all necessary equipment, chemicals, etc.

Can I pay by installments?

If you think you may not be able to pay your course fees as a lump sum, please contact us to discuss this.

Where are the courses held?

Physics practicals are held at Greene’s Tutorial College in the centre of Oxford, 45 Pembroke Street, Oxford, OX1 1BP.  You can find more information on how to find Greene’s on our directions page.

We use excellent laboratory facilities at St. Gregory the Great Catholic School, Cricket Road, Oxford, OX4 3DR for Biology and Chemistry practicals.

What are the course dates and times?

Information on course dates and schedules can be found here.

Why is the course twelve weeks long?

The practical endorsements for A level science courses are not assessed by a one-off examination.  The endorsement is obtained by ongoing assessment of practical skills, and partly by assessed practicals and write ups.  The Greene’s A level science practical courses are designed to allow you time to acquire and be assessed on your practical skills in addition to completing the minimum number of assessed practicals and having recorded you practical work.

If you are unable to attend our standard starter and completer courses there is also the option of attending week long intensive courses in Biology, Chemistry and/or Physics.  These intensive courses also meet the assessment criteria of the A level science practical endorsement. Dates for the intensive course options can be found here

Do I need to attend every session?

Yes.  Remember you cannot obtain the A level practical endorsement unless you have satisfactorily completed a minimum of 12 specified practicals.

How do I enrol?

If you are interested in enroling on a practical course, please complete the application form. We will then contact you to discuss your enrolment. Completion of the application form does not guarantee enrolment on a course.

When do I need to apply by?

Science practical course registration deadlines 2017 - 2018

Autumn courses

Friday 22nd September 2017

Winter courses

Friday 5th January 2018

Spring courses

Friday 23rd February 2018

Intensive CIE A level Spring courses

Friday 23rd February 2018

Intensive A level practical endorsement Spring courses

Friday 23rd March 2018

Who are the tutors?

We have three tutors who teach our science practical courses, assisted by  laboratory technicians:

Biology practicals: Dr. Saif Bham.

Chemistry practicals:  Dr. David Egawhary.

Physics practicals: Mr. Julian Fox.

Will I get feedback?

There will be the opportunity to talk to your tutor during the practical sessions – depending on the time available, your tutor is likely to be happy to answer your questions on other areas of your syllabus as well as the practical content.

After each practical session, your tutor will write a short report for you (known as a slip because they used to be written on small slips of paper).  Your reports will be available for you on Greene’s Online, our online platform, after the practical session.  We do our best to make reports available to you within forty-eight working hours after your practical session.

Your reports will also provide evidence that you have completed the ongoing practical assessment for your syllabus.

Can I enter for my written units with Greene’s?

You can enter for the written units of your A level science examination with Greene’s, subject to availability.  For more information about examination entry please see the Examinations and Testing section of our website, where you can find information about examination fees and how to register.

How else can Greene’s help me to prepare for my exams?

To reach your target grade you can measure your progress by taking a Greene’s arranged trial exam which will provide you with an indication of your performance as well as identifying any areas of weakness.  You can get extra assistance with any areas of weaknesses either through one of our short courses or by taking some supplementary tuition.

If you have any further questions please contact us using the form below.

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The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.

Plato, (5th and 4th century BC), philosopher and mathematician