As your daughter may have informed you, the Chemistry and Biology departments have decided to change the practical assessment route the girls undertake in the Lower and Upper Sixth.
Previously, we have entered girls for the centre marked route, where girls undertook Chemistry PSAs or Biology skills plus ISAs. As the ISAs were taken on two occasions, we felt that this gave the girls the opportunity to concentrate on one specific area of the specification at a time, with the best ISA counting towards their final mark. Girls did, however, find it difficult to put in the necessary time for preparation and lost marks. This led to both departments looking again at the externally marked route, with EMPAs, as it was felt that since these are taken at the end of the course, students would perform at a higher level.
This summer AQA changed the timings for schools undertaking both the ISA and the EMPA route.
In the best interests of the students, Chemistry and Biology departments will be taking the EMPA route from this year. As the written part of the assessment is taken after Easter, girls will have undertaken more of their revision in both subjects and will thus have the opportunity to achieve at their full potential. During the year, girls will have opportunities to undertake experiments testing the full range of practical skills, but these will not directly contribute towards their final mark. Both departments will undertake ‘mock’ practicals and tests, using papers from previous years, so that girls are fully aware of the procedures and style of these assessments.
The students will take two practicals in each subject, which this year will be in the weeks prior to the Easter holiday. The written test of 1 hour and 20 minutes will be taken in May under exam conditions, with all girls in their year group taking this in the hall at the same time. The written paper will test material linked to the EMPA practicals and in addition there will be a section related to the practical work taken during the year.
Both departments feel that the girls will perform better in the EMPA as they will be revising the specification content over the Easter break.
Upper Sixth pupils who did not perform as high as they would have liked in module 3 last year will have the opportunity to take the AS EMPA, with the best mark from either 2013 (ISA route) or 2014 (EMPA route) contributing towards their final qualification.
If you or your daughter have any questions regarding this change please do not hesitate to contact either of us.
Mrs J Bagnall (Head of Biology)
Miss J Oldfield (Head of Chemistry)