Biology, chemistry and physics are also available as A level courses. By choosing an A level pathway, all three sciences can be taken together or individually as desired.
Biology is a demanding scientific course with considerable factual content, developing biological concepts from GCSE and introducing new topics from the cutting edge of applied science. Each section builds on those that preceded it, effecting spiral learning, and applies the biology to relevant situations, contextualising theory. The exam emphasis is on the application of knowledge and understanding to unfamiliar scenarios and drawing together the various strands of the subject. Key practicals need to be undertaken during the program of study and knowledge of these is assessed in a written paper at the end of the course.
This course takes some of the ideas from GCSE and explores them to a much deeper and advanced level. Pupils find it rewarding and inspiring to take their understanding of the nature of matter much further. There are three strands to the subject at A level and beyond. Physical Chemistry is quantitative and includes topics such as rate, equilibrium, and pH. Inorganic Chemistry focuses on specific areas of the Periodic Table and the detail and patterns in behaviour of some of the elements, such as the transition metals. Organic Chemistry greatly expands in its scope from the hydrocarbons studied at GCSE to look at many other families of carbon compounds and their significance in the modern world, such as carbonyls, alcohols and amino acids.
This broad and coherent course encourages pupils to develop confidence in physics and to recognise its importance in their own lives and to society. In the first year of study topics covered include motion, forces, energy, materials, stars, particle and nuclear physics, electricity, waves and quantum physics. These topics are then developed in the second year and linked to the further topics explored, including circular motion and vibrations, kinetic theory and thermal physics, fields and electromagnetic induction, astrophysics and nuclear energy. A level physics pupils also study an option topic designed to link closely with the world of work. The available options will be agreed on in department.
Throughout the course, pupils will complete a range of practical work as it is an intrinsic part of physics to develop the practical techniques required for the Practical Endorsement.
In both Chemistry and Physics Practical Endorsement is a new feature, which replaces the coursework, investigations and assessed practicals that had been a part of A level science for many years. Written examination papers contain questions to test understanding of practical science. In addition, the assessment of practical skills will appear on all pupils’ certificates as a separately reported result alongside the overall grade for the qualification. A minimum of 12 practical activities are carried out by each pupil which, together, meet the requirements for practical skills and the use of apparatus and techniques developed through teaching and learning.