Like many heads of science, I spent a good deal of time each September working my way through examiners’ reports to identify areas in which our students had performed well and not so well, with the aim of identifying best teaching practices and addressing those that were less successful. This year, I have pored over the AQA examiner reports to identify six of the more general trends and problem areas, ahead of the first set of reformed examinations in May/June 2018.
1. Definitions – Students do not recall these clearly enough to gain marks – this is true for students taking the Foundation Tier and Higher Tier papers alike. For example, many foundation tier students were unable to answer 7(b) on the B1 Foundation Tier paper by completing two sentences to identify photosynthesis and one of its products, and even some higher tier students confused respiration with photosynthesis; many higher tier students were unable to define the term ’recessive’ in relation to genes in question 6 on the B2 Higher Tier paper. On the C2 Foundation Tier paper, only 8% of students could correctly define a hydrocarbon.