Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment
CCEA Curriculum Monitoring Programme 2018-19

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs Re. GCSE Science Practical Assessments

When will the Apparatus and Materials Lists arrive in centres?
Apparatus and Materials lists which coincide with Booklet A will be delivered to centres mid-October for use by candidates in Year 12. They can be opened immediately by the Head of Department.

Does the Examinations officer have to hold the Apparatus and Materials List at all times?
The Examinations Officer can release the Apparatus and Materials List to the relevant Head of Department who may work with the relevant technician(s) to order and set-up materials. The Head of Department can be for each individual discipline. The Head of Department must hold the document securely when not in use.

Can the centre revise the experiments which were taught in Year 11 before the scheduled practical session?
Yes but not in a selective way to advantage the candidates based on the contents of the Apparatus and Materials list or advanced viewing of Booklet A as this will constitute malpractice.

Can the Head of Department inform other teachers in the department about the contents of the Apparatus and Materials list?
The Head of Department can only inform the teachers who will be supervising a practical session about the topic area which must be covered or revised (from Year 11) in the teaching order before the scheduled practical session.

Can the Supervising Teacher give a candidate an emergency set of results if the results do not fit the expected outcome?
No. It is a very unlikely that you would be entitled to give your candidate(s) a set of results. The supervising teacher cannot circulate round candidates to check results are correct or fitting a pattern. The only reason why they should know if a candidate is not obtaining expected results would be because the candidate themselves has reported to the supervising teacher that they are not getting anticipated results or they can clearly see the apparatus on desks is not giving the correct observations. Results could be given in the following scenarios, as an example:

  • The candidate has broken apparatus and would not have time to redo the experiment.
  • Chemicals and/or apparatus were trialled to be working fine but failed on the day and was not the fault of the candidate so they should not be disadvantaged.

The key point is that if something does not go to plan on the day, then the Head of Department must send the appropriate Subject Officer a report of what happened and what action they took for each candidate or group of candidates effected.

When can the Supervising Teacher access Booklet A?
The Supervising Teacher can access Booklet A up to five working days before the planned practical skills assessment in order to trial to practical and ensure all apparatus and materials are working as expected. They must also carry out a bespoke risk assessment tailored to the class they are supervising. However, if there is a candidate setup session required for Biology experiments, then you may request both the confidential candidate set-up practical sheet and Booklet A up to five working days before the set-up session.

Do all candidates in the centre have to carry out the practical skills assessment on the same day?
No. Centres do not have to accommodate all their candidates on one day. The centre can decide when the practical skills assessment can be carried out between the 1 December and the 1 May for Year 12 classes.

Does the practical assessment have to be completed in one sitting?
Yes all tasks in Booklet A must be completed in a continuous session. For Double Award Science, three separate sessions for each individual discipline is allowable.

Do candidates have to carry out the practical skills assessment in the order presented in Booklet A?
The Supervising Teacher can decide in which order the candidates should attempt the practical tasks and can mange the session to accommodate the resources available within the centre.

Can Foundation and Higher Tier candidates carry out the practical assessment in the same laboratory?
Foundation and Higher Tier candidates may carry out the practical assessment in the same laboratory but they must work individually or work with others taking the same tier whilst carrying out the experimental work.

What is the maximum number of candidates who can work in a group when collecting raw data?
We would recommend candidates work individually if centre resources can accommodate this but they may work in groups of up to three.

What are the invigilation arrangements for the practical sessions?
The teacher who teaches the class is known as the Supervising Teacher and should be the main invigilator. Another person who is in the employment of the school must sit in the classroom as another invigilator to ensure procedures are followed correctly.

Can the Supervising Teacher or other invigilator leave the room?
The Supervising Teacher must remain in the room at all times due to health and safety requirements and the invigilator must stay in the room at all times under JCQ guidelines. JCQ guidelines should also be followed when a candidate has to leave the room.

Are the candidates permitted to talk during the practical assessment?
If the candidates are working in groups, they must be permitted to talk to each other regarding the practical procedure and to collect raw data for health and safety purposes. All other written parts of the assessment must be completed individually.

Can a candidate change tier if they have already done one of the Booklet A assessments?
No. It is the responsibility of the class teacher to ensure that the candidate is entered for the most appropriate tier and this tier must be followed through for Booklet B. The only opportunity to do the practical assessment in a different tier is in a complete resit of the entire unit situation following Year 12 results certification.

Can the Supervising Teacher assist the candidate if they are doing something incorrectly?
The Supervising Teacher cannot assist candidates during the practcail skills assessment. If the Supervising Teacher feels that a candidate is about to do something that may endanger themselves or others, they must intervene.

Can the practical session be terminated early (ie. before the maximum time allowance)?
Yes as long as all candidates in the laboratory have chosen to submit their Booklet A to the invigilator and are in agreement to terminate the session early.

Can previous practical assessment tasks (past papers) be used to prepare candidates for the practical assessment?
Yes, but only after the Review of Results period has finished (1st October) can the papers be released from the Examinations Officer.

Specific FAQs for GCSE Biology/DAS Biology practical assessments

Can the science technician or science teacher carry out the candidate set-up for the GCSE Biology or DAS Biology practical assessment, if required?
No. The candidate must carry out the set-up session either individually or in a designated group. The candidate may only receive help if they have prearranged Access Arrangements which should have been applied for before the practical skills assessment has been carried out through your Examinations Officer.

Does the time given for the set-up session count towards the allocated time allowance for the Biology Practical skills assessment?
No. The set-up session is not assessed and has no time limit. This session does not require an invigilator and is not under a high level of control. This session is simply to set-up for the formal practical assessment session.

Are there any marks awarded for the set-up session?
The set-up session is not carried out examination conditions, therefore no marks may be awarded. Any data which has been recorded durign the set-up session will be transferred to the practical skills assessment question paper and will be given credit then.

Does a invigilator need to be present at the set-up session?
The set-up session is not carried out under examination conditions and therefore does not have to be invigilated.