Doing Science Practical Assessments Whilst Studying Through Online Distance Learning
Every year many students enrol on science courses to study through online distance learning providers. Clearly, they can’t do scientific practicals when all their studying is done at home in front of their computer.
To do the practical assessments for science A levels students need to register with a private exam centre who offers this service. You need to make sure you can do both your practical assessments and your exams at the same centre, as this is a requirement of the Awarding Bodies.
Throughout the A Level Biology, Chemistry or Physics courses there are 16 core practicals of which at least 12 must be completed and successfully assessed in order to receive the practical endorsement, a measure of competency in practical skills.
The practical part of the course DOES NOT impact on the final A-Level grade, but omitting this element may lead to being rejected by universities – students need to check with their chosen or desired universities the ramifications of an A-Level without practical endorsement.
Remember, the practicals for your courses don’t need to be done in the traditional May / June examination period, you have the option to space them out and do them throughout the study of your course before you sit the written exams.
If it’s the case that you don’t need to sit the practicals to get an offer for the course you wish to study at University, then you can opt to do just the written exams for the course. The A-Level you achieve will simply be reported as a “Grade without practical endorsement.”
Finding an Exam Centre
Visit our Examination Placements page
Here you will find a list of exam centres previously used by our students. There is also links to the AQA and the Edexcel websites which have further recommendations for exam centres.
Another useful site to help you in your search is: HE Exams Wiki. This site is aimed at home schooled children however the exam centres recommended often do A Level exams and practicals as well as GCSEs.
What to Ask
Do you do practical assessments?
When you contact the exam centre either on the phone or by email you need to ask if they offer the exam and practical which you wish to take. Not all exam centres will offer the practical assessments so this needs to be checked out first.
The exam centres will charge for the services they offer. The exam boards charge the schools and exam centres, that charge is passed on to you. Plus, the exam centres will also need to charge for expenses such as exam invigilators, practical assessors, and the equipment and lab preparation can also be very expensive. Ultimately these charges are passed on to you the student. Practical fees at exam centres can be high. Please check this to ensure that you can afford them.
Some exam centres allow you to visit once a week for a series of sessions to do your practicals, others will offer an intensive week allowing you to get all the practical assessments done in one go. Ask what your centre offers and find a way which would suit your schedule. The exam centre will also be able to tell you the date of your exams and what you need to bring.
Good luck with your courses, put the effort in and you will get the grades you deserve.