Hints and tips - 6 minute read
Andy Brunning - Chemistry Subject Advisor
How do you help students make the jump from GCSE to A Level Chemistry? This is a relevant question we get asked every year, but it’s of even more importance during the COVID pandemic.
Students starting A Level Chemistry in September 2021 will have experienced significant disruption to their GCSE studies during the past year. To help I have included some resources for you and your students, which may help in the coming months.
Our transition guides are intended to focus on how particular topics are covered at GCSE and A Level, and include lots of practical tips and activities for teaching towards the end of the GCSE and the start of A Level.
Each guide also includes a checkpoint task to help reinforce key concepts, which students could find useful to help work out what areas they need to focus on.
There are four guides, each focusing on key topic areas in chemistry:
This is a great resource to both make students aware of the competencies they need to carry through into A Level Chemistry and give them some opportunities to practise these skills.
The resource comes in three sections. The first section, basic chemistry competencies, covers balancing equations, writing ionic equations, and writing chemical equations from text.
The second resource, basic mathematical competencies, includes some practice of general mathematical skills and unit conversions, before drilling down into calculations involving moles, mass, and concentrations.
The third resource, basic practical competencies, covers lab equipment that students should be familiar with, as well as good practice in recording results and plotting graphs.
Many schools have experienced limits on the practical work they can carry out over the past year, and consequently students have had less time to write and think about practical chemistry. It’s likely that this will have a knock-on effect of their understanding and use of the terminology commonly used when talking about practical work, particularly those terms relating to measurement.
Our language of measurement resource provides a glossary of these terms and helps students understand the context in which measurement terms like ‘accuracy’, ‘precision’ and ‘uncertainty’ are used. This will prepare them for encountering and using these terms at A Level.
MaChem Guy’s videos are rightly lauded by A Level Chemistry teachers and students alike as an invaluable remote learning resource. He’s put together a playlist of videos to act as preparation for A Level Chemistry. These start from the basics, then move on to examining topics which build on GCSE knowledge.
These resources should help students who feel they have gaps in their knowledge and understanding make a confident start to this years A Level course.
As is the case with the current year 12 cohort, the students starting A Level next year won’t have sat GCSE exams. This might mean they’re less familiar with the styles of questions that they can expect to see at the end of the course.
Our GCSE candidate exemplar resources can highlight the kind of questions they could have expected to see in the now cancelled exams, while the A Level candidate exemplars will give them an idea of the question styles they can expect at the end of the course. They’re available on the assessment part of the qualification pages, under ‘Candidate exemplars’.
Additionally, our GCSE exam hints for students resource could be useful to help students identify the common mistakes and misconceptions seen in exams at the end of the GCSE course. This, coupled with our GCSE Chemistry specification checklist, should help students identify areas for improvement.
Have you got any particular resources you’re planning on using to help students progress from GCSE to A Level in September? Share them in the comments below!
If you have any further questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call on 01223 553998 or tweet @OCR_Science. You can also sign up to subject updates to receive information about resources and support.
Andy joined OCR in September 2017 as the subject advisor for A Level Chemistry. He has a Chemistry BSc and a Secondary Science PGCE from the University of Bath. Before joining OCR, he worked as a chemistry teacher in Bournemouth and Cambridge. He also sidelines as a science communicator and has produced infographic projects for the Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Chemical Society.