B2 Revision Activity

Another short and sweet post, aimed mainly at teachers of AQA Additional Science or Biology. I put together a (mostly blank) summary booklet for my students, and perhaps yours might find it useful too. I see it mainly as a starting point, and emphasize that this should then lead to more detailed, interactive resources for them. A good way to use it might be to split students into six groups and then have them produce two or three resources per table; a mindmap, a set of questions and answers, a 2minute presentation and so on. If they produce things electronically, they could then share them all and everyone gets the benefit.

B2 summary activity as .pdf

Anyway, you could simply hand it out and ask them to start by filling it in. Let me know how it works out and if you want an editable version (in .docx format) you’ll have to leave a comment. I’ll aim to email it out by… say Wednesday 24th? Seems fair.



Doing an ISA – Pre-Practical

There will be a second post in a few days, if I can fit it in between coughing, marking and spending time with my family. Please excuse the brevity, but it seems highly unlikely that my broadband connection – thank you Talk Talk – will last long enough for my usual wittering.

This is intended for those of us who teach GCSE Science with AQA, to help with the joy of an ISA. Of course we’ve no idea what format this will take once Gove’s messed around with it, but I can be fairly confident that even he couldn’t make it any worse. I’ve blogged before about the weaknesses I see with the current model, and what I’ve done to address them. Here’s the resources I’m currently using to try and help my classes. They should work, with tweaking of course, for any variant of the AQA Science courses. Click on the image for the presentation:

ISA preprac

I found that my students, despite having been shown the sample exam papers while they researched, struggled to include all relevant information on their Research Notes sheets. My solution was to produce an extra sheet with more detailed prompts, similar to those in the presentation above, which they could fill in. I had them keep the exam paper and markscheme open in an extra tab, and annotate their sheet with the linked question numbers for each fact. They then transferred their messy information to the official sheets, which of course acts as another rehearsal before the exam.

ISA preprac as .pdf

Please let me know what you think, good and bad. The ‘post-prac’ equivalents should be up by the end of halfterm, subject to the usual caveats.

6 Mark Questions

This is one approach to teaching the dreaded 6 mark AQA questions. I’d be interested in comments or suggestions, as ever. The powerpoint that goes along with it was set up for B1, but is obviously easily changed. 6 Mark Questions as ppt.


  • Recap key facts
  • Improve structure of answers to 6 mark questions
  • (Appreciate that it’s hard to write good 6 mark questions and markschemes)


Question on board, set timer running: “You have 6 minutes.”

I do it, We do it together

Ask what they think the aim of the lesson is.

6 mark questions may require explanations, examples to illustrate a specified concept, judgements of advantages and disadvantages, a description of a process or an experimental method. Marks are awarded for scientific content and the quality of the writing. This means key ideas must be clear and the explanation must make sense, the points in a logical order. Most students lose marks because their answers lack sufficient detail eg scientific vocabulary or because their answer is rambling or confused. Markschemes will usually include graded answers (low=1-2 marks, 3-4, 5-6) and examiners will decide which description fits best, then award the higher or lower score depending on the quality of writing. Aim for between 4 and 6 scientific points or steps in a process; if opposing viewpoints are needed include points for and against, or examples of plants and animals etc.

Introduce method:

  • Bullet point ideas
  • Number the points to give a logical sequence, adding or removing points.
  • Use this order to write coherent sentences.

Model with a new question, ask students to consider how they would structure their answer, show numbers, ask them to discuss possible sentences based on these points. Compare with each other, pick up on details needed by examiner.

You do it together

Give them more questions, have them discuss one in pairs while they attempt it. Collaboration should be about making suggestions and producing two different answers which can be compared, not one identical answer. You could give a choice or set it by rows. Go through example bullet points, discuss gaps, additions and exclusions. Elicit possible/useful connectives.

You do it alone

Attempt a question in exam conditions, following method. Compare to markscheme (ideally this one should be a past or sample question with specified allowed answers) and make specific improvements. Return to the original Starter question and annotate their answer, explaining why they would change various parts.


  • Have students write their own questions and markschemes for specific points in the syllabus. Linking this to higher order tasks via Blooms or SOLO may be useful.
  • Use the questions to play consequences where one student writes a question, one writes bullet points, one sequences and a last writes full sentences. This will end up with four complete answers which can then be discussed.
  • Give sample answers and have students mark them, first with and then without a markscheme. What do they forget? What level of detail is required?


UPDATE: A useful approach from @gregtheseal via twitpic, and I like the ‘CUSTARD’ mnemonic shared by @IanMcDaid. Thank you!

P1 Summary Activity

To be honest, this is long overdue but it’s been a bad month. Lots of other stuff going on, not all school-related – which also accounts for my fairly low output on Twitter. Which you’ve probably all enjoyed. 🙂

Anyway; one revision activity, like the others. This may be useful to help kids note down main points, check understanding, test themselves etc etc for the AQA P1 exam. Some will be doing it in January, some in the summer. Either way, hope it’s useful – please let me so if it is.

  P1 Revision Activity as a pdf


P2 Summary Activity

A very short post this one, as it’s time to get the kids in bed and make sure I’ve an ironed shirt for tomorrow. But as I’ve done this for my students, it seems only fair to make it available to you guys* too…

This booklet/activity is the same idea as the one I posted a little while back for B1. I dislike giving revision notes; that’s why they have a revision guide. Equally, if you don’t give them some kind of structure they’ll surely make a mess of it. As before, page references are to the excellent CGP guides, although others are available. I teach the AQA Additional Science spec, although this will also fit in to triple/Physics teaching.

Download P2 summary activity as a .pdf (Add a comment below if you want the .docx version)

Please let me know if it’s useful, or if you spot any problems with it. I’d particularly appreciate comments below (not just on twitter!) if you use it in your own settings, as sharing this kind of thing is one of the ways I’m building up evidence for my CSciTeach accreditation.


*’guys’ used in the same way as I do in my classroom, as a non-gender-specific yet informal address

B1 Active Summary

A quick one, this – and, you’ll be glad to hear, totally nonpolitical. I’ve expanded my idea of a revision checklist to make it a revision booklet. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t do this. I’d give kids a stack of blank paper and make them write their own damn headings. Deciding what matters most, what order it should go in, which areas should be linked together and so on would be a great activity. In fact, I’d recommend using that – perhaps in the format ‘give me ten episodes for this series’ – as a starter before handing this out. Kids could write ideas on post-its then argue about the best combinations. In reality, if we don’t give them some kind of structure they’re probably doomed.

B1 active summary as .pdf

Anyway, this is scaled for A4 but in most cases should copy down okay to an A5 booklet, two double-sided A4 pages. You’ll have to ask nicely at Reprographics. I spent ages sorting out the sequence on A5, messing around with page numbers, only to be told they needed to reduce it from A4 anyway. Oh well. Learn from my mistake and ask first.

The first page is a recap – for my students at least, who are probably sick of hearing about MORSE code revision – of effective approaches to exam preparation. Six pages of headings matched to the B1 exam of the AQA Science A specification, which many year 10 and 11 students will be sitting in January and June. And the back page is a checklist for them to assess their star rating, from 1 to 5, for each section. I usually make them tell me the difference between confidence and competence before I let them write on that bit.

Oh, and I included page references to the CGP revision guide (Core Science, Higher Tier). it’s the one we use and recommend, but obviously there are others about.

I’ll be doing an equivalent to this for the P2 module in the same course; please let me know if you’ve any suggestions for improvements in style or approach. And if you use this, I would very much appreciate you commenting below; I’m working on my CSciTeach application and it would be nice to show that my blog gets read and used by distant colleagues (as those in my department use the resources, but don’t know who I am online…). If you want the original .docx file, ask in the comments and I’ll send it your way.

Doing an ISA with AQA

I’ve managed not to blog about GCSE ‘reform’ – despite great temptation. If you’ve not seen them, then I suggest comparing three very different viewpoints (in style as well as opinion) from LKMCo, Tom Bennett and NAHT. When I have time I might update my previous post, from the last time Gove announced a major policy by leaking the details to the Daily Mail.

For now, a quick ‘ideas’ post about using ISAs for good science teaching, and hopefully enabling kids to achieve. This is partly in response to questions from @NQT_diary, as it’s spurred me to turn the draft into an actual readable item.

Teachers’ Notes

  • the ISA involves lots of paper – maybe your department will be organised, but double check
  • make sure you practise the actual experiment, if for no other reason than to generate the ‘sample data’ needed
  • remember that the markscheme is now ‘best fit’; compare with colleagues if needed to make sure you are consistent as a centre, as this is arguably the most important aspect come moderation day
  • you can share more than you think with the students


Perhaps somewhat idealistically, I try to use ISA teaching as a way to bring together lots of ‘bits’ of investigative science. Ideally, of course, you will have used all of the skills and language in regular lessons; that after all is the point. Make sure that KS3 pupils are familiar with at least some of the terminology. The practicals are straightforward (sometimes insultingly so) which means students can focus on their explanations and analysis. Make sure you are using the updated language; I have sometimes had pupils create their own version of this using a range of examples.

My Structure

  1. Introduction
  2. Research 1
  3. Research 2
  4. Preparation for planning exam (Section 1)
  5. Section 1 exam inc table
  6. Practical 1
  7. Practical 2 inc graph/chart
  8. Preparation for analysis exam (Section 2)
  9. Section 2 exam

There are lots of issues with the ISA, as I blogged a little while back. It is possible to use it effectively, but in some ways I feel the exam works against good teaching; this wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t take so long!

Students will need to complete the ‘research notes’ pro forma to take into their Section 1 exam; I had them do a ‘rough’ version which meant they had lots of material to annotate while revising/preparing. How much you direct them to particular sites is frustratingly vague, but in my setting we provided a range of sourses, some deliberately not well-suited, to make sure they had to think critically. Once the table is marked you can provide a replacemetn if that suits the practical better, without penalty. This means they aren’t penalised if a poor table would stop them collecting useful data. After the practical, the data and graph/chart must be collected, and returned for the Section 2 exam. Along with a set of ‘sample data’ (you produce), the ‘Case Studies’ (supplied by AQA) and their Research notes. They need a big table.

While teaching I used GRR principles (skills development from literacy, more info coming soon) which focuses on productive collaborative work. This adds an explicit stage in the teaching of skills (rather than content):

  1. I do, thinking out loud
  2. We do together
  3. You do collaboratively
  4. You do individually

The same structure can be used for the preparation lessons for both exams, and this brings us to the most surprising part of the ISA. We can share the specimen papers with students, and the exams are very defined in style so that in many cases they are effectively identical to the specimen. So they can attempt the specimen questions, go through the markscheme with teacher support, then sit what they know will be a very similar exam about their own research and experiment.

This still seems weird to me.

The preparation for the planning and analysis exams can be done in similar ways:

  • Talk through the specimen context and model a possible question for them, linking to key definitions (5min)
  • Have them predict and write down 2/3 questions that could be asked about experiment or data (5/10min)
  • In small groups, give them part of the specimen paper and have them discuss main points (10min)
  • Write their answers individually to improve accountability (10min)
  • Go through markscheme, comparing good/intermediate answers, having them mark/annotate their answers (15min) If time, they could compare answers from students who had time to discuss with those who answered ‘cold’

This gives them the practice they need, as well as building the skills. Of course ideally we would use all these bits individually in other lessons! I’d love to hear from anyone with thoughts or comments about what I’ve suggested.