A Level Biology - Distance Learning Watch
I am looking to start a fast track combined AS & A2 course in either Biology or Human Biology in September 2013, over 12 months with all exams in June 2014.
As this will need to fit around current work commitments, it will need to be done via a distance learning provider. Preferably with the AQA exam board, as I already have their A Level Biology text books and I prefer more written exams, less coursework/practical assessments.
Cost isn't an issue as it is being funded by work, but I am looking for personal recommendations as the only two AQA AS & A2 Biology providers I have found have VERY poor online reviews. They are ICS Learn and Open Study College.
Any help appreciated.
I've just taught myself the AS and A2 course this last year and had to find a school in which to take the two practical exams (and the written papers). The only schools that would take me for practicals were my old school, or a ridiculously expensive one in London (£900 for each practical). Needless to say, I went to my old school. The problem is that most schools won't accept external candidates (with the exception of former pupils) for practicals for health & safety/ insurance issues. If you feel confident to teach yourself and can find a place to sit the practical exams it could be cheaper as you wouldn't have tuition fees.
I think there's an option to to do a "non-practical" practical with Edexcel via the National Extension College but I'd check with them, and you'd still need a school/exam centre to mark it. I've heard good and bad things about the National Extension College but it's worth checking them out. It's been a year since I last had a look.
Would you mind advising me of how much practical work you had to do for your AS/A2 AQA Biology? I was hoping that it would only be a few hours overall. One online centre has a Birmingham partner school which allows candidates to sit practical exams there but I am unsure of cost. I am awaiting a few e-mails from these centres to advise of how previous candidates have managed to secure their practical stuff.
Do AQA have a list of what you have to do for the practical assessment? Or could I 'cheat' and write up an experiment do-able in the kitchen?
There's one practical exam for AS and one for A2. With both, you do the set experiment (takes roughly an hour each time) and record your results on AQA's result sheet and carry out whatever calculations they want. Then you have an exam paper for which you're allowed 1 hour 15mins. This paper is in two sections. The first contains questions specific to your experiment and the second consists of questions on the general topic your experiment concerns.
It helps to have a look at past papers even though your actual experiment won't be one they've done before, just to become familiar with the style. AS practical is either one of Unit 3T or Unit 3X (T is if the school has opted to mark the papers themselves and X is if they send them off to an examiner. They're known as ISAs and EMPAs respectively)
A2 practical is either one of Unit 6T or Unit 6X.
One week before each of the exams, the teacher/exam centre will inform you of the rough topic of the experiments but not the actual experiment or questions.
I didn't do too much practical-specific revision other than a week before each one but as I covered the whole syllabus I made sure I learnt and understood the sorts of experiments and tests likely to be related to each area. For example, the effects of time/pH, temperature etc on enzymes/ proteins. Also you'll need to be ok with statistical analysis and scientific calculators.
I've heard good things about Bright Futures Online. They're expensive, but that's not an issue for you if your employers are prepared to stump up the cash. They have their own labs and exam centre (in London) which makes things easier if that's in reach for you. Alternatively, there is an exam centre in Bristol called 3A Tutors, which has labs where you can take the practicals. They also offer a crash course in lab work just before the exams to help candidates prepare.