Kenda1
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Hi everyone,

I know it's a bit of a long question and not sure if it has been discussed before but I would really appreciate some help with deciding on the boards and books to study from.

A bit of a background about myself, I have finished my Year 12th outside the UK and I am doing three A-Levels in Maths, Biology and Chemistry as an external candidate.

I heard that AQA is the easiest so I have chosen it for all three subjects just to realise that there might be an essay for biology, so now I am considering switching from AQA to OCR.

- For Maths, I don't mind sticking with AQA as I don't think it would make much of a difference.

- For Chemistry, I have a friend doing OCR and I think that he can be helpful but would love to hear from others who are familiar with both.

- For Biology, as mentioned, I am worried about the AQA essay and willing to switch to OCR to avoid it. Any advice regarding that?

Being an independent student is worrying me that I might have not got all the correct recourses to study from. I have bought all the CGP books (Student books and revision/practice) but I think I am still missing the actual official books, any suggestions on which books I should also get to make sure that I am not missing any important information?

Any and all help is appreciated ))

Regards,
Kenda
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RoseVet
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Hi there, I don’t have experience of OCR at A-level, but I do chemistry, maths and biology on AQA. I think aqa is the best in terms of resources, there are plenty of past papers and revisions materials for them. I did a computing GCSE with OCR and found they are quite a difficult exam board, in terms of questions and in finding revision resources, although as I say I do not know what they’re like at A-level.
Hope this helps!
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rosie10210
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(Original post by Kenda1)
Hi everyone,

I know it's a bit of a long question and not sure if it has been discussed before but I would really appreciate some help with deciding on the boards and books to study from.

A bit of a background about myself, I have finished my Year 12th outside the UK and I am doing three A-Levels in Maths, Biology and Chemistry as an external candidate.

I heard that AQA is the easiest so I have chosen it for all three subjects just to realise that there might be an essay for biology, so now I am considering switching from AQA to OCR.

- For Maths, I don't mind sticking with AQA as I don't think it would make much of a difference.

- For Chemistry, I have a friend doing OCR and I think that he can be helpful but would love to hear from others who are familiar with both.

- For Biology, as mentioned, I am worried about the AQA essay and willing to switch to OCR to avoid it. Any advice regarding that?

Being an independent student is worrying me that I might have not got all the correct recourses to study from. I have bought all the CGP books (Student books and revision/practice) but I think I am still missing the actual official books, any suggestions on which books I should also get to make sure that I am not missing any important information?

Any and all help is appreciated ))

Regards,
Kenda
The board you choose will depend on your preferences, if you're not a fan of essays then you may find you prefer the OCR question style. I studies OCR B In both Biology and Chemistry and these are very context based questions in comparison with most others. with regards to resources, most exam boards will release textbooks that follow their syllabus exactly, but these are often expensive. If you know the learning requirements of your syllabus then i would suggest buying a textbook from amazon that covers the required areas as this is often cheaper
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Krambo_
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(Original post by Kenda1)
Hi everyone,

I know it's a bit of a long question and not sure if it has been discussed before but I would really appreciate some help with deciding on the boards and books to study from.

A bit of a background about myself, I have finished my Year 12th outside the UK and I am doing three A-Levels in Maths, Biology and Chemistry as an external candidate.

I heard that AQA is the easiest so I have chosen it for all three subjects just to realise that there might be an essay for biology, so now I am considering switching from AQA to OCR.

- For Maths, I don't mind sticking with AQA as I don't think it would make much of a difference.

- For Chemistry, I have a friend doing OCR and I think that he can be helpful but would love to hear from others who are familiar with both.

- For Biology, as mentioned, I am worried about the AQA essay and willing to switch to OCR to avoid it. Any advice regarding that?

Being an independent student is worrying me that I might have not got all the correct recourses to study from. I have bought all the CGP books (Student books and revision/practice) but I think I am still missing the actual official books, any suggestions on which books I should also get to make sure that I am not missing any important information?

Any and all help is appreciated ))

Regards,
Kenda
I did OCR A for Biology and Chemistry...
The general consensus is that OCR is harder than AQA and I agree.
The basis of this is that OCR are very specific in terms of the mark scheme. You have to say the exact correct word to get the mark. This can be very annoying, especially if you have said something correct but just not have gone into enough detail. There are also quite a few 'suggest' style questions which requires you to think outside the box a little.
For Biology I would recommend sticking with AQA. I've actually done a couple of AQA practice essays as practice and I found they were not as bad as people made them out to be because they tend to cover a range of topics.
For Chemistry, it's up to you if you want to stick with AQA or switch to OCR. Just remember, the grade boundaries for OCR Chem are ever so slightly higher at 85% for an A* and 72% for an A. Although this isn't that much higher than AQA with around 83% or so required for an A*.
In terms of resources for OCR there are plenty online. Sites such as physicsandmathstutor, astarbiology, chemguide and chemrevise are great. In terms of textbooks, the CGP is not that great. It covers the whole specification no doubt, but there is not nearly as much detail and depth in them to get you a high grade. Also the actual exam board endorsed textbook for OCR is not that brilliant either. It actually contains a lot more information than necessary and I have been told there are a few errors as well! (my teacher told me this, but I'm not sure how true this is because I never found any).
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Kenda1
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(Original post by RoseVet)
Hi there, I don’t have experience of OCR at A-level, but I do chemistry, maths and biology on AQA. I think aqa is the best in terms of resources, there are plenty of past papers and revisions materials for them. I did a computing GCSE with OCR and found they are quite a difficult exam board, in terms of questions and in finding revision resources, although as I say I do not know what they’re like at A-level.
Hope this helps!
Hi Rose, thanks a lot for the reply, it is quite helpful. Which books/resources do you use for the AQA courses and do you have any recommended materials to get?
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Kenda1
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(Original post by rosie10210)
The board you choose will depend on your preferences, if you're not a fan of essays then you may find you prefer the OCR question style. I studies OCR B In both Biology and Chemistry and these are very context based questions in comparison with most others. with regards to resources, most exam boards will release textbooks that follow their syllabus exactly, but these are often expensive. If you know the learning requirements of your syllabus then i would suggest buying a textbook from amazon that covers the required areas as this is often cheaper
Hi Rosie, thank you for the reply, greatly appreciated. I will look into the OCR A previous exams papers and see if it is any better.
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CaptainDuckie
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Hi, I did all AQA at GCSE and got 999 in the sciences. I now do OCR A for Biology & Chemistry. In terms of difficulty, I’ll definitely say that OCR is more advanced. Biology OCR A is really difficult and it requires your uttermost attention. But, it’s definitely manageable. I’ve done some AQA A level biology papers and AQA is definitely the easier one out of the two. There’s simple straightforward questions whereas for OCR there very rigid mark schemes.

For chemistry, it’s pretty much the same thing. The depth that OCR goes is much greater than AQA. I did past papers from AQA as extra practice and it is definitely the easier one out of the two. Again, straight forward calculations and doesn’t require much thought. But for OCR is very uncomfortable and you find scenarios where you have to adapt. The mark schemes, however, don’t change though. So if you start of by doing past papers from previous years you will see that there is a correlation in terms of questions and structure.
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CaptainDuckie
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For maths, I don’t really know. I did Edexcel for GCSE and now I’m doing it for A level, so I didn’t really see much problems there. It’s definitely harder though, and requires a lot of work.
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CaptainDuckie
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In terms of revision, I reckon you could get an A* from the CGP revision guide + past papers. It’s obviously not the ideal thing to do as getting the textbook is probably the smart thing to do here, so if you can, please get the textbook if you really want a comfortable A*. Just simply attempt all the questions, review questions and then one you’re comfortable and have a very good understanding of the topics, you can move onto past papers.
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Kenda1
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(Original post by Krambo_)
I did OCR A for Biology and Chemistry...
The general consensus is that OCR is harder than AQA and I agree.
The basis of this is that OCR are very specific in terms of the mark scheme. You have to say the exact correct word to get the mark. This can be very annoying, especially if you have said something correct but just not have gone into enough detail. There are also quite a few 'suggest' style questions which requires you to think outside the box a little.
For Biology I would recommend sticking with AQA. I've actually done a couple of AQA practice essays as practice and I found they were not as bad as people made them out to be because they tend to cover a range of topics.
For Chemistry, it's up to you if you want to stick with AQA or switch to OCR. Just remember, the grade boundaries for OCR Chem are ever so slightly higher at 85% for an A* and 72% for an A. Although this isn't that much higher than AQA with around 83% or so required for an A*.
In terms of resources for OCR there are plenty online. Sites such as physicsandmathstutor, astarbiology, chemguide and chemrevise are great. In terms of textbooks, the CGP is not that great. It covers the whole specification no doubt, but there is not nearly as much detail and depth in them to get you a high grade. Also the actual exam board endorsed textbook for OCR is not that brilliant either. It actually contains a lot more information than necessary and I have been told there are a few errors as well! (my teacher told me this, but I'm not sure how true this is because I never found any).
Hi Krambo, thanks a lot for the in-depth reply.

Can I ask you about the difference between the OCR A and B, and if AQA or other boards have such differences? Also, when you studied the Sylabeous, were u allowed optional units to proceed with or did you study the whole book?

Yah, I have heard about the marking scheme and how rigid it is for OCR, how do you recommend figuring out which keywords are the ones they are after? Or do you just memorise the whole chapter and answer as detailed as possible to ensure covering these words?

Do you mean CGP is generally not a good resource to study from? Or just for the OCR A Chemistry? The recommended websites are quite helpful, but how can an external candidate students get all the needed information to get a high grade from just studying online without an actual booklet/college book or any official book that may be used for the theoretical aspects of the course.

Thanks again for your help
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Kenda1
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(Original post by CaptainDuckie)
In terms of revision, I reckon you could get an A* from the CGP revision guide + past papers. It’s obviously not the ideal thing to do as getting the textbook is probably the smart thing to do here, so if you can, please get the textbook if you really want a comfortable A*. Just simply attempt all the questions, review questions and then one you’re comfortable and have a very good understanding of the topics, you can move onto past papers.
HI Captain,

Thank you for the help, yah that actually makes a lot of sense. I will go and look into the past papers of both and see which one fits my styles.

I currently have the textbooks and revision guides/practice for all three AQA subjects, just need to get the past papers to ensure a better understanding of the boards and their exams and marking schemes. Do you recommend getting all this information from the actual official website or are there any places to buy the printed version of this information?

Also, do you have any idea if there are questions in the OCR A or AQA Biology/Chemistry regarding the practical assessments? As an external candidate, I am basically going to sit each subject 12 assessments in 4 days, spending the first day taught about them and the rest for the actual assessments. My worry is that I would need to talk a lot about it and relate it to all the other information in the books.

How do you currently study? Do you just use your college book/assignments or do you have preferred resources that you keep coming back to?

If you have the options to choose between AQA and OCR A for both Biology and Chemistry, which one would you take in OCR and which would you do in AQA?

Thanks a lot for the help, it's very appreciated
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CaptainDuckie
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(Original post by Kenda1)
HI Captain,

Thank you for the help, yah that actually makes a lot of sense. I will go and look into the past papers of both and see which one fits my styles.

I currently have the textbooks and revision guides/practice for all three AQA subjects, just need to get the past papers to ensure a better understanding of the boards and their exams and marking schemes. Do you recommend getting all this information from the actual official website or are there any places to buy the printed version of this information?

Also, do you have any idea if there are questions in the OCR A or AQA Biology/Chemistry regarding the practical assessments? As an external candidate, I am basically going to sit each subject 12 assessments in 4 days, spending the first day taught about them and the rest for the actual assessments. My worry is that I would need to talk a lot about it and relate it to all the other information in the books.

How do you currently study? Do you just use your college book/assignments or do you have preferred resources that you keep coming back to?

If you have the options to choose between AQA and OCR A for both Biology and Chemistry, which one would you take in OCR and which would you do in AQA?

Thanks a lot for the help, it's very appreciated
Hi, theres plenty of past papers on www.physicsandmathstutor.co.uk you can choose the exam board and just start doing them, you can either print it out or just do it on a sheet of paper and then mark it.

Yeah the practical assessments are normally included in the questions for you to answer.

For biology I normally just open the text book, read the page, then if I am unsure of any words that I am stuck on or concepts, I normally just check Wikipedia for any external explanations. Then I make flashcards for active recall, as it’s scientifically proven to be the best revision method so I try not to make notes& just go straight into flashcards and then review it frequently.

I would probably take AQA for the 2 sciences, as I know I would’ve got a comfortable A*. But, OCR A is definitely manageable, i reckon if I manage my time efficiently I would probably get the 2 A*’s for OCR A (my predicted grades)
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RoseVet
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(Original post by Kenda1)
Hi Rose, thanks a lot for the reply, it is quite helpful. Which books/resources do you use for the AQA courses and do you have any recommended materials to get?
So I have the CGP chemistry book and the AQA recommended book - I honestly find CGP easier to understand as the aqa book tends to be long paragraphs of information, I could send some pictures of pages to show you what I mean if this would help? I also have the cgp chemistry exam practise workbook, which I would recommend if you don’t have - it gives practise exam questions and papers. I only have the aqa book for biology, but again I find that it is sometimes difficult to make notes from. For maths our school gave us the aqa workbooks which have lots of practise questions on every topic. However with this book the questions are less exam style and more just practising technique, and the answers in the back don’t show any working out, so without a teacher this may be difficult to work from.
Again if you would like me to send pictures of any pages as examples let me know

For online resources, for aqa chemistry I use snap revise (website and youtube), chem revise (website good for note making), and eliot rintoul (YouTube). For biology mainly snap revise (website and YouTube).
For all your subjects physics and maths tutor, and maths made easy are good for practise questions and papers.
Feel free to ask for any more info or pictures
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Krambo_
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(Original post by Kenda1)
Hi Krambo, thanks a lot for the in-depth reply.

Can I ask you about the difference between the OCR A and B, and if AQA or other boards have such differences? Also, when you studied the Sylabeous, were u allowed optional units to proceed with or did you study the whole book?

Yah, I have heard about the marking scheme and how rigid it is for OCR, how do you recommend figuring out which keywords are the ones they are after? Or do you just memorise the whole chapter and answer as detailed as possible to ensure covering these words?

Do you mean CGP is generally not a good resource to study from? Or just for the OCR A Chemistry? The recommended websites are quite helpful, but how can an external candidate students get all the needed information to get a high grade from just studying online without an actual booklet/college book or any official book that may be used for the theoretical aspects of the course.

Thanks again for your help
OCR A is more scientific and academic (which is more relevant to university), whereas OCR B is sort of how science is applied to real life (contextual).
I don't know if other exam boards have A/B variants.
I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'allowed optional units to proceed with'? There are 3 papers overall which you sit at the end of the year: Paper 1 focusses on modules 1,2,3,5 and Paper 2 focuses on modules 1,2,4,6. Paper 3 contains all modules but this is more around practical/experiment work done in the lab. This is the structure for Biology AND Chemistry btw. In that sense, you cannot pick which modules you want to study. Any topic from any module could come up, so you have to know all of it.
The best way to figure out which keywords to use is to practice questions. Easier said than done but you actually need to memorise the mark scheme and see which words repeatedly come up each year. Pay close attention to the side notes as well in the mark scheme where it says which words are allowed and which ones are not allowed/rejected. By analysing the mark schemes for each paper you will become more familiar with what is required for the marks.
Sorry I should have been more clear earlier. The CGP is good in terms of content covering. If you read the entire CGP textbook for both years, you will cover the whole syllabus and cover everything that could come up in the exam. However, if you rely only on the CGP textbook, you won't get a very high grade. Maybe a C maximum. This is because whilst it covers everything, there is no depth or detail in each topic to help you overcome the difficulty of A-levels. You need a very thorough understanding of each topic, which the CGP will not give you. This applies more to Biology because there is a LOT of content you need to know. I found the CGP textbook for Chemistry much more useful than Biology.
So in summary, CGP is very good for general understanding of a topic and it makes sure you know the content that will come up in the exam, however, it cannot be solely used as a revision source because there is not enough detail to get you a high grade.
It will be very difficult without a teacher explaining or notes given to you by a school/college to do A-levels solely. But this doesn't mean its impossible! You just have to make sure you use all the resources available to you. The problem is that the official exam board endorsed textbook is really the only source that can give you all the depth of information that you need, if you don't have your own notes from a college. However, the exam board textbook does contain a lot of extra information which can confuse you as well. You could try and find other people's notes online, but just make sure you check the specification to ensure that you haven't missed anything.
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cloudypink
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(Original post by RoseVet)
So I have the CGP chemistry book and the AQA recommended book - I honestly find CGP easier to understand as the aqa book tends to be long paragraphs of information, I could send some pictures of pages to show you what I mean if this would help? I also have the cgp chemistry exam practise workbook, which I would recommend if you don’t have - it gives practise exam questions and papers. I only have the aqa book for biology, but again I find that it is sometimes difficult to make notes from. For maths our school gave us the aqa workbooks which have lots of practise questions on every topic. However with this book the questions are less exam style and more just practising technique, and the answers in the back don’t show any working out, so without a teacher this may be difficult to work from.
Again if you would like me to send pictures of any pages as examples let me know

For online resources, for aqa chemistry I use snap revise (website and youtube), chem revise (website good for note making), and eliot rintoul (YouTube). For biology mainly snap revise (website and YouTube).
For all your subjects physics and maths tutor, and maths made easy are good for practise questions and papers.
Feel free to ask for any more info or pictures
I can second Snap Revise - I'm OCR but I find it so useful for biology and chemistry. They have some quite good discount codes - I'm 90% sure QSTUDY10 is correct. Their YouTube videos are also good but it couldn't be compared to having the subscription.
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FARVEAZ
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I'm literally doing exactly that. The A-levels exams are in 6 months and I'm just trying to do as much exam styled questions and get used to the patterns cause its the same questions recycled every year but worded differently. I'm using the CGP revision guides for Bio & Chem as the main source and just trying to memorise the whole book while simultaneously attempting practice questions to test my knowledge & understanding. As you mentioned it's not the most ideal thing to do but Im running short on time and I just need to cram everything in. Personally, I find it easy to digest information in the revision guide rather than the text book. It's short and concise.

Good luck with your exams. Hopefully both of us get our desired results.

(Original post by CaptainDuckie)
In terms of revision, I reckon you could get an A* from the CGP revision guide + past papers. It’s obviously not the ideal thing to do as getting the textbook is probably the smart thing to do here, so if you can, please get the textbook if you really want a comfortable A*. Just simply attempt all the questions, review questions and then one you’re comfortable and have a very good understanding of the topics, you can move onto past papers.
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