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Mathematics Within A Level Science 2010 Examinations

A report by Science Community Representing Education (SCORE) designed to address the growing concern across the science community about the use of mathematical assessments in science qualifications.

SCORE’s overall objective for this project was to gather evidence on the type, extent and difficulty of mathematics assessed in science A levels and to establish whether the current assessments reflected the mathematical requirements of the sciences. The work did not compare the mathematical requirements between biology, chemistry and physics as it is accepted these will differ between the disciplines. The main findings from the research are:

• A large number of the mathematical requirements listed in the 2010 biology, chemistry and physics AS and A2 specifications were assessed in a limited way or not at all within the examination papers

• There is a measurable variation between awarding organisations in terms of the amount and difficulty of the mathematics that is assessed in biology, chemistry and physics AS and A2 examination papers. Participants in our survey felt that in some cases the amount of mathematics assessed in A level science examinations was too low

• The examination questions that did require mathematics were felt to be of insufficient difficulty; too many involved only single step questions, require only simple recall, and were set only in familiar contexts

• There were many mathematical requirements identified in biology, chemistry and physics A levels that go beyond the current GCSE mathematics.

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