Ccea Biology Coursework Mark Scheme For Ib

The General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level, or A Level, is a main school leaving qualification in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is available as an alternative qualification in other countries.

A Levels require studying an offered A level subject over a two-year period and sitting for an examination at the end of each year (A1/S and A2, respectively), proctored by an official assessment body. Most students study three or four A level subjects simultaneously during the two post-16 years (ages 16–18) in a secondary school, in a sixth form college, in a further and higher education college, or in a tertiary college, as part of their further education.

A Levels are recognised by many universities as the standard for assessing the suitability of applicants for admission in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and many such universities partly base their admissions offers on a student's predicted A-level grades, with the majority of these offers conditional on achieving a minimum set of final grades.


A Levels were introduced in 1951 as a standardised school-leaving qualification, replacing the Higher School Certificate. The examinations could be taken on a subject-by-subject basis, according to the strengths and interests of the student. This encouraged specialization and in-depth study of three to four subjects. The A Level at first was graded as simply distinction, pass or fail (although students were given an indication of their marks, to the nearest 5%), candidates obtaining a distinction originally had the option to sit a Scholarship Level paper on the same material, to attempt to win one of 400 national scholarships. The Scholarship Level was renamed the S-Level in 1963.

Quite soon rising numbers of students taking the A-level examinations required more differentiation of achievement below the S-Level standard. Grades were therefore introduced. Between 1963 and 1986 the grades were norm-referenced:[1][2]


The O grade was equivalent to a GCE Ordinary Level pass which indicated a performance equivalent to the lowest pass grade at Ordinary Level.

Over time, the validity of this system was questioned because, rather than reflecting a standard, norm referencing simply maintained a specific proportion of candidates at each grade, which in small cohorts was subject to statistical fluctuations in standards. In 1984, the government's Secondary Examinations Council decided to replace the norm referencing with criterion referencing: grades would in future be awarded on examiner judgement[3] thus eliminating a possible inadequacy of the existing scheme.

The criterion referencing scheme came into effect for the summer 1987 exams as the system set examiners specific criteria for the awarding of B and E grades to candidates, and then divided out the other grades according to fixed percentages. Rather than awarding an Ordinary Level for the lowest pass, a new "N" (for Nearly passed) was introduced. Criticisms of A level grading continued, and when Curriculum 2000 was introduced, the decision was made to have specific criteria for each grade, and the 'N' grade was abolished.

In 1989, Advanced Supplementary (AS) awards were introduced; they were intended to broaden the subjects a pupil studied post 16, and were to complement rather than be part of a pupil's A-level studies. AS-Levels were generally taken over two years, and in a subject the pupil was not studying at A-Level. Each AS level contained half the content of an A-Level, and at the same level of difficulty.

Initially, a student might study three subjects at A-Level and one at AS-Level, or often even four subjects at A-Level.[citation needed] However, due to decreasing public spending on education over time, a growing number of schools and sixth form colleges would now arrange for their pupils to study for three A-Levels instead of four.[4]

A levels evolved gradually from a two-year linear course with an exam at the end, to a modular course, between the late 1980s and 2000. By the year 2000 there was a strong educational reason[clarification needed] to standardise the exam and offer greater breadth to students through modules[5] and there was also a pragmatic case based on the inefficiency of linear courses where up to 30% of students were failing to complete or pass.[6]

Curriculum 2000 was introduced in September 2000, with the first new examinations taken in January and June of the following year. The Curriculum 2000 reforms also replaced the S-Level extension paper with the Advanced Extension Award.

The Conservative Party under Prime MinisterDavid Cameron initiated reforms for A Levels to change from the current modular to a linear structure.[7] British Examination Boards (Edexcel, AQA and OCR) regulated and accredited by the government of the United Kingdom responded to the government's reform announcements by modifying specifications of several A Level subjects.[8]



Prior to Government reforms of the A Level system, A-levels consisted of two equally weighted parts: AS (Advanced Subsidiary) Level, assessed in the first year of study, and A2 Level, assessed in the second year of study. Following the reforms, while it is still possible to take the AS Level as a stand-alone qualification, those exams do not count toward the full A Level, for which all exams are taken at the end of the course. An AS course usually comprises two modules, or three for science subjects and Mathematics; full A Level usually comprises four modules, or six for sciences and Mathematics. The modules within each part may have different weights. Modules are either assessed by exam papers marked by national organisations, or in limited cases by school-assessed, externally moderated coursework.

Subjects offered[edit]

Main article: List of Advanced Level subjects

A wide variety of subjects are offered at A-level by the five exam boards. Although exam boards often alter their curricula, this table shows the majority of subjects which are consistently available for study.



The number of A-level exams taken by students can vary. A typical route is to study four subjects at AS level and then drop down to three at A2 level, although some students continue with their fourth subject. Three is usually the minimum number of A Levels required for university entrance, with some universities specifying the need for a fourth AS subject. There is no limit set on the number of A Levels one can study, and a number of students take five or more A Levels. It is permissible to take A Levels in languages one already speaks fluently, or courses with overlapping content, even if not always fully recognized by universities.


The pass grades for A Levels are, from highest to lowest, A*, A, B, C, D and E. The process to decide these grades involves the uniform mark scheme (UMS). Under this scheme, four-module A levels have a maximum mark of 400 UMS (or 200 UMS each for AS and A2), and six-module A levels have a maximum mark of 600 (or 300 UMS each for AS and A2). The maximum UMS within AS and A2 may be split unequally between each modules. For example, a Physics AS may have two exam modules worth 90 UMS and 150 UMS, and a coursework module worth 60 UMS. The 'raw marks' i.e. actual score received on a test may differ from UMS awarded. On each assignment, the correspondence of raw marks to UMS is decided by setting grade boundaries, a process which involves consultation by subject experts and consideration of statistics, aiming to keep standards for each grade the same year on year. Achieving less than 40% results in a U (unclassified). For passing grades, 40% corresponds to an E grade, 50% a D, 60% a C, 70% a B, and 80% an A. The A* grade was introduced in 2010 and is awarded to candidates who average 80% UMS across all modules, with a score over 90% UMS in all A2 modules.[14] In Mathematics, which comprises six 100 UMS modules, only the C3 and C4 modules count towards this requirement. In Further Mathematics and Additional Further Mathematics, where more than three A2 modules can be taken, the three best-scoring A2 modules count. There is no A* grade at AS level.

International comparisons[edit]

Wales and Northern Ireland[edit]

  1. If you've ever tried to sit exams as a private external candidate, you know how hard it is to find a school prepared to help. It's even harder if you need them to deal with practical exams, and coursework is pretty much impossible when they have nothing else of yours to compare against. If it works for you, exam-only is the way to go.

    There used to be a sticky on exam-only A-Levels, but it was wrong and out of date, so here's my list. Up to date as of spring 2012. Taken directly from the syllabus (aka specification) pdfs on the exam board sites.

    The zeros. Subjects you can't do at all, at least in England, by just writing a traditional exam paper.
    • The sciences. Biology, Chemistry and Physics all have lab practicals.
    • Most popular foreign languages. French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Urdu all have speaking & listening tests, but there are some less popular languages which are written-only. See below.
    • History, English Language, English Literature, Geology, Archaeology, ICT/Computing, Human Biology, Electronics. All have fieldwork, projects or research assignments.
    • Art, Design, D&T, Food Technology, Media Studies. All require portfolios.
    • Music, Drama, Dance, PE. All include performance work.
    • Most if not all "applied" specifications, which will have projects and groupwork. Any school that does them should also be able to do the normal spec, so it shouldn't be a big deal.

    Language oral tests are often possible at schools which teach that language, but they take place well before the written exam season so early registration is essential. A lot of the less popular languages can be taken without an oral exam anyway.

    History, English and Biology are available as distance learning courses, with a tutor to mark your coursework, but you still have to find an exam centre for your written papers. There's a wide choice of providers so google them up. National Extension College is the one to beat:

    The CCEA History spec is exam-only, but might be hard to find outside Northern Ireland.

    There are international specifications for Edexcel Biology, Chemistry and Physics that allow you to take extra written exams instead of the practicals. They aren't normally available in this country, but Pembrokeshire College does them as distance learning courses (and unlike most distance learning schemes, they provide exam sittings at cost if you need them). Not sure how much use that will be in terms of uni admissions, when all other applicants will have lab experience, but check it out here:

    The heroes. These subjects never include assessed coursework of any sort and all the exam boards offer them.
    • Business Studies
    • Economics
    • Government & Politics
    • Maths (okay, there are coursework options with some boards, but you would never be forced to do them)
    • Further Maths
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies

    And the weirdos. These subjects are only available from some or one exam board, but they can be taken as exam-only. Schools are less likely to be entering their own candidates for these exams, so you might be charged invigilation fees (and be all alone in a massive echoing exam hall) if they accept you at all.

    • Accounting (AQA & OCR)
    • Anthropology (AQA)
    • Arabic (Edexcel)
    • Bengali (AQA)
    • Classics/Classical Civilisation (AQA & OCR)
    • Dutch (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
    • Environmental Studies (AQA)
    • Geography (AQA option B, and Edexcel)
    • Global Development (Edexcel, AS-only)
    • Ancient Greek (OCR; route pathway within Classical Civilisation A-Level)
    • Modern Greek (Edexcel)
    • Gujurati (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
    • Biblical Hebrew (OCR)
    • Modern Hebrew (AQA)
    • Hinduism (CIE, mostly overseas centres)
    • History (CCEA, mainly in Northern Ireland)
    • History of Art (AQA & CCEA)
    • Islamic Studies (CIE, mostly overseas centres)
    • Japanese (Edexcel)
    • Latin (OCR; route pathway within Classical Civilisation A-Level)
    • Law (AQA, OCR & WJEC)
    • Panjabi (AQA)
    • Persian (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
    • Polish (AQA)
    • Portugese (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
    • Sociology (AQA, OCR & WJEC)
    • Statistics (AQA, option B)
    • Statistics (OCR, AS-only)
    • Turkish (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)

    General Studies and Critical Thinking can also be done without coursework.... but I assume you're doing A-Levels to get into uni, so do yourself a favour and take something that gets more respect. I did GenStu myself, found out the hard way it doesn't count for anything at a redbrick uni, and had to waste a year taking another subject instead.

    I've done exams as a private candidate over several years, in different places, and I always found private fee-paying schools much more willing to help. They have no league tables to worry about.

    Hope this helps someone


    Last edited by daveyeah; 24-02-2012 at 15:21. Reason: +more zeros
  2. Thanks Davey, this is a really helpful list, but I have a few things to add, comments to make.

    History only has coursework at A2, so if you only want to take the AS it is fine.

    For languages, there are some places (e.g. the Brasshouse Centre in Birmingham) that welcomes private candidates for orals and offers 20 languages (some only to GCSE). Edexcel also runs languages orals for some languages directly in London for private candidates so don't give up on languages straight away.

    There are some Maths syllabuses that involve coursework (AQA and OCR both have options for them) but they are easy enough to avoid.

    Just because you aren't doing the same subject as the other candidates doesn't mean you won't go in the same room as them. It's not uncommon for 7 or 8 different exams to be taking place in the same room at the same time - saving on invigilation costs.

    (Original post by daveyeah)
    The zeros. Subjects you can't do at all, at least in England, by just sitting exams. Some of them are still possible as distance learning courses, with a tutor to mark your coursework.
    • Modern foreign languages. They all have speaking & listening tests.
    • History, English Language and English Literature. All have written coursework projects.
    (Original post by daveyeah)
    The heroes. These subjects never include assessed coursework of any sort and all the exam boards offer them.
    (Original post by daveyeah)
    And the weirdos. These subjects are only available from some or one exam board, but they can be taken as exam-only. Schools are less likely to be entering their own candidates for these exams, so you might be charged invigilation fees (and be all alone in a massive echoing exam hall) if they accept you at all.

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