Science is vital to everyday life and allows us to understand and shape the world in which we live and influence its future. Scientists play a key role in meeting society’s needs in areas such as medicine, energy, industry, material development, the environment and sustainability. As the importance and application of science continues to grow and develop, it is important that everyone has an informed view of science. Engineering, design and technology use the findings of scientists so science has developmental influence in these areas also.
Our courses provide opportunities for learners to recognise the impact science makes on developing sustainability, and its effects on the environment, on society and on the lives of themselves and others.
Our courses allow learners to understand and investigate the world in an engaging and enjoyable way. They develop learners’ ability to think analytically, creatively and independently, and to make reasoned evaluations. Our courses provide opportunities for learners to acquire and apply knowledge, to evaluate environmental and scientific issues, to consider risk, and to make informed decisions. This can lead to learners developing an informed and ethical view of topical issues. Learners will develop skills in communication, collaborative working and leadership, and apply critical thinking in new and unfamiliar contexts to solve problems.
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Supporting your child in successful revision
Good revision is a habit and not done in a hurry at the end of a course. Pupils should get into the routine of doing a daily revisit of their work each school day and make a note of any words or ideas they don’t understand and ask their teacher about these items without delay.
Plan to succeed. Know when exams occur in the calendar and plan ahead with enough revision time for each one. Make the plan clear to the household to encourage a household approach to success. Revision should be done in a comfortable (but not too comfortable) place without distractions (siblings, TV, mobile phone). The internet is a great resource, but again shouldn’t be a distraction.
It is during sleep that the brain ‘files away’ information from the day. A good night’s sleep following quality learning will lead to the best conditions for retrieval of information. Plan breaks into revision sessions. Think of revising like an athlete’s preparation for a big competition. Sessions should be shorter, with more frequent breaks, earlier in the process. Just before an exam candidates should be able to complete an entire exam paper in one sitting.
SQA are often seen as the enemy. They run the examination diet, the most stressful point in most childhoods, and sadly disappoint some with their grades. SQA are, however, the suppliers of some of the most useful revision material if you know how to access it. Here’s an insight…
Past Papers and Marking Instructions
The past papers are hugely useful. Even more so the Marking Instructions. If a pupil can go into their own exam having attempted several ‘real’ exams and know that they have been able to respond successfully that builds confidence. The Marking Instructions also provide a commentary on what is acceptable and what is not. I tell pupils this is an insight into how the examiner thinks, and is hugely valuable. Much of a candidate’s preparation for their exam should be spent attempting past paper questions and interrogating the quality of their responses with the Marking Instructions. If there are any lingering doubts about whether an answer is correct, or a pupil can’t understand the Marking Instructions, they should approach their teacher for clarification. This type of preparation is high quality and all teachers will be delighted to support a pupil in this way.
SQA principal examiners write a report after each exam diet. Please don’t underestimate these because they are rather dry…. These are Gold! “Section 3: Advice for the preparation of future candidates” contains items of advice about time management, what not to miss out, and how to go about answering certain types of question. A parent who has read this advice and can help a candidate reflect on their preparation will be able to support them in their revision.
There is however a much more concrete use of the Course Report. Put yourself in the place of the few people who make up the exam paper. The design of an exam should have some questions that many pupils who will score a grade C will be able to answer, but also contain some questions that only those pupils who can score a grade A can answer. These questions are known as discriminators. Designing discriminators is a difficult job but they have a ready-made supply of questions that have been road-tested on pupils. The Course Report Section 2: Comments on candidate performance provides information on questions that pupils managed to answer well, but also those questions that many pupils found very difficult. There is typically a two-year turnaround in the production of an exam paper (though the use of such questions can be a bit more random) so candidates who want to target a top grade should make themselves aware of the questions that have proved problematic in the past, and of the expected answer (from the Marking Instructions). In the early stages of revision these questions might be a turn-off and it might be counter-productive to motivating a candidate, but for those genuinely aiming high, in the later stages of preparation – awareness of these questions and the expected response could amount to marks in the bank!
Using Scientific terminology correctly
Scientists have a language of their own. Words are often used in a Science context that is ‘odd’ to pupils, and sometimes a little contradictory. For example, ‘specific’ can mean something that only applies in certain circumstances. It can, however, also mean ‘per kilogram’. Examples of the latter are specific latent heat and specific heat capacity.
It can be difficult to get experience of using terminology accurately, but it is certainly easier in the age of the internet than it used to be. Candidates can search for terms they are unsure of, and explore their use. It might be advised that the articles searched are scientific in nature, and pupils will gain experience of what is appropriate, but the experience gained can build confidence and will be reflected in improved attainment.
Candidates can be asked for definitions of terms in exams. Definitions are wordy and expressed in a way that isn’t ‘common parlance’ for pupils so these questions can be difficult for pupils to answer successfully. There is, however, a huge hint provided to pupils in the form of the Physics Relationship Sheet that pupils are provided in the exam. If they know how to translate from a relationship into a definition, they can pick up the marks successfully.
If, for example, the question asks for the definition of power a candidate can find an expression for power in the relationship sheet.
P = E/t
The P represents Power, the E is Energy and the t is for time. There are other expressions for power, but candidates should recognise this one, and when they know how to translate the expressions into words they will start to choose the correct expression.
Power equals energy divided by time. That’s what the expression says. To translate this into a definition, simply replace ‘equals’ with ‘is the’, and replaced ‘divided by’ with ‘per unit’. Power is the energy per unit time. That’s what the examiner wants to see, and will award full marks.
Sometimes the expression on the relationship sheet is not expressed in a helpful way. An example is
d = v t
which means distance is equal to speed multiplied by time, but the question is likely to ask for a definition of speed. In order to be able to translate this expression into a definition, the candidate will have to be able to rearrange the expression to make speed the subject (this is a skill all candidates at National 5 level and above should be able to do). Rearranging gives
v = d/t
so using the advice above, the candidate should be able to write “speed is the distance per unit time”. Full marks!
Ask your child to define current, resistance, power, pressure, speed, activity, absorbed dose, equivalent dose rate, velocity and acceleration using only the relationship sheet, and check their answers against definitions available online.
On the day
- arrive in good time — at least 10 minutes before the exam starts.
- check you have been given the correct exam paper
- complete all your details on the front of the answer booklet
- read all instructions and listen carefully for any announcements or additional instructions
- take the right equipment — pens, HB pencils, calculators, etc (you will not have access to your phone or iPad – get used to using your calculator in advance).
- remember to cross out all rough work once you have made a final copy
- if you feel unwell, tell the Invigilator
- put your name and SCN on every piece of work/paper
- stay in the room until the exam is finished — you may only leave early with the permission of the Invigilator
- you must use an HB Pencil with Multiple Choice answer booklet.
- you must know your Scottish Certificate Number (SCN) and write it on your answer booklet. [ You are allowed to have the number on a card – nothing else on the card.]
- you can not share equipment with anyone else or borrow pencils etc from someone.
- use a black or dark blue pen, and write legibly and neatly.
- always make maximum use of your data book – don’t only use when suggested by the question
- use a ruler when creating a table
- include units in graphs axes AND in tables.
- put down all calculations on the answer sheet.
Multiple Choice Questions
Multiple choice (or objective test) questions are often thought to be easier because you have a 20 or 25% chance of getting the right answer (depending on how many options there are). However, the options that are incorrect are called distractors and they are there to do just that – to distract uncertain candidates from the correct answer. They are plausible alternatives – but incorrect.
A good way to approach multiple choice questions is to cover up the answers and inspect the question. Use any supporting information from the relationship sheet and the data booklet (if you have one) and work out your answer. Then check the options for your answer. If your answer is one of the options, record it as your answer and move on. Don’t get sucked in to deliberating the alternatives!