- I cannot get the exact equipment or specimens specified in the Confidential Instructions, but I can obtain something similar. Am I allowed to adapt the experiment at all?
- Is there an option available which doesn't involve any assessment of practical skills?
- My candidates are doing the Alternative to Practical paper, so what practical work do they need to do?
Yes, you are allowed to make minor adaptations to the apparatus and specimens required, providing that everything still works as specified in the Confidential Instructions. You do not need to seek our approval for these minor adaptations, although you may prefer to check that all is well by doing so. In any case, you must report the adaptations in detail to the examiners, by completing the Supervisor’s Report form on the back of the Confidential Instructions, which should be enclosed with the candidates’ completed scripts. More substantial adaptations, which require changes to the experiment or which cause the apparatus to work in a different way from that described in the Confidential Instructions, are not allowed unless you have obtained prior approval from Cambridge – in this case, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. Practical skills are as much an integral part of Biology as any other science. This reflects the importance of practical experimentation and investigation as the means by which Biologists have developed our knowledge of organisms and their physiology, biochemistry and interaction. In preparing your candidates for the assessment of practical skills, and in giving them an appropriate experience of IGCSE Biology, you are expected to provide a range of practical work for them to do, so that they can develop the skills necessary for success. A Biology qualification without a practical component would be a second-rate assessment of the subject, and Cambridge aims to provide valid qualifications acceptable in all areas of the world.
Whichever assessment route for practical work is chosen, the following points should be noted:
- the assessment objectives are the same for all practical assessments;
- the same practical skills need to be learned and developed by students for all practical assessments;
- students will obtain the same benefits to theoretical understanding that come from practical work;
- students and teachers will experience the same positive motivational effect, enthusiasm and enjoyments from doing practical work;
- the same sequence of practical work is appropriate to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills required for success for all practical assessments.
The Alternative to Practical paper is simply an alternative mode of assessment to the Practical Examination paper. It requires the same kind of practical work in preparation as the Practical Examination paper. The syllabus makes it clear, in the Aims, the Assessment Objectives and Practical Assessment sections, that the course should be taught practically and that candidates should have experience of doing (rather than merely seeing) experimental work. The Alternative to Practical paper assesses their practical skills, including both data handling and familiarity with standard laboratory equipment. Any candidates without experience of doing practical work will be disadvantaged in this paper. In addition using practical work as a teaching tool, giving students the opportunity to learn by doing practical work hands-on, is an excellent way of enabling candidates to build an understanding of specific theoretic perspectives of Biology.
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