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What is a Practical Endorsement?
When completing Science A Levels independently, as a Private Candidate, you may be wondering how to obtain your practical skills experience, which is often considered an essential part of the subject knowledge.
In 2015 the Science A levels were re-developed into linear A levels, meaning the final A level grades are based solely on the marks from the written exams. A separate endorsement of a learner’s practical skills was to be taken alongside the A level, and for independent learners, this is considered optional.
Students who study outside of mainstream education can choose to only sit their written exams to obtain their A level grade, this will mean a line on their final certificate stating ‘not-qualified’ next to the ‘Practical Endorsement’. This has absolutely no bearing on the A level grade itself.
What is a Practical Endorsement?
A practical endorsement is when a range of practical skills relating to a science subject is observed and assessed by a teacher to determine a learner’s competency in the range if skills, these skills would not be accessible by a written exam. To find out more about the skills that are assessed, you can look within your course specification under ‘Practical Assessments’.
Any school or organisation that hosts practical endorsements are moderated by the awarding body to ensure the assessments and observations are carried out fairly and according to the awarding body guidelines. At the end of the practical assessments the teacher will confirm if the learner has either passed, or not qualified in the assessment, and as mentioned above, this is stated on a separate line to the individuals written grade on their statement of results and certificates.
For mainstream learners, you are usually assessed on your practical abilities over your two years of A level study, however, if you are an independent learner, you will need to find a centre who offer practical endorsement workshops. Usually lasting a week per science subject, a learner will spend time in a laboratory learning and carrying out practical skills. You will be observed and assessed throughout your time on the course, and receive your results usually within a couple of weeks. Pass rates for these centres are usually very high.
Do I need the Practical Endorsement?
This question can only be answered by you. What do you want to do with your Science A level?
If your plan is to go to university to study, you will need to check with each individual one on their specific entry requirements, if they do or do not require it as a condition of entry, and make sure that you get this in writing. It has been known that learners have been told by their choice of university that they do not require the practical endorsement for the specific course, but when it comes to applying and conditions of acceptance, they are told they need the practical endorsement, which is often too late to obtain, risking their entry to university.
If your plan is to obtain the A level qualification in order to boost your CV to get a specific job, chat with the employer to ask if the practical skills are required. If it is an administrative role, the likelihood is that you won’t need them, but for a scientific practical role then they may be essential.
What Practical Endorsement options are there with LearnOnline?
Learners doing their science A levels with LearnOnline will need to seek out a place to complete their Practical Endorsement independently, it is not included in the course price. If they would like to secure a place with a reputable company, you can choose to reserve a place with BioGrad Exams in your final year of study.
Who are BioGrad Exams?
BioGrad is a set of laboratories in Liverpool offering A level science practical endorsement workshops hosted by scientists. You get the opportunity to work in live laboratories with world-class research facilities.
We have received the following feedback from some LearnOnline students who attended the workshops with BioGrad this year:
“The BioGrad experience was lovely, the hotel was really nice and super close to the lab. I found that the time went by very quickly, and the labs were super clean.
I would definitely recommend it to others hoping to gain their Chemistry A-level CPAC!”
“The instructor was cheerful and relaxed, able to prompt us with set-up if we got into a sticky situation. We were able to practise and hone all our experimental skills without it being terribly dry, boring, or stressful as it could otherwise have been. All in all, it was a useful, enjoyable week that allowed me to quickly grasp and improve the concepts and skill due to the short, focused space of time. I’m grateful I was able to take the Practical assessment there as I don’t know how else I would have done it and passing it is a condition of my university offers.”
To find outs more about BioGrad and the Practical Endorsement options available with LearnOnline, please visit our website: Science A-level Practical Endorsement – LearnOnline (pembrokeshire.ac.uk)