This post was originally published on (Friday, 5 February 2016) and updated on (Thursday, 14 March 2018).
With it being Science Week we wanted to address a question we are asked on a regular basis: ‘is it possible to study a science by distance learning?’
The answer: Absolutely yes!
But what about the A level practical work, can you really do this from home?
We’ll answer this in two parts: the core practicals throughout the course and the assessment of practical work.
What are the core practicals?
At A level you’ll be expected to gain knowledge of certain practical procedures and processes. Throughout the course you’ll come across core practicals which are designed to help you achieve this.
In the course the practicals that you need to have knowledge of will be explained in a lot of detail and have accompanying questions to help you to understand the process and operations you’re using. We’ll always give sample results as part of the knowledge you are expected to gain is how to present and analyse these.
On some occasions though, you will have your own results to analyse because where possible, we’ll also show you how you can do the practical in your own home. We’ve put an example below, you might want to give it a try!
A level Chemistry: Making a standard solution
What you’ll learn:
This practical will help you to develop the skill of making a solution of accurately known concentration. Not as straightforward as it sounds, each operation needs to be done in a specific way.
- How to make a standard solution
- Taking a correct reading from the meniscus on a liquid surface
- Calibration of glassware
What you’ll need:
- Scales accurate to 0.01g- Your kitchen scales might work for this
- Volumetric flask – You can pick these up on Amazon for around £5
- Beaker and glass stirrer – you can use a clean cup and teaspoon for this (but only if your substance and solvent are things you would usually find in the kitchen)
- A substance such as citric acid or sodium hydrogen carbonate (better known as sodium bicarbonate) or tartaric acid (better known as cream of tartar)
- A solvent – distilled water is ideal
- Container for weighing such as a weighing boat or small container (note: it needs to be washable so you cannot use paper)
What you do:
- Weigh your empty container
- Add your substance and then weigh again, making a note of the weight
- Add the substance to your beaker (unless of course, you’ve used your beaker as as your empty container)
- Add some of your solvent-about a third of the quantity you will need overall
- Transfer your solution to the volumetric flask
- Rinse the beaker and anything else you have use for the solid and transfer the washings to the volumetric flask
- Add solvent to the flask until the lower edge of the meniscus reaches the mark on the neck
You’re done! You should now have enough data to calculate the concentration of the solution you have made.
What about practical exams?
The A level exam is written, with no practical element. Having said this, throughout the exam you will be expected to use your understanding of practical theory to answer questions. You will have gained this knowledge through the core practicals we talked about above.
For some university programmes, like medicine, you will need to demonstrate practical skills as well as knowledge. In addition to the A level, you will be able to gain a practical endorsement to show this. This practical endorsement does not form part of the full A level, but is an additional grade that you can achieve.
Through NEC’s unique combined assessment model we are able to offer practical endorsements through a number of our partnership exam centres to our students. To learn more about how NEC can help with practical endorsements please click here.
Find out more
To learn more about learning with NEC and our full range of flexible distance learning courses, including A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Physics, click the links or speak to our expert course advice team on 0800 389 2839.