Tips On Science Coursework
Sarah Bowles, science teacher, offers tips on science coursework...
"It's that coursework time again! Before you begin to panic, just think of it as an easy way to score marks for your science GCSE. If you do well in your coursework, it takes the pressure off your exams. Coursework is an excellent opportunity for you to show the examiner that you understand science.
Coursework is divided into different sections, and you will be given marks for each section. This is excellent, because if you are not particularly good at the practical part of your coursework you can make up the marks in the plan or the discussion sections.
There are 4 main sections. Let's look at them one by one.
Analysing Results and Drawing Conclusions
In this section you are planning what you are investigating, why you are investigating it, how you are going to do it, making it a fair test, and finally predicting what you think will happen.
Decide upon a topic that has something you can measure, because you can collect a set of data or recordings that you can draw graphs of and comment upon.
Find out as much information as you can on your topic, this will help you make your predictions - if you understand the topic you can work out what you expect to happen.
Work out what you are going to MEASURE, CHANGE, and CONTROL in your investigation. For example - if you are looking at the affect of increasing acid concentration on the rate of reaction of marble chips, you will MEASURE the rate of reaction by measuring the carbon dioxide gas given off during each test, you will CHANGE the concentrations of acid and you will CONTROL the amount of acid you use, the mass of marble chips that you use, the temperature of the acid, the surface area of you marble chips and the equipment you use.
This is an area that examiners look out for, if it is done correctly it will get you top marks: Make sure you have made your investigation a FAIR TEST, that means writing down all your controls and explaining why you have done them.
The more data you have the more reliable and accurate your results will be. The examiners will look for a good set of results and if you have only carried out each test once these will not be very reliable results.
When you are planning your method make it simple, clear, accurate and above all safe. Remember to write it in the future tense - this is how you PLAN to carry out your investigation, you have not actually done it yet.
You must include SAFETY in your plan, if you miss this out you can often not get to the higher marks in this section, examiners will always look for this section first.
This is the section where you actually DO your experiment.
Make sure you use appropriate equipment e.g. don't use a 500ml measuring cylinder if you only need 10ml of acid!
Make sure you repeat your test at least 4 times, this will ensure that you have plenty of data to draw reliable and accurate conclusions.
Make sure you carry out your investigation safely, and say how you did this.
Analysing Results and Drawing ConclusionsFirst draw a graph of your results. Make it clear, accurate and neat.
- Remember to label your axis - don't forget units.
- Also remember to write a clear title on your graph, and use a pencil, not pen.
- The examiner will look that you have included the correct units on your graph - even if everything else is correct, no units = no marks.
- Next... answer the following questions and this section will be a winner!!
- Can you see any patterns or trends in the results?
- What do the results show you?
- Why did this happen?
- How does this relate to your scientific research?
- Was your prediction correct?
EvaluationThis is the final section of your coursework and it is all about evaluating your performance and progress.
Again answer the following questions to get top marks!
- Was your method a suitable one?
- Were your results accurate? How did you ensure that they were accurate?
- Were there any anomalous results? If Yes, Why?
- How could you improve your investigation?
- How could you extend your investigation?
Other Tips Pages
Coursework for GCSE Science
This is about the 2006 course. The 2011 course is similar.
See the OCR 2011 specification.
>>Download this information on an A4 mini-poster
GCSE Science coursework (0.8 MB).
Guidance for students
Internal assessment counts for 33.3% of your final grade. The Case study is 20% and Data Analysis 13.3%.
Case study (20%)
Choosing a topic
Choose a topic from one of these categories:
A question where scientific knowledge is not certain (such as ‘Does a mobile phone cause brain damage?’ ‘Is there life in other parts of the Universe?’)
A question about decision-making using scientific information (such as ‘Should the Government stop research into human cloning?’)
A question about a personal issue involving science (such as ‘Should my child have the MMR vaccine?’)
Collect information from different places: books, the internet, newspapers – look for different views on the topic.
Say where each piece of information came from. Make it clear if you have quoted or copied something.
Choose only information that is relevant to the question you are studying.
Say why you chose these sources and how you decided whether they are reliable.
Understanding the question
Use scientific knowledge and understanding to explain the topic you are studying.
When you report what other people have said, say what scientific evidence they had (from experiments, surveys etc).
Making your own conclusion
Compare the evidence and points of view.
Consider the risks of different courses of action.
Say what you think should be done, and link this to the evidence you have reported.
Present your study
Make sure your report is laid out clearly in a sensible order.
Use pictures, tables, charts, graphs etc to present information.
Take care with your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and use scientific terms where they are appropriate.
Creating a Case Study
Where do I start? Sources of information could include:
- school library
- you science textbooks and notes
- local public library
- newspapers and magazines
- museums and exhibitions
Data Analysis (13.3%)
Use tables, charts, graphs or calculations to show any patterns in your results.
Say what conclusions you can make from your data.
Explain your conclusions using your science knowledge and understanding.
Think whether any improvements in your apparatus or method could give more precise and accurate results.
Check how closely each result fits the general pattern and look for any outliers.
Suggest some improvements or extra data you could collect to be more confident in your conclusions.
Keep detailed notes of each stage of your planning and work. Check each result as you get it to see that it fits in with others you already have. If not, consider whether you need to repeat it to check.