AQA GCSE Chemistry – who knew what to expect?!

Toyota hydrogen
Toyota at the opening of the first public access hydrogen refuelling station in Teddington earlier this month

As I drove the half-hour journey to my daughter’s school at 7.30am this morning, we discussed the forthcoming AQA GCSE chemistry exam. Following the exam board’s fiasco of a biology paper earlier this week which appeared to lean towards business and had the nation’s year 11s up in arms on Twitter, we reasoned AQA were going all out to impress the government with its ‘real world’ reflection in its exams. Despite the fact that AQA had apparently failed to communicate its intentions to teachers responsible for delivering the syllabus. Minor point.

Thus, we surmised, since biology had asked about drug companies including the definition of a private company, which even my daughter’s friends who had taken GCSE economics had struggled to answer (you would probably have been prepared had you studied business but my daughter’s school does not offer this subject), what are the commercial implications of topics on the C1 syllabus?

The unit 1 paper includes topics such as oil (crude and saturated fats v unsaturated fats), polymers, extracting metal from rocks, limestone and fuel.

Her friend, who happened to have chosen food tech as one of his GCSE options and had been ecstatic about the healthy eating six mark question in the biology paper, could get lucky twice with questions on the fats and, presumably, the manufacturing process. I know nothing about the plastics industry nor limestone and some bacteria used in the extraction of copper (or something like that). However, she assured me that following the business bias of biology, she had been mindful to revise these particular aspects of those topics yesterday. Plus having no memory of fats from year 9 had also revised this topic thoroughly some weeks prior.

But what of crude oil and vehicle fuel? Given that I work in automotive and spend much of my days writing blog posts for automotive suppliers, car dealership groups, features for one of the sector’s magazines and identifying content and speakers for the same publication’s events team, I am fairly knowledgeable on these areas.

And so it was, we spent 30 minutes discussing oil, diesel and alternatively fuelled vehicles!

We talked about OPEC and Saudi Arabia over producing oil to force down prices albeit fuel pump costs are gradually increasing, in a bid to take on America’s fracking industry. ‘Fracking?’ She asked, ‘the syllabus includes cracking’. ‘Cracking? Are you sure it’s not fracking?’ ‘No, it’s definitely cracking.’ ‘What the hell is cracking?’ Do you know what, I don’t want to know. ‘Diesel and the emissions scandal, what do you know about that?’ ‘Err, nothing, it’s not on the syllabus.’ Well that didn’t seem to be a consideration when they devised the biology paper. A 10-minute nutshell explanation of diesel, NOx emissions, particulates, air pollution and the VW scandal from me. There you go, two years of studying the syllabus and I have just given you some golden nuggets which aren’t on the syllabus so they are bound to come up. You’ll be fine.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles, a subject which is on the syllabus and one I have written about extensively. Fortunately, I had the foresight a few months previously to print off a load of articles I had written on hydrogen powered cars. We are hoping for this topic!

I write this on the Chesham to Baker Street tube as I head for a meeting in town. I am now sat in a coffee shop on Baker Street waiting for my client and in 10 minutes (when the exam is due to finish) all will be revealed!

Picked up texts following my meeting. ‘There was actual chemistry in the chemistry exam!’ A good start as after biology, we weren’t convinced that would be the case. Followed by ‘the six mark question was really good -about hydrogen powered cars’! Not only that, but the fats came up!

And the year 11s were mostly happy on Twitter.

AQA chemistry 3

AQA chemistry 2

AQA chemistry 1

Boom! Back in the game!

Spanish tomorrow! Good luck!

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2 thoughts on “AQA GCSE Chemistry – who knew what to expect?!

  1. Nah. Disagree. Great I’d to see an exam board forcing kids to apply learning and not merely regurgitate. Plaudits to Aqa. When we do this in real recruiting it really separates the candidates

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    1. I think AQA achieved that with the healthy eating question in biology, I could’ve answered that but not applied any science, which rightly would not have scored me top marks, but all the maths and the business (ok, worth one point) did not seem to be particularly biological! The C1 paper seemed to be good though, luck of the draw, just happened to be on the subjects she had revised recently. She is hoping Spanish listening today isn’t as hard as the French one!

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