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  • AQA's ISA (Individual Skills Assignments)

    The Controlled Assessment unit consists of two ISA papers, worth up to 50 marks. They will be worth up to 25% of your GCSE overall. That's a lot, so the ISA is something you should work hard at - it will help your final grade!

    Using AQA's Specimen ISA, here we reveal the different sections, leading to our detailed advice.

    Stage 0 - Glossary

    You will need to be clear in your use of scientific language. Our carefully written AQA Glossary Guide provides you with a significant advantage. Start here!

    Stage 1 - Planning

    child's toy on a springBefore you carry out the practical, your teacher will introduce the experiment to you in a context - e.g. if asked to investigate how springs stretch under different loads, the context could be a child's toy which bounces up and down on a spring.

    You then write research on the topic, using a Candidate Research Notes sheet, and plan what to do, coming up with a suitable hypothesis. e.g. you find out about the behaviour of springs, read about Hooke's Law and come up with a hypothesis that the extension of the spring will depend on the force added.

    You must find two methods for your investigation as you may need to explain why you chose it.

    Your Candidate Research Notes must not contain draft texts for Stage 2, so keep your research brief and in note form. You could scribble down the table headings and possible units, but don't draft a table - that's not allowed.

    Stage 2 - Reporting on Planning

    This is Section One of the ISA and is a written paper, done under exam conditions. In it you will have to:

    1. state and explain your hypothesis
    2. consider variables (independent, dependent and control) that you will manage
    3. use your research to show how to test your hypothesis
    4. write a detailed plan of your chosen method
    5. identify possible hazards and write a short risk assessment
    6. draw a blank table ready for results from your planned experiment.

    Section One sounds really nasty, but it will always consist of the above parts, so concentrate on understanding each piece first and you should find that you quite enjoy completing the paper - if you can enjoy exams, that is!

    There are two marks for the table and they're dead easy. Click here for our simple advice!

    Stage 3 - Practical Work

    At last, your practical! Don't worry too much about having to get "perfect results". What really matters here is that you get enough results and record them properly in a table.

    You might be the best experimenter since Richard Feynmann, or as clumsy with a stopwatch as a bear unscrewing a jar of marmalade... you can still get the same marks!

    Stage 4 - Processing Results

    Having done your practical, you will be given some time to process the results from your table into a graph. In Physics, most graphs you do will be line graphs, but this needn't always be the case and you must decide!

    There are four marks for the graph and some are really easy. Click here for our simple advice!

    Stage 5 - Analysing Results

    This is Section Two of the ISA, the final written paper, done under exam conditions. In it you will have to:

    1. analyse your own results
    2. draw a conclusion
    3. compare your results to your hypothesis
    4. evaluate the method of collection and the quality of the data
    5. analyse secondary data about the same topic as your investigation
    6. relate your findings to the context of the ISA.

    So again there's a lot to do, but it will be in nice little sections and with practice you will do okay!


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