Critical Thinking A-Level Coursework

 
  1. If you've ever tried to sit exams as a private external candidate, you know how hard it is to find a school prepared to help. It's even harder if you need them to deal with practical exams, and coursework is pretty much impossible when they have nothing else of yours to compare against. If it works for you, exam-only is the way to go.

    There used to be a sticky on exam-only A-Levels, but it was wrong and out of date, so here's my list. Up to date as of spring 2012. Taken directly from the syllabus (aka specification) pdfs on the exam board sites.

    The zeros. Subjects you can't do at all, at least in England, by just writing a traditional exam paper.
    • The sciences. Biology, Chemistry and Physics all have lab practicals.
    • Most popular foreign languages. French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Urdu all have speaking & listening tests, but there are some less popular languages which are written-only. See below.
    • History, English Language, English Literature, Geology, Archaeology, ICT/Computing, Human Biology, Electronics. All have fieldwork, projects or research assignments.
    • Art, Design, D&T, Food Technology, Media Studies. All require portfolios.
    • Music, Drama, Dance, PE. All include performance work.
    • Most if not all "applied" specifications, which will have projects and groupwork. Any school that does them should also be able to do the normal spec, so it shouldn't be a big deal.


    Language oral tests are often possible at schools which teach that language, but they take place well before the written exam season so early registration is essential. A lot of the less popular languages can be taken without an oral exam anyway.

    History, English and Biology are available as distance learning courses, with a tutor to mark your coursework, but you still have to find an exam centre for your written papers. There's a wide choice of providers so google them up. National Extension College is the one to beat: http://www.nec.ac.uk/courses/categor...tegory_id=3305

    The CCEA History spec is exam-only, but might be hard to find outside Northern Ireland.

    There are international specifications for Edexcel Biology, Chemistry and Physics that allow you to take extra written exams instead of the practicals. They aren't normally available in this country, but Pembrokeshire College does them as distance learning courses (and unlike most distance learning schemes, they provide exam sittings at cost if you need them). Not sure how much use that will be in terms of uni admissions, when all other applicants will have lab experience, but check it out here:
    http://online.pembrokeshire.ac.uk/courses.html

    The heroes. These subjects never include assessed coursework of any sort and all the exam boards offer them.
    • Business Studies
    • Economics
    • Government & Politics
    • Maths (okay, there are coursework options with some boards, but you would never be forced to do them)
    • Further Maths
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies


    And the weirdos. These subjects are only available from some or one exam board, but they can be taken as exam-only. Schools are less likely to be entering their own candidates for these exams, so you might be charged invigilation fees (and be all alone in a massive echoing exam hall) if they accept you at all.

    • Accounting (AQA & OCR)
    • Anthropology (AQA)
    • Arabic (Edexcel)
    • Bengali (AQA)
    • Classics/Classical Civilisation (AQA & OCR)
    • Dutch (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
    • Environmental Studies (AQA)
    • Geography (AQA option B, and Edexcel)
    • Global Development (Edexcel, AS-only)
    • Ancient Greek (OCR; route pathway within Classical Civilisation A-Level)
    • Modern Greek (Edexcel)
    • Gujurati (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
    • Biblical Hebrew (OCR)
    • Modern Hebrew (AQA)
    • Hinduism (CIE, mostly overseas centres)
    • History (CCEA, mainly in Northern Ireland)
    • History of Art (AQA & CCEA)
    • Islamic Studies (CIE, mostly overseas centres)
    • Japanese (Edexcel)
    • Latin (OCR; route pathway within Classical Civilisation A-Level)
    • Law (AQA, OCR & WJEC)
    • Panjabi (AQA)
    • Persian (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
    • Polish (AQA)
    • Portugese (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
    • Sociology (AQA, OCR & WJEC)
    • Statistics (AQA, option B)
    • Statistics (OCR, AS-only)
    • Turkish (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)


    General Studies and Critical Thinking can also be done without coursework.... but I assume you're doing A-Levels to get into uni, so do yourself a favour and take something that gets more respect. I did GenStu myself, found out the hard way it doesn't count for anything at a redbrick uni, and had to waste a year taking another subject instead.

    I've done exams as a private candidate over several years, in different places, and I always found private fee-paying schools much more willing to help. They have no league tables to worry about.

    Hope this helps someone

    Davey

    Last edited by daveyeah; 24-02-2012 at 15:21. Reason: +more zeros
  2. Thanks Davey, this is a really helpful list, but I have a few things to add, comments to make.

    History only has coursework at A2, so if you only want to take the AS it is fine.

    For languages, there are some places (e.g. the Brasshouse Centre in Birmingham) that welcomes private candidates for orals and offers 20 languages (some only to GCSE). Edexcel also runs languages orals for some languages directly in London for private candidates so don't give up on languages straight away.

    There are some Maths syllabuses that involve coursework (AQA and OCR both have options for them) but they are easy enough to avoid.



    Just because you aren't doing the same subject as the other candidates doesn't mean you won't go in the same room as them. It's not uncommon for 7 or 8 different exams to be taking place in the same room at the same time - saving on invigilation costs.

    (Original post by daveyeah)
    The zeros. Subjects you can't do at all, at least in England, by just sitting exams. Some of them are still possible as distance learning courses, with a tutor to mark your coursework.
    • Modern foreign languages. They all have speaking & listening tests.
    • History, English Language and English Literature. All have written coursework projects.
    (Original post by daveyeah)
    The heroes. These subjects never include assessed coursework of any sort and all the exam boards offer them.
    (Original post by daveyeah)
    And the weirdos. These subjects are only available from some or one exam board, but they can be taken as exam-only. Schools are less likely to be entering their own candidates for these exams, so you might be charged invigilation fees (and be all alone in a massive echoing exam hall) if they accept you at all.

TSR Wiki > Study Help > Exams and Qualifications > A Levels > Critical Thinking A Level


Status

Critical Thinking A-level is a course designed to promote the skill of critical thinking. Although it is generally regarded as useful skill to have developed as part of your overall education, it is not usually included in UCAS offers because of its lack of subject content and is seen as 'light weight' as a standalone subject. Thus it shares a similar status to General Studies.

OCR offers Critical Thinking at both AS and A2 levels, as well as an AEA. AQA also offers Critical Thinking as an A-Level since 2008.

There has recently been a fall in its popularity as an A level subject, presumably because few Universities accept it, and AQA will not be offering it after June 2014.

Its classification code is 7830.

Structure of the new OCR specification

The A-level Critical Thinking (H052 for AS, H452 for A-level) is composed as follows:

  • Introduction to Critical Thinking
  • Assessing and Developing Argument
  • Ethical Reasoning and Decision-Making
  • Critical Reasoning

AS

Unit 1, Introduction to Critical Thinking (F501) involves the language of reasoning and credibility assessment. It is a 1 hour exam, and is worth 40% of the AS and 20% of the A-level.

Unit 2, Assessing and Developing Argument (F502) involves the analysis and evaluation of arguments, and developing your own "reasoned" arguments. It is a 2 hour exam, and is worth 60% of the AS and 30% of the A-level.

A2

Unit 3: Ethical Reasoning and Decision-Making (F503) will involve ethical theories, recognising and applying principles, and dilemmas and decision-making. It will include synoptic assessment, and it is a 1 hour 30 minute exam, and is worth a quarter of the A-level.

Unit 4: Critical Reasoning (F504) will involve the analysis and evaluation of complex arguments, with the developing of your own "cogent and complex" arguments. It will include synoptic assessment and "Stretch and Challenge". It is a 1 hour 30 minute exam, and is worth a quarter of the A-level.

Structure of the new AQA specification

This is the first specification in A-level Critical Thinking (1771 for AS, 2771 for A2) offered by AQA. It is divided into four units, as with most other A-levels from 2008:

  • Foundation Unit
  • Information, Inference and Explanation
  • Beliefs, Claims and Arguments
  • Reasoning and Decision Making

AS

Unit 1: Foundation Unit (CRIT1) is an introduction to Critical Thinking, including arguments and their structures, and identifying simpler flaws. It is a 1hr 30min exam, worth 25% of the A-level, 50% of the AS.

Unit 2: Information, Inference and Explanation (CRIT2) includes elements of credibility and statistical representations. It is a 1hr 30min exam, worth 25% of the A-level, 50% of the AS.

A2

Unit 3: Beliefs, Claims and Arguments (CRIT3) links logic to Critical Thinking, and even includes basic application of epistemological concepts, introducing further flaws and patterns of reasoning. It is a 1hr 30min exam, worth 25% of the A-level.

Unit 4: Reasoning and Decision Making (CRIT4) introduces more reasoning patterns, uses techniques from probability, and applies Critical Thinking to decision-making and justification of decisions. It is a 1hr 30min exam, worth 25% of the A-level.

Comparisons

The substantial section on Credibility that constituted F491 has been reduced, with concepts from F492 added into the new Unit 1 F501. There has been some rearrangement of the time allocations to the assessment too. The new AQA specification is quite different in approach, with less substantial writing and slightly more emphasis on statistics and interpretation of figures in short-response questions, accompanied by long-response ones at the end.

Related Websites

CriticalThinking.org.uk (Unofficial guide)
ESSEX Critical Thinking
Official OCR Critical Thinking page
Critical Thinking Course (OCR revision site)

Categories: A Level Subject Guides | Subject Guides | Critical Thinking

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