External assessment (Exams)

Introduction to External Assessment

We have come a long way since Henry Armstrong made the following statement:

“When Prof. Ayrton and I were appointed the first professors of the City and Guilds of London Institute we found ourselves in complete agreement that we would have nothing to do with teaching for examinations.

I am proud to say that the programmes of the Guild’s Colleges have never been disfigured by references to examinations as objects to be kept in view by students.”

Henry E.Armstrong
(Science Progress,1886)

Rightly or wrongly the examinations now have a central role in all students' lives. Many students seem to spend much of their time being 'drilled' by their teachers to achieve high grades in their final assessment rather than focusing on and enjoying learning for its own sake.  The syllabus is written so that it is clear what can be examined (NoS, Understandings, Applications and skills and perhaps International-mindedness) and the exams are written using command terms which are commensurate with the level of the objectives being tested. The pressure is heavily on students to achieve certain high grades in order to continue into higher education.

This part of the Website looks at the main aspects of external examinations as they affect you, the student. The first section on Essential facts defines precisely the meaning of command term and explains the different levels of objectives. It covers grade descriptors (i.e. what standard you need to reach for each grade) and explains how the component grade boundaries and overall grade boundaries are arrived at. The next three sections then look at each of the three written papers in turn with concrete advice as to how to prepare for the exams and what the common pitfalls in each paper are. Examples of brand new questions together with the worked answers are given for the Section A part of Paper 3 covering data response and experimental work are provided.  Finally, if one should be required, advice on how to request a remark is given.


  • Tips on how to maximise your marks on each of the three exam papers
  • Practice Paper 1 mock examinations
  • Specific details of areas of difficulty on Papers 2 & 3 and how to overcome them
  • Advice and new questions with worked answers to prepare for data response questions on Section A on Paper 3
  • Examples of new questions with worked answers for experimental work on Section A on Paper 3
  • Full explanation of grade descriptors and grade boundaries
  • Fun ways of understanding objectives and using command terms
  • What to do if you do not achieve the final grade you need in chemistry
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