4 things to know about the new AS & A Level Marine Science syllabus

Matthew Parkin

We would like to offer a warm welcome to those of you who are new to the 9693 marine science course, and welcome back those of you who have taught it for several years! Hopefully, you are all forward to teaching the exciting new 9693 syllabus. You will see that there have been some changes to the syllabus in terms of content and assessment. To help you deliver the course effectively, we’ve outlined these changes for you below.

New AO for practical skills

There is now a new assessment objective for practical skills, AO3 (experimental skills and investigations). This is only tested on Paper 2 and Paper 3 and tests student understanding of how to plan, carry out and analyse practical work. There are examples of how this is tested in the specimen papers, and excellent guidance on practical work in the coursebook, teacher’s resource and the new workbook.

Addition of core practicals

Core practicals are now included in the syllabus. These are practicals that students should have some experience with. Don’t be daunted if you’re approaching these practicals in a remote environment – there is lots of help at hand in the new resources. There are detailed, step-by-step practical methods with questions and sample data that students can analyse if there is no possible way that they can do the practicals. There are also photographs and diagrams included in the books for students to practise drawing skills, which are included as a practical skill. For more ideas about how to teach practical skills in marine science without lab access, watch this video with Dr. James Saunders.

New topics introduced

There are some topics that have disappeared and some new additions, giving the course a more scientific emphasis and bringing it up to date with developments in marine science. The resources include lots of help and advice on how to teach new topic areas, such as particle theory and bonding at AS and movement of substances at A Level. The workbook has step-by-step exercises to help students develop their understanding of these new areas. New topics that are very relevant to the modern world, such as the effect of plastics on marine ecosystems, are now included. There is lots of help in all our resources on how to support your students with these new topics, including activities, case studies and exam-style questions.

Increased focus on mathematical skills

The mathematical skills required have increased and some statistical testing is now required at A Level (but not AS). Some students might find the thought of statistical tests a bit daunting, so we have included lots of step-by-step examples for these in the coursebook and workbook. The teacher’s resource also provides excellent data that students can use for statistical tests to help develop their understanding and confidence.

We really hope that you and your students enjoy studying this up-to-date and inspiring new syllabus. Students and teachers should not be put off by any of the changes – it is still a very inclusive syllabus that is open to all learners, and the changes will help to provide them with an outstanding foundation upon which to continue their studies. The suite of new resources will provide you with all the help that you need to support them with the course. The step-by-step exercises, sample data and clear explanations are also ideal for independent learning if your centre is forced to close due to Covid-19.

Good luck with inspiring the next generation of marine scientists!

Want to learn more about the support we offer for AS & A Level Marine Science teachers and learners? Take a look inside our new resources.  

Matthew Parkin is part of the author team for the second edition of the Cambridge International AS & A Level Marine Science series. He has taught biological science courses at both International GCSE Level and A Level for 25 years at a range of different schools. He is an experienced examiner and currently a senior examiner for O Level and A Level Cambridge Marine Sciences. He is also an experienced international trainer, and this has given him the opportunity to meet teachers in many different countries around the world.