In a report into their comparison of A-levels with international qualifications, Ofqual has asked whether students and HE staff would prefer to have deeper content and less maths in A-level chemistry exams

Mathematical equations on a blackboard

The exams regulator concludes that A-level chemistry specifications contain more maths than most international systems. However, it notes that most international qualifications are a composite of a variety of subjects, with maths as a mandatory component, but 'most composite qualifications present mathematically undemanding assessments.' 

Ofqual commissioned the project to 'gain a detailed understanding and to judge the comparative demand of a range of subjects offered at senior secondary level in different parts of the world.' 

It notes other key differences between A-levels and systems in other countries, such as the use of other types of assessment, including oral exams and multiple choice questions, as well as the use of individual projects and extended essays. 

A recent report by SCORE (Science Community Representing Education) showed that A-levels in a range of STEM subjects fail to equip students with an appropriate level of maths skills. Graham Hutchings, Chair of SCORE, said, 'Mathematics enables students to understand and describe many scientific phenomena. Without learning some mathematical techniques, students are missing out on gaining a full understanding of the scientific ideas.' 

The Ofqual report concedes that 'as it is possible that A-level chemistry students will not be studying mathematics alongside their chemistry course, there is perhaps more of a need to ensure that the required mathematical content is explicit within the chemistry syllabus.' 

 Comparison of A Levels with International Qualifications 

Download the summary report from Ofqual