29th December 2000 at 00:00
SEG GCSE SCIENCE. By Peter Maile et al. Hodder amp; Stoughton Educational pound;16.99. COMPLETE BIOLOGY. By WRP Pickering. Oxford University Press pound;14. COMPLETE CHEMISTRY. By Rose Marie Gallagher and Paul Ingram. Oxford University Press pound;14

These three books offer some interesting similarities and contrasts. Complete Chemistry and Complete Biology are designed for the UK and international markets catering for GCSE , IGCSE, or O-level. SEG GCSE Science is applicable for both single and double award science.

The Complete books are indeed complete and extensive in their coverage of GCSE content and beyond. They will certainly need some matching to the particular syllabus a school is studying as suggested in the introduction to both books.

Complete Chemistry and Complete Biology have similar designs based on a double-page spread format with questions at the end of every spread and examination style questions at the end of each topic. Interestingly, Complete Biology differentiates its questions into higher and foundation but Complete Chemistry does not (the end- of-topic questions in Complete Chemistry are formidable).

Both books highlight key words in the text and Complete Biology offers some simpler cloze activities and so, on the whole, is a much more accessible book for a wider range of pupils to use. It is also more attractively designed, certainly in terms of its use of colour.

Complete Chemistry claims to be suitable for average attainers; I would say it is more suited as a reference book for higher attainers and would need to be extnsively mediated by teachers for other pupils. This is also true, but to a lesser extent, for Complete Biology.

In Complete Biology we again get the stereotypical malnourished African. Can I plead for a better balance in these images to at least include malnourished, overweight Westerners! Second, the suggestion in Complete Biology that "racial origins can make great differences in body size" does not reflect the current view on the concept of race in human evolution.

SEG GCSE Science is another very comprehensive book and contains a number of interesting devices. It does not use a double-page spread format but rather deals with the material in chapters. At the beginning of each chapter is a list of the key terms to be introduced and where these terms are used for the first time they are highlighted.

There are a lot of interesting "did you know" boxes throughout each chapter and questions are integrated into the text. At the end of each chapter is a summary and, like Complete Chemistry and Complete Biology, there are exam questions at the end of the chapter.

The layout and design of the book are attractive and the pages are not on the whole too text-dense, but for average or lower attaining pupils at GCSE I still feel this book would need considerable mediation by the teacher.

However, it is considerably more accessible to a wider range of pupils than Complete Chemistry and Complete Biology and this may be because its audience is more tightly defined and does not include the greater demands of IGCSE and O-level.


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