CANDIDATES who take physics, chemistry and biology as separate GCSE subjects do up to half a grade better at A-level science than most of their classmates, according to a new report.
The separate science pupils outperformed colleagues who had taken the more popular double award GCSE - even after taking the type of school and pupil cohort into account.
The findings are the result of a Qualifications and Curriculum Authority survey on the transition from GCSE to A-level in science.
Double award candidates also have problems with chemical or algebraic equations in sixth forms, researchers found. Pupils who take separate science GCSEs were found to do up to half a grade better at A-level than candidates with the same mean GCSE score who took double-award science.
The performance boost went beyond science, raising grades in English and history. Separate science students scored on average a quarter grade higher at A-level English or history.
The effect was pronounced when physics was examined. The report considered the results of male physics students at FE and sixth-form colleges and found that separate science GCSE students went on to do up to three-quarters of a grade better at A-level.
Despite this, the QCA analysis of 200 questionnaires sent to schools, colleges and local authorities concluded that double award science gave pupils a good grounding for A-level. Any perceived inadequacy of double award science as a preparation for A-level work was short-lived, it said.
However, teachers complained that double award science did not include enough physics and chemistry for students continuing with these subjects at A-level.
The report said: "It is difficult to avoid the impression that double award science has not yet established itself as a worthy curriculum component in its own right."
It acknowledged that more curriculum time was devoted to teaching the separate sciences and said: "The need for double award science both to provide a broad and balanced science education for all and to act as a sound foundation for A-level work in the sciences is the source of some tension."
The transition from GCSE double award balanced science to A-level in the sciences: a review of the findings is available from QCA Publications on 01787 884444 price pound;10.