Accessibility statement

Starting and running the SNAB course

Can you mix the two approaches provided in the Edexcel GCE Biology specification?

The simple answer is 'yes' - although it would be better to do this by whole assessment units rather than by topics, because tracking the content covered might be complicated.

The SNAB approach and activities encourage development of skills not necessarily formally assessed. We think this means SNAB students develop a degree of autonomy and motivation as a result of following this course.

See this link to the Edexcel GCE Biology specification


How much practical work is there in SNAB?

Students should complete the core practicals identified in the specification.

Practical and investigative skills are developed formatively through all practical work in the course,but assessment of details of specific techniques is restricted to the core practicals.

There is no assessment of whole practical write-ups. Teachers verify that students have completed the core practical work to develop the practical biology skills identified in the specification. Knowledge of these techniques and skills may be assessed in questions on the written papers.

The A2 coursework involves an individual investigation.

The use of living materials is a central focus of the practical activities.Practical work includes the study of a wide variety of living organisms, including humans, plants and micro-organisms.

There are well-established practicals such as enzyme and microbiology experiments, plus less common ones such as strength testing of nettle fibres.

The approach mirrors the aims of the course, where investigation and process are emphasised rather than prescriptive methods.

See this link to the Edexcel GCE Biology specification

Is SNAB appropriate for all abilities at advanced level?

All centres have different entry requirements for their AS and A-level courses.

Students with higher grade GCSE scores seem to be doing just as well with SNAB as on the other specifications. Students with lower GCSE scores tend to do a little better in SNAB.

A general observation of the course is that there is plenty of challenging material for the higher ability students, both biological content and within the social, moral and ethical aspects.

The lower ability students are more interested and involved in the course than their predecessors in previous specifications, and so stick with it and worked harder, succeeding where they might previously have dropped out or failed.

Is the A2 coursework hard to organise if you are a big centre?

There isn't a written test or exam alternative to the A2 coursework element.

Each student should complete a whole investigation themselves, taking the equivalent of two weeks of normal lesson and homework time, this may well be spread over a longer period. Larger centres often stagger when different teaching groups are doing the practical aspects of their investigation.

Every student in each teaching group completes an individual investigation, so that there is no collaboration during the investigation.

A centre with 200+ students doesn't need 200 unique investigations! It is possible for students to do similar investigations if they are in different teaching groups.

The investigation is only 10% of the A level and needs to be kept in proportion.

Some centres carry out A2 coursework on their field trip.However, large centres may find that it is difficult to find enough different investigations.

Could two teachers teach Topics 1 and 2 in parallel?

Yes, lots of our centres have two teachers running Topic 1 and 2 in parallel.

However, you need to be aware that for guidance on how to split topics or teach in parallel, students may meet phospholipids in Topic 2 before they have covered the structure of lipids in Topic 1. The Topic 2 teacher would need to provide more depth than appears in the resources at that point.

See also....

SNAB AS Teaching schemes and forward planning

SNAB A2 Teaching schemes and forward planning

Do medical schools and traditional universities prefer traditional biology?

Salters-Nuffield Advanced Biology students have successfully secured places in medical schools at top universities.

There have been reports from some centres that there is an increase in the number of students applying for medicine and related subjects. There are no reports that they have had difficulties at interview. We have had reports from teachers that their students found it useful to have done SNAB because they had a lot to talk about in their interviews.

When we started the pilot course we sent information about the course to medical school (and biology departments) admission tutors. We visited the University of Liverpool medical school, and their admissions tutor was very positive about the SNAB approach. They, like many other medical schools, are using a case-study based approach to teaching and learning, with students taking a more independent role in the process. The Salters-Nuffield Advanced Biology course is useful preparation for this.

Our Advisory Committee had a very strong Oxbridge representation (including Professor Sir Tom Blundell from Cambridge and Professor Kay Davies from Oxford). Their influence helped to ensure that our course is sufficiently rigorous for able students.

Many academics from Higher Education have reported that their concern with A level candidates is not their content knowledge but lack of wider skills. The development of these skills through the SNAB course is a good preparation for higher education.