School-based Science Practical Assessment (SPA) for GCE 'O' Level in Singapore
The School-based Science Practical Assessment is a component in the Physics [Syllabus 5059], Chemistry [Syllabus 5073] and Biology [Syllabus 5158] subject assessment of the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Ordinary Level examination. It assesses candidates' competence in science practical skills over an appropriate period of time that the candidates are offered the subject, and constitutes 20% of the overall marks for the subject. SPA replaced the traditional Practical Examination, which was normally conducted at the end of the 2-year course, in 2006. Instead of a one-time practical examination, pupils are assessed on their practical skills in a series of practical sessions throughout the 2-year course.
In 2018, the revision of the O Level Science Syllabus saw the SPA Component being phrased out and replaced by the previous one-time Practical Examinations again. This would be the same for the A Level Science component, which would take place from 2017 onwards.
The assessment is grouped into three skill sets:
Skill set 1 – Performing and Observing
Skill set 2 – Analysing
Skill set 3 – Planning
Each candidate is assessed twice for each of skill sets 1 and 2 and once for skill set 3.
For skill sets 1 and 2, the assessment is in the form of a practical task which requires candidates to perform an experiment, make relevant observations and draw conclusions; for skill set 3, candidates are required to analyse a practical problem and produce an appropriate procedure based on the aim of the investigation.
The questions are set by Singapore's Ministry of Education (MOE). Schools are provided with a variety of question types, but it is up to the school to decide on a suitable topic for the students (e.g. Titration for Chemistry). Schools prepare candidates through science practical practice sessions. Candidates are informed of the general topic and the skills to be assessed at least 2 weeks prior to the assessment date. As the assessment is school-based, it is scheduled, carried out and marked by the school, after which the scripts are sent to MOE for inspection and moderation. The question papers are highly confidential documents because there may be candidates from different schools taking the same question at different dates. The scores for the assessment are kept confidential and are never disclosed to the candidates.
In addition, candidates are required to maintain a portfolio containing completed and marked assessments and daily tasks. It is to provide evidence of the learning of practical skills and evidence that the prescribed range of competencies and topics have been covered. The portfolio is inspected by MOE officers; if it is found to be unable to comply with the assessment requirements, the candidate's results may be nullified.
Skill Set 1: Performing and Observing (50%)
- Skill 1.1: Demonstrating experimental techniques and skills
- Skill 1.2: Making observations and/or readings and measurements
- Skill 1.3: Presenting Data
Skill Set 2: Analysing (25%)
- Skill 2.1: Processing Data
- Skill 2.2: Drawing Conclusions
Skill Set 3: Planning (25%)
- Skill 3.1: Planning an investigation
- Skill 3.2: Producing a procedure for the investigation
Skill 1.1 is different from the other skill strands, in that it is assessed throughout the duration of the practical assessment itself. It tests the candidates' ability to perform the given experiment safely and without assistance, and to demonstrate correct experimental techniques and skills.