Preparing For Success: stepping up to IGCSE® from Cambridge Lower Secondary Science

By Helen Reynolds

Helen Reynolds taught for over 20 years in a state school near Oxford, UK. She is the author of many textbooks, including Cambridge Lower Secondary Physics, and currently teaches in a small, private school in Arizona, USA. Helen has worked closely with Biology author Ann Fullick and Chemistry author Philippa Gardom-Hulme, on both the Cambridge Lower Secondary Science books and this blog, to ensure you can give your students the best possible preparation for IGCSE®.

A student faces the camera smiling and writing with a pen. In the background a teacher is visible showing a science model to three other students. All students are wearing green uniforms and look interested and engaged with the subject.

Many students find the transition from Cambridge Lower Secondary to IGCSE® a challenge. Giving learners the right support during Stages 7-9 helps them in more challenging areas where they might struggle later. It has been my pleasure to work as part of the OUP Cambridge Lower Secondary Science Series author team. Ann Fullick, Philippa Gardom-Hulme and I have worked hard to give your students a great start to their secondary science career, and lay the groundwork for the step up at IGCSE®.

How do the Lower Secondary Student Books build a solid foundation of scientific knowledge?

Students will meet a wide range of concepts at IGCSE®. We have ensured that the Student Books give your students the core understanding they need to prepare them for this. For example:

In Physics, students will

  • discover how to talk about energy, enabling them to discuss energy types and transformations in a way that fully prepares them for IGCSE®.
  • learn about forces in Stage 7 and review those ideas in Stage 8 in terms of explaining motion.
  • prepare for the mathematical elements of IGCSE® by being introduced to sound methods of calculating speed, pressure, and moments.

In Chemistry, students will

  • first meet the fundamental concepts of atoms rearranging and joining differently in Stage 7, in the context of simple chemical reactions, and using particle diagrams to illustrate them.
  • revisit and develop these ideas in Stages 8 and 9 with more complex examples.
  • undertake valuable preparation for IGCSE® through an introduction to balancing symbol equations.

In Biology, students will

  • study material on topics such as excretion and the role of the kidneys, where captivating photographs and clear diagrams help make foundation concepts clear and demonstrate the relevance of what they are studying.
  • develop a clear understanding of fundamental biological principles, such as the relationship between structure and function
  • discover topics related to IGCSE®, at a level accessible to them whilst studying at Lower Secondary.

How do the Student Books help with misconceptions?

As experienced science teachers as well as authors, we know how often students come to study Biology, Chemistry and Physics with misconceptions that can hinder their learning. While developing these books, we produced material to help students identify some of their own misconceptions. Examples may include the difference between excretion and egestion, or the idea that particles themselves do not get hotter. Tackling these ideas as the students meet the topics gives them the opportunity to develop solid understanding of key concepts and avoid reinforcing their own misconceptions.

In the Cambridge Lower Secondary Science Teacher Guide we give teachers more insight into common misconceptions that students might have, such as there being no gravity on the Moon, and provide ideas for helping to navigate them. This helps students to progress to IGCSE® with clear conceptual understanding of the fundamental scientific principles they need, by allowing teachers to anticipate, manage, and mitigate for potential problems.

How do the Student Books develop independent study habits?

We’ve produced a Workbook to accompany each Student Book, directly relating to the material in each spread. It’s a useful tool for giving students an opportunity to undertake independent study. It also gives teachers a source of relevant homework exercises.

How do the Student Books help to prepare for doing IGCSE® examinations?

Throughout the Cambridge Lower Secondary Science Student Books students will meet and become familiar with IGCSE® command words in questions. This gives an excellent introduction to expectations at higher level. We have used these command words throughout the Student Books and accompanying materials. Right from Stage 7, students will learn how to interpret questions so as to use their time in examinations effectively. The questions in the book start with straightforward recall, and move to more application, synthesis and justification, to help you with differentiation within your classes.

How will the Thinking and Working Scientifically sections help?

At IGCSE® students will be expected to select, describe, and evaluate scientific procedures (AO4). We have included a chapter at the start of each Student Book dedicated to explaining the key terms students will encounter, and ways in which scientific questions can be investigated. Working closely together, we have ensured that students have lots of practice developing these skills across Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

The spreads include:

  • how to complete different aspects of investigative work such as risk assessment, deciding control variables, analysing and evaluating
  • how to present and interpret information, and identify variables
  • examples of other students’ work, helping students improve their own

What about required practicals?

Students will revisit many of the experiments from Lower Secondary Science as required practicals at IGCSE®. For example, in Physics they will have investigated the relationship between force and extension for a spring, and in Biology they will have tested leaves for starch using iodine solution to demonstrate that photosynthesis has taken place.

We have chosen the practical work in these Lower Secondary resources carefully, so your students will come to their IGCSE® studies with sound skills in many key practical techniques. Added to this, the experimental strand has been developed so students are equipped to make a smooth and rapid transition to IGCSE® practical work. This helps to develop high levels of competency.

We are delighted to have had an opportunity to produce books that we think students will find engaging and accessible, empowering them as they develop their understanding of science ready for the next stage in their journey. If you’d like to find out more about these resources, please visit the Cambridge Lower Secondary Complete Science webpage.