The Following is taken from Pages 29 to 32 of the Edexcel Specification




Unit 2 Exploring the Universe

Assessment overview


This unit is assessed through internal assessment with controlled conditions. Students must complete one unaided and one aided observational task. These tasks must be chosen from the lists provided by Edexcel, in this document. The write up of the observation report must take place under controlled conditions.
Each task will be marked out of 20, with a total mark of 40 for the two tasks, across the following areas:

  • design (5 marks)
  • observation (5 marks)
  • analysis (5 marks)
  • evaluation (5 marks)

The observation report will be marked by teachers and externally moderated by Edexcel.



Observation overview

Observations are a fundamental part of astronomy. The design of the observations must be planned to ensure that the subject of study is visible at the time and location. Analysis of the observational data and images has helped astronomers to discover more about our Universe and how it works. Evaluation of each observation is important to ensure that future observations take into account any problems encountered.
These observations link to the content studied in Unit 1: Understanding the Universe.



Delivery of the controlled assessment

Observation tasks
The tasks for this controlled assessment will be reviewed on a two-yearly cycle. Tasks may be removed or new tasks added. Please check our website for information on changes.
Centres can contextualise these tasks for their local area. Teachers can carry out assessment of tasks at any time during the period of study leading to the GCSE examination.
Students must complete two pieces of observational work. One unaided observation and one aided observation.

observations are either naked eye, or with the use of rudimentary equipment (for example shadow sticks).

observations are undertaken with the use of binoculars, telescopes or robotic telescopes.
The two observational tasks have an equal weighting of 20 marks each.
Students cannot select both their observational tasks from the same row in the observation task table. For example, not A1 and B1, A2 and B2 etc.



Aspects of the observation and report

Planning the most appropriate observing programme for the chosen task, including observing sites, times, instruments needed, and the need for any repeat observations.
The record of the range of observations taken, including any drawings of the objects observed, details of the observing session (weather conditions, location etc).
The conclusions drawn from the observational data collected, related to the observational task chosen.
An evaluation of the data collected in the observation and suggestions for improvements or extensions to further observations.


Suggested timings of each aspect

Design 2 hours
Observation dependent on task selected
Analysis 2 hours
Evaluation 2 hours
This gives 6 hours’ classroom time plus observation time per task, which equals a total of 12 hours’ classroom time plus observation time for the whole unit.
Controlled conditions
The preparation and writing of the observation reports must take place under controlled conditions. Students must write their reports only in lessons, supervised by a teacher. The write up may take place over several lessons, students’ materials must be collected in at the end of the lesson and handed back at the beginning of the next lesson. Students’ reports must be produced individually.
Levels of control
Internal assessment with controlled conditions has levels of control for task setting, task taking and task marking.
Task setting — high level of control
Tasks will be set by Edexcel and centres will choose from a list of tasks.

Task taking

a Observations — limited level of control
Observations will be carried out under limited control, including possible night-time unsupervised observations.
b Design, analysis and evaluation — high level of control
The design of the observation sessions and the writing of the report, including any analysis and evaluation, will take place under high levels of control, in centres.

Task marking — medium level of control

The marking of the tasks will be carried out by teachers and externally moderated by Edexcel.



Quality of written communication (QWC)

Opportunities for QWC have been identified within the assessment criteria, including the ability to:

  • present relevant information in a form that suits its purpose
  • ensure that text is legible and that spelling, punctuation and grammar are accurate, so that meaning is clear
  • use a suitable structure and style of writing
  • use specialist vocabulary when appropriate.



Health and safety

Attention is drawn to the need for safe practice when students carry out observation tasks. Relevant advice can be obtained from CLEAPPS. Risk assessments must be carried out for all observing tasks. It is the responsibility of the centre to carry out all risk assessments, to ensure that they are appropriate for their students, equipment and conditions.

Of particular concern is any observation of the Sun and the Moon. The Sun must not be viewed directly, either with or without optical aids. If the Moon is observed directly using a telescope at high magnification then a student’s ability to make further observations directly afterwards is impaired.
Health and safety is a particular concern throughout all of the observation tasks, but particularly in A3, B3, A8 and B8, which are concerned with observing phenomena related to the Sun.






Consult the Edexcel website to check changes in the tasks



Edexcel Astronomy Page