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Yimini

GCSE Astronomy

24 posts in this topic

I have seen on another thread that you are able to take GCSE Astronomy. On the face of it this seems an ideal stepping stone for me before getting onto heavier (and more expensive) qulaifications in astronomy. I have had a quick trawl through the internet and see that there are a number of companies that run courses for this. So I would very much appreciate any information people could give me as to how much value there is in the course, the amount of commitment it will take and any company that they would recommend.

Thanks.

Yimini

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I'd like to second this as well please! Great idea (and apologies for hijacking the thread).

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Exactly what is it that you want to do ?

Ask this as GCSE is fairly low down the scale of qualifications. Most Uni courses will want A'level and in a couple of subjects. Additionally I suspect thatthe Astronomy GCSE is very much Physics with a slight bias to things astronomical.

If you want a basic astronomy course then it should be fine, it will show the broad field that astronomy can cover. If you are looking eventually at degree level then you will need extra somewhere along the line. Maths being the obvious.

However an answer does depend on what you want the GSCE to open up for you.

Also do you have any present qualifications.

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The link I posted above seems to have an entry level qualification, (must assume similar to GCSE level), which is required to do the level up, which is in turn required to do the degree course. It looks like they're equivalent to GCSE, A level and eventually degree courses, with each course being a stepping stone to the one above? Just worth a look because it seems like each course has been designed with the intention of going on to do the next :).

Ginger

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If this is it just for personal learning, I find it enjoyable to grab a book and read it. Currently I'm going through Universe which I believe is targeted at further education level, so may be a bit heavy to jump into depending on the background you have. (tip: the current version is somewhat pricey, but you can get an older edition used for next to nothing). But I'm sure there are lower level texts too although I couldn't suggest one.

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If you just want to learn the subject and aren't too bothered about getting qualified in it it's worth having a look at iTunes U, there's quite a few astronomy courses on there for free. Not sure if you need an iPhone, iPad, mac to access them or if you can just get them by using iTunes. Definitely worth a look :D

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It is difficult to know what to do with regard to further study. I have a feeling that the GCSE course might be a bit rudimentary for more experienced gazers and the university stuff more interesting but requires a lot of time which most of us don't have. Having said that I would like to progress even at my advanced years. I do have to say that I find astro clubs good in this respect by having people in to give talks. You learn a lot but just take in what you need.

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I have been out of school for 30 years, so a more gentle introduction might be appropriate for me, plus with very young kids my commitment at this point may not have to be so heavy in terms of size. I do however intend to taker things much further. If you follow this link on the edexcel website it is possible to look at last years exam paper. I have only had a look through the first few pages, but after a couple of simple questions, they do seem to be getting more into the area where it would be useful to me.

http://www.edexcel.com/quals/gcse/gcse09/Astronomy/Pages/default.aspx

Good to see that there are a few others that find the idea attractive!

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I used to teach GCSE Astronomy (more than 12 years ago!). It has probably changed since, but certainly at that time is was basic astronomy and knowledge about what is out there, and not much Physics. The coursework required some observational astronomy, but there were also opportunities for model building, both physical and virtual. I presume these days the coursework also entails some imaging. It is quite basic, as it is written for 15-16 year olds. The problem is, once one knows about the basics one can't avoid having to deal with some Physics, eg spectra, orbits, etc, which is where the OU and other university departments come in.

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Stand back people, you're looking at a Astronomy GCSE certificate holder (well, actually it's in a drawer somewhere!) :grin:

I decided I wanted to do some formal learning and started with the GCSE, it is intended as the first stepping stone on a bit of life long learning that I hope will end in an OU degree in some form of astronomy. From recollection I think I needed to do the foundation course for the OU before getting on to a degree course but only having a GCSE was no barrier to the foundation.

The GCSE sylabus changed the following year so I can't vouch exactly for what the course will cover (I took the exam in May 2010). When I did it the course covered things like the history of astronomy, the basics of telescope designs and function, types of stars, detailed analysis of the solar system and space travel - amongst other topics. There was a lot of maths - but you don't need to be a whizz at this level. But if you are casting your mind back 25 years to O level maths like me, it might take some time to get the wheels turning again.

I did my course through StarLearner and distance learning. The support was good and the course well organised and they would have helped with organising the exam as well. My son was taking his GCSEs at the same time so I made a deal with his school to let me sit the exam there.

All in all it was really enjoyable, I had been observing for about 5 years when I started but I still learnt an awful lot. I worked at my pace setting aside two hours on a Sunday morning each week to do the work and covered the course and exam in 8 months.

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Thanks Chris, that is not only very useful information, but also exactly what I wanted to hear, unless someone else can come up with a better alternative I think I will go down that route and will see what StarLearner has to offer.

Thanks to everyone else for your useful contributions.

Tim

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Please let me know how you get on, as I'd be interested in doing a similar sort of thing next year! I've just finished A levels and I'd rather do a degree in something space-related than anything else! (I'm also looking at astrophysics, but I absolutely hate particle physics and all the courses seem to be mostly core with an extra module or two!)

Best of luck,

Ginger

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People may find this page useful. Its a link to the distance-learning courses in physics and astronomy run by the OU

http://www.open.ac.uk/science/physics/courses-and-qualifications/courses-and-qualifications.php

Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science: http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/qualification/s10.htm

They also offer a short course: Galaxies, stars and planets (S177)

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I did the GCSE Astronomy course in 2005 - I found it to be an excellent all round course in Astronomy covering virtually all aspects, with a variety of interesting practical projects. There was some maths and physics involved. I took this course at Greenwich Observatory.

I had not studied for forty years and found it quite a shock to the system, but extremely rewarding and challenging and was delighted to come out of it with an A pass.

I thoroughly recommend it.

Carole

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Hi, I think they do the GCSE at the Norman Lockyer Observatory.

Also my son is doing a degree in Observational Astronomy at Glamorgan Uni Pontypridd.

He's just finished the first year and has very much enjoyed it - I wish I could be doing it with him!

He wanted to do Astrophysics but the maths was too heavy.

This course seems to have all the sexy bits of astrophysics without the advanced maths.

He tells me there are a large number of mature students on the course.

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Although it doesn't lead to any qualifications some of the OpenCourseWare at MIT such as this might be interesting or useful.

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Was looking at an open uni astronomy degree as a cheaper alternative to university recently... Not sure how it compares to GCSE, but this site popped up:

http://www.studyastronomy.com/university-certificates.php

Hope this helps someone!

Ginger

I'm starting that one - the cert in astronomy. It's not GCSE though, its a 1st yr uni module.

Though If I change my job it means I will have to defer 'cos I'll be on a 4 week residential course in October, I couldnt manage both.

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Sanmatt - I may PM you some questions if that's ok! - I much prefer the thought of doing a distance learning degree in a subject I enjoy rather than spending another three years doing any of the courses I took at A level!

I presume "cert in astronomy" is the University Certificate, and not the "Entry point" course?

The entry point course says it assumes no prior knowledge of astronomy, which I presume is GCSE level and would be the course best suited to the OPs requirements!

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Hiya

They are the same - entry point and a uni certificate. It's just where most folk start I guess.

I'm happy for you to ask me anything, but I dont know anything, I dont start till October.

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That course looks brilliant! I'm doing Open University maths, with a view to physics, at the moment, and it looks like the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute let you transfer between the two, so I might take a look soon myself... What a great price too.

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