Statistics A level at Esher College
A Level Statistics will provide you with a wide range of techniques for understanding and analysing data. These are increasingly important skills in a world of constant change. The emphasis of the qualification is on understanding the implications and limitations of the various techniques in the context of practical situations.
The key idea in the subject is looking at whether or not apparent patterns in data could be the result merely of chance and random variation, or whether the pattern in the data is unlikely to have arisen in this way.
To give a simple example… Suppose you thought a coin might be biased… You might throw it 10 times and see how many throws came down heads and how many came down tails. If it is a fair and unbiased coin, you would expect around half heads and half tails. However, clearly, you would not expect exactly 5 of the 10 throws to be heads every time. Even with a fair and unbiased coin sometimes there would be more than 5 heads and sometimes there would be fewer. Consequently you would be unwise to conclude the coin was biased if you ‘only’ got 4 heads or if you got ‘as many as’ 6 heads. On the other hand if none of the throws landed heads or if all 10 landed heads, then you certainly would conclude the coin was biased, because this is so unlikely to happen just by chance. (In fact the chance of this is less than 1 in a 1,000.)
What you will look at on this course is how many (or how few) heads there should be before you start to say this is unlikely to be just down to chance and random variation, and start to conclude instead that there is something wrong with the coin. This is the key idea of ‘statistical significance.’ This idea is not understood at all well in society in general but is absolutely crucial in making sense of data and taking sensible decisions on the basis of that data. A Level Statistics has this idea at its core.
The course looks at a wide variety of ways to analyse different sorts of data from all sorts of contexts and situations, and in each case looks at whether the data is ‘significant’ in the way discussed above.
There is relatively very little algebra in the course beyond substituting into fairly easy formulas and solving pretty straightforward equations. This makes it very different from A Level Mathematics where virtually the whole course is algebra.
In the first year you will study various topics including graphs and diagrams, sampling, probability, correlation and regression. This will develop statistical knowledge, skills and techniques which are needed in other subjects, such as Biology, Geography, Psychology, Sociology, Business Studies and Economics.
In the second year you will study further topics including sampling and experimental design and probability distributions such as the Normal distribution. This will give an understanding of some more complex statistical measures, as well as their application and interpretation, without needing to know any Pure Mathematics (i.e. algebra based Maths) beyond your GCSE knowledge.
Statistics is a numerical subject which develops your abilities to work carefully and precisely to get to a correct numerical solution and to draw valid conclusions. Statistics questions can be quite long and complicated, and you will need to read and carefully interpret the context of the question and then explain your numerical answers clearly using the correct statistical terminology. However the course does not rely on algebraic skills in the way that A Level Maths does, and there is no need for you to know more algebra than is studied at GCSE.
The minimum entry requirement for study at Esher College is 5 GCSEs at A* - C (or 9 – 4 in Maths and English). We encourage students to aim significantly higher than this to ensure that study programmes are successfully completed.
In addition to the general entry criteria that the College requires, for A Level Statistics our normal expectation is a minimum of grade 5 in Higher Tier GCSE Maths and a minimum of grade 4 in GCSE English Language. You do not need to have achieved the grade 6 in GCSE Maths which is the minimum requirement for A Level Mathematics because A Level Statistics does not involve the level of algebra that A level Mathematics does. GCSE English is important for A level Statistics because you need to do careful analysis of questions involving intricate and precisely worded descriptions of particular situations before writing well worded responses which interpret your calculations accurately and precisely.
The course assessment is entirely through examination.
A Level Statistics is useful for progression into further study of any of the Social Science subjects, as well as Biology, Psychology and Geography. It is valuable in its own right as a numerical subject which demonstrates an ability to work carefully and precisely to get to a correct numerical solution, together with the ability to draw conclusions.
Please note that this subject is in the process of being reformed. The current information reflects what is known about the new course and further details will be available on the website when the specification (syllabus) has been finalised and published.
How to apply
If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Esher College directly.