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Using Examiners Reports / Exam Board Resources

Exam Boards reports Mark schemes;

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#1 Roy Huggins

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Posted 26 April 2014 - 05:45 PM

Hi Folks,

 

I just thought I'd jot down a few notes for colleagues who maybe new to the profession or struggling to improve results, on how to effectively use some of the resources on the exam board websites.

 

When I first completed my PGCE 23 years ago, I was encouraged to read around widely about different strategies for raising standards in the classroom, but no one ever really explained to me the  importance of actually reading the examiners reports.   At that moment in time, the examiners reports came in a rather thick publication, would arrive and be dispatched to the back of filing cabinet in our office, where it  quickly began to gather a lot of dust.  It was only when I started marking for AQA, back in the 1990s that I began to release how important these resources were and started to read them in more detail. I soon learnt how to pick out the many tips, hints and sound advice on how the mark schemes were interpreted and how in turn to improve the performance of our students.

 

Nowadays of course, with the advent of PDF files it has become a lot easier to use and skim read examiners reports and mark schemes and to search them for the specific information that relates to the courses that you teach.  At the same time, it has also become increasingly important to read these documents as we are all required by the new teaching standards to stay abreast of recent curriculum developments. As a caseworker for the NASUWT I have come across several instances of schools disciplining teachers who have made mistakes in marking or submitting coursework for various qualifications. Many of these mistakes could have been avoided by reading the latest specification or examiners reports as human resources were at pains to point out in the meetings that I attended. Therefore, I would urge everyone to stay abreast of recent developments and add reading these reports to their bedtime reading during the summer holidays.

 

As a head of humanities, I don't think it is unreasonable to ask a curriculum leader to produce a short summary of the relevant parts of the examiners report and to identify any key issues that can be fed back to the rest of the faculty / department at the next faculty meeting. I ask people who attend CPD courses to do the same.

 

Kind Regards

 

Roy :jester:


Edited by Roy Huggins, 26 April 2014 - 08:30 PM.

"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#2 Roy Huggins

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Posted 26 April 2014 - 08:57 PM

So how can you successful use the exam board resources past papers, examiners reports and mark schemes, which are often heavy reading to improve results?  :wacko:

 

I suppose the most use obvious use is that they are great for downloading past paper questions and mark schemes  in PDF format and then editing them into AFL packs. It can be fun trying to guess what will come up next year! Back in the old days we had to photocopy bits out of the old examiners reports and cut them out and stick them into some sort of coherent format.  Nowadays, you can copy and paste them into Word or PowerPoint which is so much easier and less time consuming. These reports are often written in a very highbrow language / format so it makes sense to convert them into staff / pupil friendly mark schemes and language in order to make them more accessible. Several examples of these can be found in my seminars on Assessment For Learning.

 

Another greatly underappreciated resource, especially at A Level is the indicative (suggested) content for the essays.  These can often be found in the examiners report or in separate resources depending upon which exam board you use.  This information is invaluable as it gives you a clear idea what the examiners are looking for and the level of detail that you should teach your students.  The indicative content is also invaluable as you can easily convert them with a little editing into revision guides and AFL resources.  I've posted several that I've designed for my AS and A2 students using the brilliant resources on the Edexcel website. Please see below for two examples.

 

When using these sorts of resources with students its great to be able to point out to them the importance of answers that directly address the question, are balanced and make explicit judgements throughout the essay.  They also serve to underline the need for lots of revision and reading around.  :teacher:

 

As an aside, its interesting to note that one of my students noticed that the amount of indicative content provided by one exam board had increased over time.  I pointed out that it emphases the fact that the exam boards are struggling to find enough history specialists to mark the exam papers, so they need to spell out in ever increasing detail what the examiners need to look for.  This is of course to our advantage as we can recycle it in our revision packs.  I might add, it also helps those students who fill in the gaps by blagging in the hope the examiner doesn't notice :devil:

 

Another reason to carefully read these mines of useful information is that Mr Gove has not pulled the plug on the feedback sessions that the exam boards used to run. Some are still running online versions, but they have never appealed to me.  I'm going to miss my day release from school and the opportunity to network and get some really good resources to use with my students. :sad: However, I'm not going to miss the awful food served up some exam boards :sick:

 

 

.

Attached Files


Edited by Roy Huggins, 26 April 2014 - 09:34 PM.

"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#3 Roy Huggins

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Posted 26 April 2014 - 09:25 PM

So to pick up a point from my last post, Mr Gove has pulled the plug on the old exam board feedback sessions so its vitally important to actually download and read the fine print of the examiners reports.

 

Some exam boards also include examples of model answers or marked scripts that are really useful for using with students.  OCR have produced some 'useful' ones for their new and improved GCSE MWH course on the Suffragettes. Model marked scripts or sample answers are great for getting students to have ago at marking a neutral piece of work, but nothing beats using the visualise for beaming some slackers piece of work on the IWB and then get the rest of the class to explain why its a 'E.' :hot:

 

Another invaluable resource on the exam board websites are the interactive tools or result checkers that allow you to analyse the performance of your students on specific questions so that you can identify areas that you need to work on.  I have yet to master OCR's version, but Edexcel is brilliant not just for history but also for other humanities subjects.  I also learnt from a head of science that you can also use these tools to find out how your groups have performed the day before the results are released to the students.  As I'm you all know, the school get the results the day before they are released so that SLT can analyse them.  The exams officer downloads the result from the same interchange, so you can give yourself the heads up before you go in - so I've been told.  I'm looking forward to finding out this year!  :)

 

These interactive tools are also great as a management tool.  A head of humanities can't be a specialist in every subject, but if you want to find out why some subjects are better than others you can use these tools to begin to work out which parts of the courses have been well delivered and those which haven't or the type of questions that your students struggle with.  However, everything has to be set into context, but these tools do allow you to be more forensic in your analysis and to ask more searching questions as to what went well and what needs to be improved.  Never forget Disraeli's saying 'there are lies, dam lies and statistics' - a great quote when looking at the Utilitarians in the 19th Century.  The results trackers are just one of many tools and nothing beats getting the inside track from your colleagues.

 

 

 

 


"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#4 Roy Huggins

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Posted 26 April 2014 - 09:33 PM

So to summarise, the exam boards have a number of invaluable resources and tools that I would urge those who have to explore them to have a good look at.  In the brave new world of accountability we are all expected to keep up to date with the latest curriculum updates and there is no better way than spending a couple of hours have a good read of the examiners reports and the mark schemes.  The past papers, mark schemes and indicative content sections are an also invaluable resource for creating your own customised AFL and revision packs. Finally, the interactive analysis tools that you normally have to sign up for are great for working out which questions you students have performed poorly on.  At the moment Edexcel beat OCR hands down on this one, but in the ever changing world of education, it pays to stay up to date and to regularly check your specification and subject pages for any sneaky changes that could catch you out. :ph34r:

 

Kind Regards

 

Roy :jester:

 

PS How else do other folks use the online resources?


"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

#5 Ed Podesta

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 05:50 AM

Smashing advice here Roy.  Examiner's reports are a great way of getting to grips with the markschemes.  This is especially the case when these schemes are sometimes written in confusing language, or where different levels are differentiated only by words like 'satisfactory', 'fair', 'good' and 'excellent'. 

 

Along with a colleague at my old school we produced a booklet with every past exam question, the markscheme advice for that question and the examiner's comments. It was a great tool for sitting with students and going through feedback.   You could easily show them that the board didn't have a 'right' answer in mind, but show them the kinds of mistakes people made, and how their essay compared to the sort of approach that the board expected to see.


"In the past, philosophers have sought only to understand the world. The point is also to change it." - K. Marx
"Classification is exceedingly tedious" - I. Berlin

 

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#6 Frank Dacey

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 12:11 PM

When I started teaching back in the mid 70s, communication with exam boards was minimal at best and I actually became an examiner when GCSE came in so as to get hold of markschemes and understand the thinking of Chief Examiners. Then the boards started to publish freely mark schemes and reports. It's one of the reasons why exam results have improved over the years, which reflects well on the professionalism of teachers who have carefully analysed these documents, despite them being written, as Roy points out, in rather dense language.

I made a  point of making them available to colleagues and when they came out in PDF form would put them on both staff and pupil shared drives on the school's network. I'd also use both indicative content and examiner reports in course booklets I'd photocopy and in lessons, especially revision lessons. I did feel, however, that indicative content, especially at A level, would often contain mistakes and needed to be approached with caution.

OCR Interchange certainly had results available the day before official publication. You'll need a password, so ask your exam officer for one. Edexcel Results Plus was not so obliging.

 

Frank



#7 Roy Huggins

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 10:44 PM

Hi Frank,

 

I agree you have to be careful with the indicative content sometimes.  You always have to edit it and in places add in some of the content you teach or change some of the language into pupil friendly.

 

I often find that the biggest challenge when teaching Sixth Form is trying to extend their vocabulary which is why I still so my snowballing activities with the key words, even at A2.

 

Kind Regards

 

Roy :jester:


"Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus




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