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A level results

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by Sylvia01, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. Just wondered if any other colleagues were feeling saddened/confused by this weeks results. All of my Y13 were down 1 or two grades and the marks for speaking were much lower than I had anticpated. I conducted the exams and felt they had done much better. I'm concerned that out of 5 candidates 4 were compared to the performance of our 1 native speaker and therefore marked down. Does anyone have any similar experiences? The other really disappointing section was the cultural topic essay. I can see from ERA that the content mark has held them all back. I know they would have written in decent French as they had written so many practice essays and i know the standard of their written French was really good. Event 20 years into teaching A level I am really searching for ways to ensure that the students can secure decent marks. Any advice would be appreciated. We currently use lots of Steve Glover's stuff for literature/Zig Zag and Elan resources and in house essay writiing materials. Have used AQA examplar essays to dissect/critique and "borrow" useful phrases. AARGHH!! Can't wait for annual beating up by SLT.

     
  2. I know the feeling Sylvia. We also had problems with the content mark which then messes up the language mark. Having said that, one girl got 38/40 so I'll definitely be requesting a copy of hers! We did so many practice essays yet the vast majority got 11/12 for content. On the native speaker front, at A2 I had 2 who waffled their way through and got almost full marks, whereas others who really knew their stuff and gave an excellent performance got nowhere near.
     
  3. rosaespanola

    rosaespanola New commenter

    Absolutely agree with both posts so far - I also started a thread on this on Thursday. I haven't seen the breakdown of the marks for the paper yet but from what you've said it sounds like the same thing has happened to my student. I've asked for a re-mark - it's devastating because she was going to do languages at uni, it's all she's ever wanted to do and she'd be more than capable of doing it, but she didn't get the grade to get in.
     
  4. I cannot echo these comments strongly enough - I know EXACTLY what you mean!
    I had 2 targets this year: to increase our A* in French and to improve content marks on the essays.
    We have gone from 2 A* down to 1 (out of a cohort of 17), and in spite of multiple strategies and huge numbers of practice essays/clinics/analysis of samples etc etc, our very best candidates cannot get more than 18/25 on content.
    There would appear to be a rather worrying trend in my cohort: the ones I would label as "linguists" do not seem to be rewarded with high content marks. I had 5 candidates this year who are all off to Oxford/Cambridge/Durham/UCL etc with strings of A grades at A2 - they all study essay-based subjects (History, English Literature) and yet they are only getting 16-18/25 on content.
    In sharp contrast, our "medics" who focus on Biology/Chemistry/Maths and then take French as light-relief or out of pure interest seem to be better at getting the marks than our "linguists": 2 medics were awarded full marks in the speaking (they both tend to chatter/waffle/ramble...), and after our cluster of 18/25 on essay content, we had ONE candidate who mustered a 21/25 - and she is a medic.
    I too have been teaching A Level for over 20 years. My own degree was heavily literature-based and taught me how to write essays.Clearly my concept of what constitutes sound practice in essay-writing does not appear to tick AQA's boxes....
    I will be requesting the script of the 21/25 candidate. Would I be in breach of any terms or rules if I uploaded it to the TES resources bank for others to see? (I would ask the candidate for her permission and would leave it anonymous).
    A very-bewildered PJ
     
  5. steveglover

    steveglover New commenter

    I think the language community needs to take this into its own hands and organise a guerilla standardisation session maybe under the auspices of ALL. A common title could be set across boards on something popular like L'étranger or La haine with a title which was a cross between the detailed/personal response and it could be set by willing teachers just before the A levels themselves. The resulting essays could be marked by experienced teachers who are getting consistent results on different exam board criteria. The results of this bac blanc could be compared afterwards with what actual scores they got. This would then, assuming it came up with alarming enough discrepancies, determine which boards were the most inconsistent.
    Even 15 years ago I was starting to get wary of the quality of examiners-not all obviously but we had one oral examiner who in her preliminary "warm up" session with the candidates demonstrated that she had not yet mastered the French direct/indirect object pronoun system. I would think on the content side with the huge discrepancy in whether examiners have read particular books, studied particular films or know particular areas of France it is incredibly likely that there will be wide variations of appreciation of what constitutes relevant content.
    At alevelfrench.com when we have finished the A2 language content we are going to do some detailed work on writing the lit/cinema essays in the styles of the different boards and we will endeavour to get some input from the exam boards to clarify how they see the situation.

     
  6. I couldn't agree more. The less able in the group seem to get better marks than the more able and the less 'literary' than the more 'literary'. Having 15 of the 110 marks restricted by the essay content also throws up totally weird results with weaker candidates scoring the same language mark as someone whose French is miles better quite simply because they somehow scored more on the content bit. We have had 1 A* in 3 years despite some truly excellent linguists. It seems almost impossible to hit the magic 90% as there are so many ways to lose marks on the papers/oral! Compare that with the vast numbers getting A* in Geography/Physics/Maths etc.
     
  7. Totally agree with you. Am still reeling from three years ago when NO-ONE in my group of 11 scored enough marks in the oral to get above a B. Three candidates were all Oxbridge, one of whom now doing Langs at Cambridge and whose interview report from Senior Tutor at Selwyn was positively glowing about standard of her French. Fortunately no one of them were so badly affected that they did not get their A grades overall (because they got full UMS on AS!!)

    Waffling, sounding French seems to be the order of the day. I am particularly occupied by the thought that speakers who think about what they are saying might come across as not using spontaneous speech and are therefore condemned unfairly. As a girls school we often have quietly spoken, reflective speakers and we find that they are very unfairly judged.

    Could we get together somewhere to listen to some of the recorded orals and get them to evaluate the performances as a measure of comparability?

    Julia Whyte
     
  8. Excellent idea, Julia, and it could be done remotely.
    At GCSE I always keep copies of my CAs, but we use an external examiner for AS and A2. Is there a way of getting hold of the recordings of their speakings?
     
  9. That would be a great way forward. We still examine ourselves for the same reason so I would be able to bring files from this and a previous years, along with grades. One of my candidates for French and German A2 this year is going for a remark on all papers, so I look forward to receving the outcome and feedback. I'm a member of ALL but not on committee. Does anyone know who would be the best contact to approach with this matter?
     
  10. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    Likewise, as there have been too many vagaries over the last few years. AQA's refusal to publish the breakdown for the speaking tests, unless you cough up £4 for a copy of STMS, because the marks have to be transferred manually to their database, is laughable. Let's all remember that the examiners are offering their subjective judgment and given what's at stake these days they should be answerable for it. We are after all paying customers.
     
  11. steveglover

    steveglover New commenter

    That truly is shocking with candidates of that ability. There is then a huge discrepancy between boards as the kids I've tutored for WJEC who have external examiners as a matter of course have all achieved above and beyond what I expected of them in the oral at least (B and above)-none of them were anything like Oxbridge material and were genuinely surprised at doing as well as they did.


     
  12. I can see the rationale for teacher-examining, but we have a huge cohort and find that calling an external examiner in for a week (to do all AS, plus all A2, plus any of the A2 cohort who want to resit their AS speaking) is the only feasible way to do the exams......but I am beginning to wonder if we would be better to do them ourselves, if only to have a copy of what is produced so that we can then try to understand the final marks!
    We asked for remarks for several AS speakings last year and they all came back exactly the same (i.e. lower than we had expected). We have generally had more "success" with remarks of units 1 and 3.
     
  13. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    Logistically you have a problem and on other threads I've called for the separation of teaching and examining, so that teachers teach and examiners examine. But, and it's a big but, you have control over what you ask your candidates, and you plan the route through the material with them, at both AS and A2. Having the original recordings does have its advantages.
    I would suggest that you attend one of the annual training events for speaking examiners. Those events are very good, and you can raise your concerns with a senior examiner.
     
  14. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    I've attended one three years ago. Whilst it definitely had useful information and was useful training, it also hasn't made a bit of difference in "predicting" what the outcome of a result would be. By that I mean that I can get sets of results in line with what my training and gut instinct tells me (like this year's AS speaking, which was spot on) or something completely random that has nothing to do with what I thought at the time of examining (like this year's A2 results). Moreover, one year I was slated for applying one of the tips from the training session in my feedback. In the training, we were told that a valid way of "challenging" a student was to ask for clarification of a term they used, yet in the feedback form the examiner took the time to deem that a wholly inappropriate type of questioning.
    I'm going to start doing what someone on the forum suggested, and record the names of examiners in order to be in the position to refuse some and recommend others in future years. I'm just at a loss as to what more I can do!
     
  15. Noemie said:
    "I'm going to start doing what someone on the forum suggested, and record the names of examiners in order to be in the position to refuse some and recommend others in future years. I'm just at a loss as to what more I can do!"
    Excellent strategy! We could even share that information between us.
    What I do find odd is when the same examiner marks all of our AS students fairly, but then a day later marks all of our A2 students harshly.

     
  16. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    I distinctly remember that that the challenge at A2 was to take one of three forms:
    • ask the candidate to explain what he/she means, just as Noemie says;
    • ask the candidate to react to a different view;
    • ask the candidate to speculate, along the lines of "what ... if..."
    Examiners are not gods. I hope Noemie that you complained to AQA.
    An excellent idea, and one that needs your HT's support. I did that about 20 years ago. The board (not AQA) said it could bring in whoever it liked. When the HT got involved, the board backed down straight away.
     
  17. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    Or, as AQA puts it,
    A marker who is either unaware of that or fails to recognise it is not up to the job.
     
  18. marmot.morveux

    marmot.morveux New commenter

    An excellent thread, it would be good to keep this going until the beginning of term - when I will have the complete breakdown of my A2 candidate's scores. I always keep copies of my pupils' orals too.
     
  19. My biggest disappointment was with the grades for the essays as so many of my students got marked down for content and in the practice essays they did in class they were getting the content spot on. I went to an AQA meeting a couple of years back on the writing task and my marks were the same as the chief examiner?s so I don?t understand what has happened. I was also surprised to see on my first day back at work after the holidays a leaflet in my pigeon hole from AQA about a workshop on improving grades in the writing part of the exam costing over £200. I am very tempted to change board as AQA?s lack of consistency is becoming more and more of a problem.
     
  20. You can also go on a webinar - they tend to be after school but are cheaper (100Pound). Saves you going on trains and setting work.....

    I think examiners are told to be harsh when they mark AS - a few of my high-flyers in AS got around 10 for content. The marking often seems quite random - my theory is that the good students find it hard to get an A whereas the weak students get Ds more easily.....
    I went to an AQA meeting and none of the teachers agreed with the chief examiner's marking....who then kind of agreed with the teachers that the marking wasn't quite right (he almost got lynched)
    The boards are all pretty rubbish.

     

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