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AQA A2: Compositional techniques (bach/quartet)

Discussion in 'Music' started by hoildaysrule, Aug 18, 2011.

  1. hoildaysrule

    hoildaysrule New commenter

    Anybody else got lower marks that they were expecting.

    I predicted them A but they got much lower (D) we got excellent marks with this last year just wondered if anybody else had any thoughts.

  2. I haven't seen the AS results yet, but a strong A2 candidate who should easily have got an A only got a B. I read through the report and cannot see any justification for this. His work was excellent on all counts, and if anything went beyond what was expected.

    It's been a similar story every year of this 'new' AQA. Their marking of these units (2 and 5) is arbitrary and completely unpredictable. Not just the Techniques, but Compositions too. I never know which option to advise. The mark scheme is subjective and useless. It's about time they sorted this out!
  3. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Lead commenter

    Anecdotal - but my daughter has showed me her AS results sheet (maths physics French and music). Every single module result is an A grade apart from the unit 2 music: D. Now given that she spends so much time playing an instrument I am finding this odd. I find the comments above about arbitrary and unpredictable marking interesting and will probably suggest she applies for a re-mark.
  4. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    I think that composition is always going to be something of a lottery, but for techniques the markscheme that Edexcel has used for decades produces very reliable results, especially for chorales (although it is fiddly to use).
  5. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Playing an instrument has very little bearing on Unit 2, especially if she took techniques for this unit.

  6. I agree completely. In fact, I use Edexcel's mark scheme when assessing student's practice work. AQA's mark scheme however consists of woolly subjective statements like:

    "30?26 marks:

    ? The piece will be stimulating, inventive and imaginative.

    ? The candidate will demonstrate a firm grasp of, and secure handling of, compositional techniques with a clear understanding of the chosen style.

    ? The writing for the chosen instruments/voices/electronic sound sources will be highly idiomatic.

    ? The expressive features of the music will be immediately apparent to the listener.

    ? Notation will be accurate in relation to pitch and rhythm and contain detailed performance directions appropriate to the music. "
  7. gliss

    gliss New commenter

    Do not bother, since moving from OCR to AQA we have had a nightmare with results, with OCR.......most students achieved a C or above...........with AQA............they are failing........... and every time parents pay for remarks there has never been any movement in marks. Music A2 has become a nightmare for both pupils, parents and teachers - the system seems to belittle musicians but yet they have so much to cover....grammar, essays, analysis, performance and tha variables of moderators, composition in a wide and varied dicipline which is so depedant on who or how it is is marked/moderated.
    In all of my remarks none have suceeded in getting higher marks with AQA......good luck
    Save ur money, talk to her teachers and asses whether ur money is well spent and believe their comments and advice, cos they reallly do know best.
    goodl luck
  8. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Lead commenter

    I take your point. I think she did take techniques for this unit. What would you deem to be the essential qualities/skills needed for success in this module? I am genuinely interested as I have no knowledge of the requirements for the AS Music exam.
  9. Thanks for the reply smoothnewt. The school are being excellent, the remark request went in last Thursday for those who would allow it. The lucky ones who got grades wildly above the school assessment obviously declined.

    Given what is written here and elsewhere the chances of a good outcome from a remark are nil. AQA are acting to discourage remarking so the chances are they'll mark down further "pour encourager les autres".

    The term 'remark' conceals what actually happens. In fact another examiner inspects the marking and decides if he agrees with the first. In any other field that would be considered an absurdity, the only way for the process to have integrity is for an independent examiner to mark the paper without knowing the original. Of course that would reveal the random nature of the marking which couldn't be tolerated.

    Your daughter is fortunate as she is now aware of this before committing to A2. My daughter had other good options after AS but chose music because she loves the subject and assumed that by working hard enough and meeting the goals that were set she could get a good result. What a mistake!
  10. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Ofqual regulations require that an EAR (enquiry about results) is undertaken by a senior examiner (usually the principal examiner for the paper, or at least a team leader). But you are right in saying that it consists of a review of the original marking, not a "re-mark" from scratch.
    If a school is unhappy with the result of an EAR, there are two stages of appeal to the board and - beyond that - appeals can be made to the independent Examinations Appeals Board. Somewhere along that route, I think that work may be re-marked from scratch by the Chief Examiner (using a copy of the script from which all previous markings have been erased), althougth I don't know if that is still the case. You have to be pretty determined to go that far, unfortunately.
    I guess the board would argue that such a person would not have been trained or moderated, so could not be expected to interpret the markscheme reliably.
  11. Thank you for the guidance florian, clearly this is a technical area which is difficult for someone not involved in examinations to learn about quickly.

    I have read about the appeals process and it seems very much as you describe, In principle after a remark the appeals are a review of whether the marking scheme is adequate and whether it has been applied correctly. Reviewing a students mark is not typically part of the appeals process although I suppose that if the appeal found irregularities then they would be addressed.

    My daughter now has the result of the EAR and it has actually gone down. Given that the professional opinion of her teachers is that the mark was already far too low, that these particular teachers are known to be conservative and reliable with marking and that one of them is a respected expert in Bach Chorales - one has to smell a rat.

    I was a bit unclear what I was saying there. I am no expert in examinations but I have a lot of experience of quality control procedures. In any other arena it would be basic good practice for the reviewer to be unaware of the original mark or else they will be influenced. The reviewer can be a trained examiner, but they must work on the original script without marking, which is easy to do in these days of scanned documents. Only that would reveal whether the marking scheme was robust or, as in this case, subjective to the point of being whimsical.
    [ ]
    I feel very strongly that the administration of this module is not fit for purpose and seeing the same inadequacies inflicted on successive generations is very disappointing. 1231 students took AQA music in January and so 1231 students were blighted by the gross and demonstrable incompetence of AQA.

    I have only a sample of six to refer to but two of those have been denied their first choice university by marking failure in this module and I believe strongly that AQA should be held to account. At the very least those students embarking on AQA music should be warned of the risk they are taking with their academic career.

    I have good reason to believe that the school will pursue the appeals process to the fullest extent. They also seem likely to ditch AQA music at the first opportunity and if enough schools did that then maybe AQA would consider their position.
  12. Sorry for the block of text, there were spaces in the post but they don't appear. Also I meant 1231 students had AQA music inflicted on them in JUNE.
  13. I completely sympathise and agree with the other posters who have had difficulties with AQA. Something needs to be done. As I recall, last year, Dizzy Fingers set the ball rolling and tried to organise some of the affected teachers together. Perhaps someone can build on his efforts? Alas, I am not really in a position to do so at present.

    Looking back to last year, I remember the same candidate getting a good A grade for his A2 compositional techniques, but only getting an E on his re-sit of the AS compositional techniques (the reason he re-sat it is because the grade was way below what he deserved the first time around). I don't understand how someone can do significantly worse on an easier paper!?

    There's also things like this:
  14. Crowbob

    Crowbob Senior commenter

    The 290 (23.6%) of students who obtained an A*/A can hardly be said to be blighted and I would say that a significant proportion of those students who obtained A*-B (40%) have not been blighted either.
    Just for comparison sake, 21.8% of those studying Edexcel got an A*/A. No great difference.
    The professional opinion of two markers disagrees with their assessment.
  15. We'll have to agree to differ Crowbob. Achieving a credible distribution of results is not the same thing as measuring performance with reasonable care. Neither does having a similar percentage of A/A* grades imply that AQA apply equal rigour to Edexcel.

    The experience of many competent teachers for the last three years suggests that this music module stands out for producing anomalous results and that fact alone makes it a huge gamble for students who are serious about getting into university - which most of them are.

    Which is the crux. All subjective exams are susceptible to a spread of marking but if an exam routinely results in the same submission giving grades spread over 4 or 5 boundaries then it is unfit for purpose. Boards and schools have a duty of care to students to provide reliable and consistent guidance. For this module such a thing is impossible.
  16. Crowbob

    Crowbob Senior commenter

    I agree, but it is indicative that the module is not as fundamentally flawed as some would suggest.
    The experience of many other competent teachers for the last three years suggest that this music module produces consistent results. It is just that we don't hear about them so much on here.
    So, are you suggesting that schools are failing in their duty of care by entering students into this particular board? Then those competent teachers are not competent teachers, surely. These competent teachers then have a duty to ALL switch from using the board if the results are so unsatisfactory. The fact that they do not suggests that the problem is not as endemic as is being suggested in this thread.
    I am not saying there is not a problem. I am saying that the scope of the problem is somewhat exaggerated on this forum.

  17. As I said before,we'll have to agree to differ.
    The distribution of results indicates nothing about the quality of the exam. I could easily make a random number generator to deliver whatever distribution you like. Ask a mathematician if you doubt it.
    It does not diminish the concern, that many music teachers have not seen anything untoward in other years and have then fallen foul of this module. I suspect that is due more to tolerance of a spread of results from a subjective exam which only draws attention when the outcomes are so extreme that they beggar belief.
    I am indeed suggesting that responsible schools should be warning students that there is a grave risk that good A levels may be seriously affected by including AQA music and that they shouldn't rely on it if they needs specific grades for university. How big does the problem have to be before it's taken seriously? Others have posted links to accounts of this in 2009, 2010 and now 2011.

    If you wish I can put you in contact with two students who have been excluded from their first choice university because of the capricious unpredictability of the composition module. They feel utterly betrayed by a system where they did all that was asked and yet their hard-earned opportunity has been taken from them. That's two from a cohort of six so how many from an entry of 1231?
    Will you tell them that the problem is exaggerated?
  18. The question is, how many of those 290 students actually deserved their A*/A?
    I'm sure that many did, but as I said before, if we know that some people got less than they deserved, it stands to reason that some people got more than they deserved to compensate.

    It's undoubtedly down to which examiner marks the scripts. Some are generous, some are mean. It is all subjective!

    As an example, last year one of my AS candidates got a C in their free composition. Now, they put in very little work, left everything to the last minute, and their composition was basically simple triads, arranged randomly, and not containing anything particularly advanced. They didn't deserve a C in my opinion.
    By contrast, a candidate in the same class got a U for his compositional techniques. This candidate put in a lot of work, did a successful harmonisation with appropriate use of inversions, cadences, unessential notes etc. and deserved to get a much higher mark.

    So, candidate X should have got a U but got a C, Candidate Y should have got a C but got a U. Statistically, there is no difference in the percentage of results. Yet when you get down to it, there is something very wrong with the marking.
  19. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    This is only the second year that AQA have examined techniques at A2, so a pattern is only just starting to emerge.

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