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AQA B AS English Literature Results 2011

Discussion in 'English' started by ClarenceEmsworth, Aug 27, 2011.

  1. We've just received another really poor batch of results - all because of very weak exam paper scores. This happened last year, too. We brought in a senior examiner, coached the candidates assiduously on aspects of narrative and entered an extremely bright crop of students. I've been teaching A Level for donkeys' years and under any old syllabus we'd have a large crop of As and Bs. My instinct is that really bright students may struggle with the very reductive nature of the unit. We'll certainly be looking to change boards, but need to do the right thing for this year's students.
    Has anyone else found similar problems? I feel in a bit of a vacuum here, and would like to know if it's just us, or whether there is a fundamental flaw somewhere. The A2 exam results are excellent, by the way.
  2. The same thing happened to us a couple of years ago.
    Bright students did badly for no apparent reason. On reflection - and after reading what you say - I wonder if it was because they went beyond the mark scheme and the examiner/marker was unable to award marks for what they'd written. It took ages to sort out, the exam board eventually put the marks up but only after a very vicious and time consuming fight.
    We moved to Edexcel, and, fingers crossed, have had no problems since.
    Indicentally, the AQA spec awards a higher proportion of marks for AO4 than other boards do and I think that students aways struggle with this AO, especially at AS.
  3. This is our experience too :( We are a very large and experienced Dept and for the third successive year, students have done badly. We have two Lit groups this year, so very hard to suspect teacher error. We are seeing students with A in their coursework, receive an E in the exam. These are very bright students, whose coursework was strictly moderated. We too are considering an urgent move to Edexcel - have lost faith in AQA now. (Not taht that is much comfort for the new Yr 13s.) I've explored getting an examiner is, but the price is exorbitant and I am less than convinced that they will be of any use.
    Sorry to be so gloomy, but good to know that it isn't just us.
  4. Thanks for this - even if it is dispiriting!
    Any other experiences?
  5. Same here. The first class that we put through it did generally badly, including re-takes, with one or two exceptions. They were a mediocre group though so we weren't unduly concerned. Then the same thing last year with brighter classes, including fast-track Year 11s. Last summer I was accepted as an examiner for that paper, giving me a better insight into the requirements. I won't be examing for them again though - the marking was harsh in my view, with too much assumption that because it's an open book exam students ought to do better.

    This summer, with that experience behind me, I prepared two more classes as thoroughly as humanly possible, drilling them in narrative method, the AOs, and showing them numerous sample answers. Once again, a smattering of A grades but even the very brightest tended to get B at best on the paper itself and others were getting Ds and even Es, thus dropping to C overall. Two papers have been re-marked so far but shown no improvement.

    The A2, conversely, seems to be marked much more leniently, probably because it's closed book. It also gives candidates more freedom to explore texts in their own way rather than stick to the more formulaic language,form, structure mantra of the AS. One student who scraped a B at AS, then re-sat in Jan and did worse, finished up with an A*, and others improved their grades. The trouble is, of course, that others have already dropped the subject, understandably discouraged.

    The main suggestion I would make is to teach the less popular texts. I caught myself marking answers on the likes of Gatsby and Hardy more strictly, and the board themselves have commented that 'God of Small Things', for example, has yielded some fine results. I suspect that examiners are more inclined to assume that a candidate has made a good point if they are less familiar with that particular aspect of that text. Our best and most surprising result came from a student who ignored my advice to do Hardy in Section A and chose 'Ancient Mariner' instead. She ended up with the A which eluded some far brighter students who had done as they were told...
  6. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    I don't think that's surprising, actually. It's far easier to hit the AOs very obviously with poetry in Section A than with prose IMO
  7. It's Hardy's poetry, not one of the novels. Those were my thoughts exactly, but I think the examiners just see too many Hardy answers in general.
  8. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    I beg your pardon. I used to get a lot of identikit answers on 'Mariner' at A2, so maybe your student had an original take on it?
  9. manc

    manc New commenter

    I'm very dispirited with this paper. I've taught it since it came in. We always do badly on it in Yr 12. I think (a) it's much too difficult for AS, and should be an A2 paper, if it's anything, and (b) I'm suspicious about this whole AS business (and I mean that literally) in which resits are paid for, and often the results are much better in January. This happens so often, it makes me think that there's some sort of racket going on. Bit like the driving test where about 50% of people fail, and then have to pay to re-sit.
    Good advice about the less popular texts. There's information overload on Joyce and Hardy so that you can't see the wood for the trees often.
  10. My daughter gained an A in her coursework and an E in her exam! We were so shocked as she had been predicted an A and had hoped to study English at uni. The English teaching at her school is excellent (the sixth form having just been awarded another outstanding by ofsted) yet she learned yesterday that several of her peers who were also predicted high grades are in the same boat. This seems so unfair. We are not even sure whether it is worth applying for uni this year as she has come out with a C overall. Remark not back yet but we are not holding out much hope.
  11. We sent for two re-marks immediately to test the water. (Students who gained A*s at GCSE.)
    The paper out of 84. One went up by 1 mark. The other went up 20 marks. (Yes, 20).
    Totally lost faith in AQA. We have moved to Edexcel as of tomorrow.
  12. fishtail

    fishtail New commenter

    We have had problems with AQA for several sessions (as have other local schools). This year's results still seem odd, though A2 is excellent--and we have two examiners on the team, so it's not that we don't know how to hit the AOs.
    It has been suggested that the popularity of this spec. has led to AQA having trouble finding markers and consequent inconsistency in results. We have certainsly found that re-marks can bring dramatic improvements.
  13. manc

    manc New commenter

    I agree. I think some of these markers don't know what an A* essay looks like, and may never have experienced one in their own teaching experience. So what do they do? Obsess about the reductive parameters of the mark scheme, and play safe.
  14. I teach and mark this module (started marking to try and gain insight into poor results). I think the main problem lies with the exam itself - students have to do three differently-focused essays in two hours, and the assessment objectives are fiddly, meaning that much is deemed irrelevant in candidates' responses.
    I marked a couple of hundred papers this summer and was surprised by how few high marks I was able to award - yet the marks in my initial sample were reduced. I like teaching the course, but I don't think the exam, or the mark scheme, give students the opportunity to demonstrate their potential at this level.
  15. manc

    manc New commenter

    I totally agree with you there. Perhaps I was maligning the markers unfairly. Your point comes back to the OP's point that the AOs are 'reductive', and my own comment that the exam is too hard for AS.
  16. We have had terrible results as well.

    I know an AQA person often replies to threads that mention AQA... Where are you now?!
  17. Again, a very similar story here. A grade candidates gaining U's, all too familiar! We are considering moving boards because of Unit One. The ridiculous mark difference between ability and result doesn't seem fair on the students or the teachers who work so hard for them. It is heartening to see we are not the only ones, it has been depressing trying to work out where we are going wrong each year and still gaining the same low results.
  18. CarolineEm

    CarolineEm New commenter

    Has anyone else gone for remarks? If so, with what results? Just trying to make the best decision for the students...
  19. We've just received all of the photocopied scripts back, and frankly I'm disgusted. One top candidate who is on for three A *s in his other subjects and is a superb Oxbridge candidate received a Band 2 (out of 6) for his long essay. The marking throughout consists of a few ticks over pretty obvious words (simile, first-person etc) and a brief generic comment at the end, with no indication as to why the Mark was awarded and no bracketed ticks or indication of repetition, irrelevance etc as is required by the Mark scheme.
    Another student, writing on Browning, touched on the pseudo-third person narrative, the dissociation of narrative voice, the foreshadowing imagery, the discordant rhyme scheme suggesting mental instability, etc etc. He forgot to mention that the poem was set in a hut, however, and so received a Band 3 ("some understanding"...).
    I could go on, but might veer into libel.
    The point is this. We can accept some variation, and can agree to disagree with the odd Mark, but this marking is so far out of kilter that, even if the remark rectifies the errors, students have had their Oxbridge hopes shattered and their confidence shaken. SURELY someone at AQA should have noticed the glaring discrepancy between the estimated grade sheets and the outcomes. I can only hope that AQA are honest enough to accept the errors, and don't hide behind the iron chains of the mark scheme. Exams are to SUPPORT students' learning, not provide a barrier to it.
    Rant over; time for a stiff drink...
  20. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    I don't know how this works, but markers don't know the estimated grades - we don't even know which school we are marking.
    I write essays on mine (space left by candidate permitting). I can't access the June paper (which I didn't mark) as it's on the secure site still, but I wonder how closely your candidates focused on the question. In the new spec, no marks will be awarded for any deviation from close focus. Someone described this as 'reductive' and whilst this may be true, it's how the papers are marked.


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