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GCSE Board Comparison

Discussion in 'Drama and performing arts' started by poppycarew, Sep 2, 2010.

  1. I'm looking at alternative boards to EdExcel for both GCSE and A Level. I would be very grateful for any comments from colleagues on AQA/WJEC/OCR specs.
    I've glanced at the GCSE syllabus for all three, and it looks to me as though a large amount of assessment for WJEC GCSE takes place between February and May, which puts a lot of pressure on students when they're working towards deadlines for all their other subjects.
    I can't find the timings for OCR assessments, and it seems as though the AQA syllabus allows more flexibility in running assessments throughout the course.
    I'm concerned by the negative comments that have appeared in several threads about the inconsitency of AQA moderation and exam results, although EdExcel seems far worse.
    Finally, I really want out of EdExcel now. Is it possible to teach another board to this Year's cohort (both GCSE and A2)?
    Again, any advice welcome. Both A level and GCSE results were terrible, all students failed to meet their target and estimated grades, and I need to do something positive now.

  2. Not to A2. I guess if you're quick and organised enough I guess you could for Y11. I must admit, I've been through this several times. I like AQA but worry about the written paper. I like WJEC as an exam board but find the spec too prescriptive. Hard choices I know. :(
  3. thingwall

    thingwall New commenter

    I've switched to OCR for GCSE. My last Year 11 with Edx got marked down at P1 by the usual (3 years now) 10 marks. Doesn't matter what you do there. However I was going to start AQA with my new Year 12 (don't have any Year 13 this year) but the Year 13 with EDX last year was ok (apart from one failure to add a mark properly - quickly put right this year) and I was so put off by the prescriptive nature of AQA at the meeting I went to that I'm going back to Edx for Year 12 despite their fiasco last year!! I still dream about EDX Curriculum 2000 - the best A Level exam I ever taught.
  4. GCSE drama.Take it as a given that teachers will complain about examiners and moderators. However you will notice that there are always far more complaints about Edexcel. With Edexcel the teacher has far less control over the coursework marks than with AQA. The process of Edexcel coursework moderation seems impenetrable and inscrutable and above all difficult to forecast. With AQA I know exactly what my students' coursework marks will be. If you are canny and careful it is possible to ensure that students get the marks you want - the moderator only sees two groups (three when there more than 50 candidates) and does not assess students rather they assess the standard of your marking.
    Some teachers are put off by AQA's written exam. Don't be - there is far less total written work than with Edexcel. I spend the final 8 weeks of the course coaching the students as to how to do well in the exam. I always do 'performances seen' and go through key scenes in detail. They do lots of practice essays. Edexcel's final exam is practical - with an outside examiner; so much more difficult for the teacher to control the outcome. It is much more abritary and students are subject to the likes and dislikes of examiners. If they mess up it's fatal!
    If, even after lots of careful preparation, a student messes up their final AQA written exam the outcome is not so terminal. AQA weight the overall marking of the course towards the coursework.
    Two things that are certain: first 75% of AQA candiates get a grade C or above but only 65% of Edexcel candidates get grade C or above: second, it is far easier to get an A* with AQA than with Edexcel. Check the figures out for youself if you don't believe me.
    You're right - AQA allows for far more flexibilty than Edexcel.
  5. Something that I forgot to mention is that there is a very clear philosophical difference between AQA GCSE and Edexcel GCSE. AQA is clearly about theatre and performance. Edexcel on the other hand mixes what might be termed 'drama as an educational and explorative medium' and performance. Edexcel also seems to concern itself with the 'exploration of issues' whereas AQA does not. Edexcel seems peculiarly old-fashioned given the way things are developing with BTEC and with Performing Arts exams. It is also far more prescriptive than AQA..
  6. I agree. When I looked in detail at the grade boundaries I was struck at much fairer they are for AQA. My question is -why is there such a disparity?
  7. <font size="3">Dear &lsquo;Mariawa&rsquo;</font> And they all lived happily ever after. I bet you anyhing that the respective grade C pass rates for AQA and Edexcel's new specs are exactly the same ie 75% and 65% or maybe I'm just an old cynic.
  8. That's a really interesting post, Ralf. I didn't realise that there was 10% between the two boards. I've always stuck with Edexcel as the spec I like best but I must admit I'm getting tired of it now. It's the external examining that you mentioned that is the big issue. It can be fair, and when it is I think Edexcel is a great board, but when it's not it makes me wonder whether it's worth it. Do you teach A level AQA as well?
  9. Hi 'crunchynut'

    I don't teach 'A' level - in my area secondary schools stop at year 11.
    I've rehashed my last contribution; the web site seems to have compressed what I wrote and taken all the paragraphs away thus making it difficult to read. Hopefully this attempt will make it easier to read.
    The resepective grade C pass rates were:
    SEG 85% AEB 65%
    <font size="3">NEAB 55% All 3 exam boards had very similar cohorts of candidates. Pity the poor students taking the NEAB exam!
    But in fairyland all was not well! The ex-SEG AQA specification still had a grade C pass rate of 85% while the other half of AQA, the ex NEAB spec had a grade C pass rate of 55%. The types of candidates taking both exams were pretty identical but the ex-SEG exam was 30 percentage points easier. Not fair you may say! Something had to be done! This was to continue until parity was reached at about 70%. Except they changed their minds and the ex-SEG spec stopped at 75% and the ex-NEAB spec stopped at 65%.
    <font size="3">Then around the year 2000 the evil wizards at the department of education decided that there should be fewer drama GCSE exams. AQA now had to produce one exam &ndash; the new specification (now called the old one.) The ex-SEG spec and the ex-NEAB spec were to disappear to be replaced by a new one. AQA decided that the new spec would be administered from Guilford, the home of SEG, rather than Harrogate, the home of NEAB. The &lsquo;new&rsquo; exam was in fact a rehash of the old SEG spec and guess what? The grade C pass rate was still 75% even with the addition of a written exam. This miracle was achieved by AQA examiners marking the work accurately but the computer wizards at the castle in Guilford setting the grade boundaries for the written exam ludicrously low. I bet you anyhing that the respective grade C pass rates for AQA and Edexcel's new specs are exactly the same ie 75% and 65% or maybe I'm just an old cynic.

  10. japonica892

    japonica892 New commenter

    I have only ever taught AQA and have at time to time toyed with the idea of changing boards due to the difficult written exam......however having looked into the other boards I find the practical exam (as said above) more difficult to judge the outcome.
    The legacy spec was notoriously hard at the written exam however it was only 40% and I found that because I knew what my pupils had got for their coursework I would spend from March to May on exam practice.

    The new exam is much 'easier' as it is based on their performance and a seen play. The spec also allows you to enter pupils for the written exam in Year 10 and hold their marks until they complete their coursework. If they don't do very well they can re-take and the best mark is used. I did this this year and was pleasantly surprised with the result as over 50% achieved A or B and only 2 got less than a C.

    I am also a moderator for this board and have in the past marked exam papers so I know what to coach my pupils on. Moderators are well trained and moderated themselves annually and although (from experience) I know their can be 'rogue' ones on the whole they want the best for your pupils and yes they do not assess the pupils as such but your marking of them.

    I would not leave AQA as I feel even if the pupil is not so academically inclined if they have decent performance marks they do well.
  11. thingwall

    thingwall New commenter

    Interesting correspondence. I'm terminally out of sorts now with Edx at GCSE but in my last school I did AQA and the written exam lay waste to lots of my C grades.So it's OCR for me now. The other big difference between the boards in terms of style is that AQA does attract schools/teachers who like written exams in drama. I don't mind them but not to the degree that AQA do especially at A Level. Ah for the halycon mid-90s and the 100% practical teacher-assessed SEG Gcse or was that a dream?
  12. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread. Your comments have been really helpful. I don't want another year like this for my students and me, and after a couple of miserable days in school I've decided to go immediately with AQA for both GCSE and A Level. It means I'll have to look at how to get my Year 11s through this year with a different syllabus, and I'm taking a huge risk, I think, but I hope it's going to pay off. Any more advice from any colleagues would be greatly appreciated.

  13. japonica892

    japonica892 New commenter

    I really think you will be able to do it in one year.......get pupils to keep a log of their rehearsals and approaches they use. The AQA website has some exemplar stuff and I am sure will now have this years exam question. I can't comment on A level as we don't teach it at our school but GCSE is very user friendly. You o longer have to do one scripted piece and one improvised it is their 2 best marks that are put forward and pupils can now work with a minimum of 2 as opposed to previously when it was 3. Contact AQA asap as you will have to go on standardisation but any queries feel free to ask!
    Good Luck
  14. Thank you. That's really encouraging and helpful!
  15. Anyone do OCR for GCSE? It looks good just from reading the spec. I am so angry with Edexcel for their treatment of the students this year (both at GCSE and A Level) but I really hate the idea of a written exam. Also am so worried about the new mark scheme for Edexcel GCSE - the students just don't seem to have a chance to get As and A*s with the way that its marked - there are grade bundarie son the website which seem reasonable but I am afraid that these will be shifted up next Aug (in that usual inconsistent Edexcel manner!)
    Are there any other exam boards that don't have a written exam for AS? As far as I can make out they all do.Any advice on finding and reasonable and consistent exam baord would be much appreciated.

    I am also concerned that there will be a backlash next year with Edexcel A2 - thsi year my students did really well with the new syllabus but am worried that because everyone did well they will be much harsher next year... is this something that has occurred to anyone else?
    Cheers x
  16. "With AQA I know exactly what my students' coursework marks will be. If you are canny and careful it is possible to ensure that students get the marks you want - the moderator only sees two groups (three when there more than 50 candidates) and does not assess students rather they assess the standard of your marking."

    I'd be careful what you say there Ralfhoisterdoister! Although you have just confirmed my suspicions about AQA. Rather dishonest.
    There needs to be much more consistency about how the GCSE and indeed A2 courses are ALL marked and moderated. I agree with the point about secrecy inside examboards though - just what are they up to each year????
  17. I didn't mean to suggest that exam boards are dishonest; I don't think they are, but they are secretive. AQA GCSE is consistent and predicatble there fore it is easy to predict. There is also a flaw at the heart of their moderation process which works in favout of canny teachers. The fault is two fold: first the moderation sample is much too small - as few as 6 per 50 candidates and as few as 9 for more than 50 therefore you can't possibly have a representative sample. Secondly the teacher picks the sample - the teacher can choose who the moderator sees and does not see.

    Sometimes when I read of teachers getting poor results with AQA I feel I should run a course in the black arts of legally manipulating the process to get the best results for students.

    I once worked for a now defunct board in which the moderator picked the candidates according to a statistical formula and the sample was much bigger - I think it was 20% of the group.
  18. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    You could also consider BTEC.
  19. japonica892

    japonica892 New commenter

    mmmm is it the exam boards that are dishonest or the teachers???? AQA asks for a sample including the highest and lowest ability...do you mean 'being canny' is not being truthful about your highest and lowest marks??? surely there is a moral issue here?
    I agree that with the teacher picking the sample it does lay your marking open to manipulation but surely that is down to the integrity of the pupils...I always put forward a true sample of my pupils but also believe the majority of moderators want the best for the pupils they watch!
    Am I being naive...should we be manipulating our sample?
  20. japonica892

    japonica892 New commenter

    sorry I meant integrity of the teachers!±

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