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OCR A level examiners losing the plot?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by alx w, Jan 19, 2011.

  1. I'm trying to get a reality check from other teachers, but is OCR intent on driving colleges away from their exam board? The last few core 1 january papers have been awkward in style to say the least and the core 3 jan paper is just ugly. The maths is not impossible or even particularly difficult but they are quite unaccessible and don't reassure students that they are on the line, due to their lack of elegance. Looking at core 1 I am struggling to see where students at the bottom end (Es and Ds) are expected to get more than a handful of marks without showing an consistent understanding and confidence beyond what I would consider reasonable for a lower end student.
     
  2. I'm trying to get a reality check from other teachers, but is OCR intent on driving colleges away from their exam board? The last few core 1 january papers have been awkward in style to say the least and the core 3 jan paper is just ugly. The maths is not impossible or even particularly difficult but they are quite unaccessible and don't reassure students that they are on the line, due to their lack of elegance. Looking at core 1 I am struggling to see where students at the bottom end (Es and Ds) are expected to get more than a handful of marks without showing an consistent understanding and confidence beyond what I would consider reasonable for a lower end student.
     
  3. DM

    DM New commenter

    I completely disagree. I think Core 1 was bog-standard and several of my students think they got full marks. It was accessible for weak students. Core 3 was quite challenging again but thank goodness for that or everyone will get A*!
     
  4. I agree that Core 1 was very predictable and thought C3 was okay, until I started to look in more detail and realised that all was not as straightforward as I thought. One of my better students (but not a real star) was apparently in tears. She is a bit emotional and I think the style of some of the questions threw her. I would be quite happy if every exam board was equal but I do feel that OCR have thrown in a few wobblers in the last 2 years. For the best students they can cope but I suspect that a small drop in ability will scale up to a large drop in marks. I hope I am wrong. I am under pressure to maintain/improve results and really like OCR/MEI but feel they need to be cautious about the possibility of their exam being harder than that of other boards. Sometimes it seems as if they realise this and make the next exam easier so I hope my students are prepared to pay for re-sits in June
     
  5. Is the paper available online yet? I can't comment but isn't this good?
    The recent C2 edexcel was a shocker. Every question was simply laid on a plate and looked like something from an exercise book topic half way through the exercises. Not very easy, not very hard. They led you into all the questions and left no doubt in what you needed to do.
    Was this one more abstract? Or was it more a case of 'hence or therefore' and 'show that' type of questions were missing?
     
  6. I'm not sure I agree about accessibility for weak students as apart from q1 every question had a little 'tweak' in it. Of course it depends on the mark scheme but many of our weaker students get put off confidence wise when they get stuck half way through a question and I feel this affects their overall performance.
    By tweak I mean things like the following:
    Q5 -x cubed instead of x cubed
    Q6 1/4x weaker students struggled with the 1/4 coefficient
    It felt like that most of the straight forward skills based questions had these tweaks. A mid range/good student would not be affected but our weaker students get thrown by these things, when otherwise they are able to perform these skills. I'm not expecting a cake walk but I think the paper was 5 marks short in terms of grade E candidate questions. I will reserve judgement until I see the results, but there was definitely a down feeling amongst our cohort after the exam. I would say that I thought that it was a little short at the top end as well. I have always liked OCR as I believed it a bit more challenging in style than other papers.
    My criticism of core 3 was that it had some strange weighting of marks and some of the questions were rewarding repetitive process (eg Q 8 b) rather than demonstrating especially strong reasoning of mathematical thinking.
    However helpful to get another perspective as I can look at the papers again in light of these comments.
     
  7. DM

    DM New commenter

    This might sounds a little hard but I really don't think students should be studying A Level mathematics if they cannot cope with -x^3 and so on. The qualification has already been dumbed down to within an inch of its life which is why the vast majority of candidates achieve such high grades.
     
  8. You've got to have some way of distinguishing the great from the good - and even at this standard it doesn't really happen as well as it should. C3 (and C4) are the A* papers and if they have too many 'accessible' marks then the A* students all get squashed up at the top end.
     
  9. Two GCSE tweaks (as per DM post)
    A level maths is for A level capable students.. Combined fractional and negative transformations then maybe but every student sitting the paper *should* be able to deal with such 'problems'
    The edexcel C1 graphing question was lightly more testing
     
  10. My point is not that they 'should' not be able to do some of these things, but that in combination they can have a impact on the confidence of the borderline students. They may be GCSE tweaks, but then the majority of core 1 is a gcse level paper in terms of content if not expected application. My point was not whether they should or could draw -x^3 for example but that it was a tweak from starting say with x^3. Weaker students who may be able to cope with the tweak, but otherwise competent in sketching and transforming, become uncertain of their knowledge and skip the question.
    A level maths is for A level capable students, but many come with a lot to do to get up to speed. Besides I am talking about a grade E here I'm not expecting the whole paper to be too easy, just that there should be a pool of standard questions to put students within touching distance of the pass mark. As such I'd prefer to see a slightly less awkward paper for a pass mark at core 1 with core 2 cranking up the level.
    It feels like over the last 2 years the feel of the OCR core 1 paper has changed and they have less 'standard' questions, instead they are demanding application of more than one skill at once, more frequently. So my observation is in light of previous past papers, but maybe I have just become too familiar with them?
     
  11. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire Star commenter

    I thought the C1 OCR MEI paper from January 2010 was much more challenging that the one from January 2011.
    The tweaks mentioned are ones that have appeared on other past papers and ones that we trained our students to expect and to be able to deal with.
    I was pleased with the paper this year and was relieved that it was more standard than the one a year before.
     
  12. Couple of annoying bits on the Edexcel C3 yesterday

    Not difficult for the A* kids tbh ... just scary for the D kids ... they were the last 2 questions tho so they were expected to differentiate

     
  13. Hope not - C3 is on Monday surely? Or at least that is when my students are expecting to sit the exam. M1 was yesterday.
     
  14. Sorry ... we do edexcel GCSE ... I meant AQA [​IMG]
     
  15. Thank goodness - I thought I was going mad for a minute and had to frantically check the Edexcel website for the exam timetable! [​IMG]
     
  16. On reflection I agree with the above.
     
  17. Hi
    Thanks for your response. I think we will have to agree to disagree on the outlook RE A level maths.
    Re the complexity of a paper. I think over time, on relfection most are pretty consistent, but you do get the odd one here and there!
     

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