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OCR GCSE controlled assessment new task - look too tough

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by olivero, Sep 13, 2014.

  1. Having had a look at the three OCR Computer science GCSE A452 practical investigation tasks that have just been re-released on interchange following last year's cheating fiasco, I'm seriously considering switching to another exam board for my new year 10s:

    One task is based around raspberry pis and Linux - that has issues around how lots of students can use pis in the classroom, and all of this is not something we have looked at before

    One task is based around writing assembler code in LMC - way too hard for weaker students IMHO.

    The other task depends on appinventor, and my previous dabbling with this has left me with no confidence that it is stable enough on a school network (which they even admit themselves). It doesn't even work very well on my home computer.

    I'm interested in the views of others facing the same issues...
  2. madcat

    madcat Occasional commenter

    So nothing new here then . The exam board remains totally out of touch with the world of their customers (notice the terminology)

    Surely the programming tasks should be very generalised.

    " Solve this programming problem using the text based language of your choice"

    Not use this specific piece of technology to do this.

    As I stated at the start , never forget you are the customer, if it were me I would "shop" elsewhere.
  3. gavcradd

    gavcradd New commenter

    I take issue with virtually everything the two posters above have said. First of all, the tasks detailed above are the "investigation" tasks, NOT the programming tasks - madcap says that it should be open to all programming languages and this IS actually the case with A453. I do wish that people criticising and commenting actually had some experience of the course, or had at least read and understood the new tasks.

    Secondly, the three A452 investigation tasks are focused on Appinventor, Linux and LMC... Exactly the same as three of the old projects!! If these are too hard, last year's projects would also have been too hard.

    Thirdly , as for lower ability students... a C grade on either A452 or A453 needs just over half marks and if you have a look at the marking scheme, the grade descriptors for half marks are very fair, talking about SOME elements of the project working and SOME understanding shown. If Olivero is saying that his/her low ability students won't be able to get A or A* grades, then I reckon OCR have done a good job then! This isn't the OCR Nationals. In my opinion, a C grade is very much achievable for the majority of students on both projects with good teaching.

    Fourthly, the A453 projects in my opinion are slightly EASIER than the equivalents last year. Rather than having 3 separate tasks, they build on each other, so you actually have 3 stages of one solution rather than 3 problems. The speed check one for example does this very well, and I'm already thinking I can concentrate heavily on string manipulation and nail this quickly.

    Fifthly(?), if you think the AQA one is any easier, think again!
    teknoteacher likes this.
  4. keylocker

    keylocker New commenter

    Give it about 3 to 4 weeks. I am 200% confident that every teacher and every student across the UK and beyond doing any of these OCR tasks will find the solutions to all of them using bit torrents, swapped in the student room forums, the usual newsgroups, the dark web portals and via private messaging services. Just a little bit of searching around (maximum 3 minutes) and problem solved, and there is not one single thing that OCR, or any other exam board, or OFQUAL (the self-proclaimed, official, ROFLOL "Guardian of standards") can do about it.

    All controlled assessments are a sham and need to be stopped now. It is impossible to keep them fair and they are not a reflection on students' abilities. Far from it.
    spam66 likes this.
  5. Gavcradd, I was only talking about A452 - I am fairly happy with the A453 tasks.

    I agree that the 3 A452 tasks are on a similar line to last year's, but the fact that there were 6 back then meant we could avoid them. I rather liked the encryption task because it has a more gentle lead in which my weaker students could attempt - I'm certainly not bemoaning the fact that they would not be able to get an A.

    My problem is that appinventor is not stable enough, pis are not easily used for a whole class, and writing programs in LMC is just too hard to fathom for the weakest, which leaves me nowhere to go on A452.
  6. keylocker

    keylocker New commenter

    "My problem is that appinventor is not stable enough"

    Absolutely! We have attempted twice to teach this in the past as a Year 9 unit, but have never successfully done so. It just will not consistently work on our network and I hear the same from other schools. So why have OCR stupidly gone ahead and written a task for unstable software?

    "pis are not easily used for a whole class". Who on earth decided at OCR to write a task that was so equipment specific? My school cannot afford Pis and all of the other associated bits and pieces you need, and even if we could get hold of a class set, we have no working areas we could use them and no time to keep setting them up and putting parts away.

    "writing programs in LMC is just too hard to fathom for the weakest, which leaves me nowhere to go on A452." This is the only option for schools such as mine and you are right. It's not really do-able for the weak ones. Personally, I've never liked LMC but now, it's either do this or move on.

    OCR need to sort this controlled assessment business out. They're clearly an organisation with a department in chaos. Someone needs to go into the area responsible for Computing and work out what has to change to mend this dysfunctional team.
  7. OCR don't care. They only have to ride the storm out for 2 more years then the spec changes. They know we are not going to move to AQA and Edexcel is still a baby. They are happy and who can blame them.
  8. gavcradd

    gavcradd New commenter

    Keylocker (and anyone else that obviously hasn't read the A452 tasks) - there is NOT a specific Raspberry Pi task. The task focuses on Linux, which can be done using a Raspberry Pi if needed, or on any other computer. I suggest you get a virtual machine installed on your Windows PCs, dual boot some of your machines or even revive any old laptops / etc that you might have lying around for this purpose. All of these are viable solutions that don't involve Pis.

    But hey, what do I know, I've only actually downloaded and read the new tasks.
  9. keylocker

    keylocker New commenter

    Sadly, I have read the tasks. The Linux task was clearly written with a Pi in mind. Schools such as mine don't have class sets of old laptops lying around, and the space to use them and resources to ensure they kept charged up and maintained properly between classes and between students, and neither can we just reconfigure computers to be dual boot without a lot of planning, testing and agreeing amongst various parties. Our computer network is set-up, maintained and controlled by an external company.

    This course has lost the plot. The controlled assessments seem to be determined to go off on its own little tangent of academia, without any regard to the practicalities that exist in schools and the types of students we have to get through courses. Someone at OCR needs to get a grip of this idea.
  10. djphillips1408

    djphillips1408 New commenter

    Why is anyone installing app inventor, the web based version 2 works fine and dandy. My technician got the emulator running on our network in 5 minutes and it's perfectly stable.
  11. keylocker

    keylocker New commenter

    Bully for you.
  12. BrianUK

    BrianUK New commenter

    App Inventor 2 works perfectly fine on our network too and it is also very stable. We tend not to use the emulator as it takes for ever to load up.
  13. danlee

    danlee New commenter

    App inventor, even the old version works fine. In your case you have poor infrastructure and a poor managed service. This is a case of tail wagging the dog, it isn't OCR's fault. I do agree that the a452 tasks are harder, the app now has to store data. However, I have done the old one and a453 looks so easy especially the arithmetic one. 20 hours? My class could do it in 5.

    Best way to proceed to to make a formal complaint to OCR, that's what I'll do about the new app inventor.

  14. keylocker

    keylocker New commenter

    You may be right about the tail wagging the dog. However, you are wrong to say it is not OCR's fault with respect to these tasks.

    Teachers have to deal with the reality of the network, hardware and software they have in their place of work. We all know that in some cases, in many cases, what schools have is not perfect by a long way and that is the reality. This will not change overnight just because OCR see fit to release tasks like these. Maybe schools can change but that is not going to happen in many schools, and certainly not overnight. That is the reality. Controlled assessments should be hardware and software independent. It is crazy, irresponsible and poor qualification management to make one or more of these assessments so specific that they must be done using this software or that hardware, with an implied appendage that says schools must nip out and buy a better managed network, or reconfigure computers so that certain software titles work, or build another room so they can set up equipment for different classes. That is not dealing with the realities that many ICT / Computing teachers find themselves in. That is why OCR are negligent here. They are writing tasks for schools in Nirvana, not writing for schools in the 21st century.

    I hate with a passion this non-sensical form of "assessment", where no one can guarantee that students or teachers aren't cheating in them like there's no tomorrow. However, if you are going to use them, then they must be set as problems that need a solution, not problems that should be solved using this software or that hardware. Teachers can then use whatever hardware and software they have, and they are best at knowing what works and doesn't work on their own network. They are also best at working with the software and hardware they know, and will resent greatly being forced to get to grips with yet another piece of software, language or hardware on top of all the other ever-increasing sh11te they are being asked to do, just because OCR didn't think through the consequences of writing assessments that are not of the 'problems that need a solution' variety. And remember, many ICT teachers are still making that transition to Computing.

    As I said, I'm sure that in a few weeks all the solutions will be bandied about the Internet in the usual places. Then we'll all be back to square one again. Perhaps when OCR have to rewrite the tasks for a second time, they'll think it through properly next time.
  15. Just to add to Keylocker, to use App inventor you have to have a gmail account. My school does not allow the use of GAE because of the safety issue. By not using GAE, the pupils use their own gmail account. How am I supposed to monitor the CAs, if I can't stop them going on App inventor at home then they are breaking CA rules and I am responsible. OCR should have known this, but I really don't think they care.
  16. keylocker

    keylocker New commenter

    You are right of course.


    Anyone using AppInventor will be breaking the JCQ rules on administering controlled assessments. These can be found here:


    Take your pick of which rules you will break (there are quite a few) by using the AppInventor + Gmail combo, for example, from section 4.3:

    When work for assessment is produced over several sessions, the following material must be collected and stored securely at the end of each session:

    • the work to be assessed;

    • preparatory work.

    Additional precautions need to be taken if the centre permits candidates to use computers to store preparatory work and/or word process their work for assessment (see page 15).

    The centre is responsible for establishing and implementing procedures to ensure that:

    • all work which will be assessed is completed under formal supervision;

    • candidates are not able to access preparatory work between supervised sessions.

    A few basic, GCSE Business Studies level, beginner manager type questions early on about whether these tasks meet the rules framework would have highlighted this very serious flaw in this task. OCR will not listen. They never listen. These tasks have clearly not been put through a formal process of quality control, to ensure they meet all relevant requirements. Rushing through new tasks, cutting corners leads to disasters. This is one for the illustrious Guardian of Standards, whose name is so sacred it cannot be mentioned here. Their email address is here:


    If enough people complain to the illustrious Guardian of Standards, asking why OCR are producing tasks that cannot be done without breaking the JCQ rules, they may (admittedly, it's a small chance) just spring into action and ask OCR to give clear advice to long-suffering teachers exactly how this should be done in a way that doesn't break the strictly enforced (cough) JCQ rules.

    Please write to the illustrious Guardian of Standards and complain.
  17. Forgive my ignorance BrianUK, but if you don't use the emulator, how do you run the program? Are you viewing it on an android device, or can you run it within the browser without the emulator?
  18. MrIT

    MrIT New commenter

    I am with the OP and others on this:

    App Inventor task - technicians won't allow on our network (kids aren't allowed to have Google accounts in school/Chrome is too unstable etc etc.)

    Pi task - again issues with administering the hardware for such a task is unrealistic.

    LMC task - too tough.

    Not sure where to go from here but it looks like it will be LMC.
  19. keylocker

    keylocker New commenter

    It's interesting to see the Guardian of Standards consulting on the next GCSE Computer Science course (and other courses):


    You only have a week to add your own views.
  20. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    You seem to have a real obsession with people cheating with controlled assessments (ironic as you were the one making a thread openly admitting you actively ignored exam board rulings). I did a quick look for the A452 / A453 tasks and couldn't find anything. Perhaps you'd be kind enough to share where these supposed 'completed assignments' are?

    The new spec is a LOT harder than the old one. We did App Inventor last year (took a lot of fiddling to get it working) and this is much much more difficult. Last year was essentially following a few guides step-by-step, with a bit of theory and then a task at the end which required more independent work. This time there's no link to guides, just an expectation to build a few apps from the ground up. Some of my weaker students are really going to struggle just getting started with this.

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