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What do you have to do to get an A*?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by tattyb, Aug 18, 2011.

  1. or even an A for that matter?
    A2 essays content marks much lower than expected. I thought they were well prepared. They came out feeling good about it. They had practised the essay before (by fluke, although there are only so many htings they can be asked) and still nobody got in the top band for content.
    A2 speaking also no-one higher than a B, and some of them were so fluent and really surprised me with what they came up with. These are only A Level candidates for gods sake, what do they want from them???
    This is AQA by the way. I can only think that you have to be a native speaker to get the top grades these days in German. Anyone agree?
    I just don't get it. I even have years of practice as an an examiner for the old lit paper on AQA, so would have though i an barking up the right tree with what i am teaching my kids.
    I'll have to get the photocopies i think, but would feel compforted if i wasn; the only one puzzled. I definately feel that AQA have lost touch with what they are expecting and what the average A'Level kid shoul dbe able to do. And if one more person tells me record numbers of As and A*s in a levels this year bla bla bla. Definately not in state schools MFL as far as i can see.
    I GIVE IN!
  2. westnab

    westnab New commenter

    I might enter myself one of these years. I got straight As when I did mine, but doubt I could do it now! Or, rather, it would probably depend on how my examiner interpreted the wishy washy mark scheme!
    For sure the over-representation of selective schools in the cohort in A-level MFL is making it harder for the state schools as the 'average' is much higher, but it's not just that.
    My own niece just got her Spanish results today. AS resit speaking - grade A. A2 speaking - grade E. Sorry, but that sort of thing just shouldn't be possible. She can either speak Spanish well or she can't. We have had remarks go up from E/U to B/C in previous years. Total nonsense. And we are judged on these results. More importantly, people's lives are ruined.
  3. oh yes, I have experienced all this pain, confusion and disillusion over the years. We moved to the Welsh board and things have got better but I still wonder whether I would trust my own children's future to the whim of A-Level MFL marking...
  4. Well I did Italian A level a couple of years ago - did a cultural topic essay which was informative, evaluative, got in all the linguistic adn grammatical extras, wide range of vocab etc etc and got a C for it!! I was scandalized having always got top grade in all the language exams I have ever sat. If I couldn't get a top grade how on earth were the kids going to manage it? Then I had to teach it and the students who wrote the most pathetic essays all year got an A for their efforts - I was equally scandalized at the lack of consistency!
    I have just written on a similar thread that I am fed up with harsh marking, inconsistency, unpredictablity etc etc.
  5. westnab

    westnab New commenter

    Wow! Well that just says it all! Did you contact the board? I don't imagine they would give a satisfactory answer if you did...
  6. I entered a bi-lingual student this year who left Germany after primary school so he did not really have the language of debate or analysis and he was a scientist and not so interested in the literature. He got A. I know that his essays were not quite structured the way the A* sample ones were on the EDEXCEL site. I think its getting them to write to a model that the examiner has set and any deviation however valid loses you marks.
  7. I think that at least AQA have no idea about what MFL students should be able to do. I prepared my Y13 students for the speaking exam as a language assistant, and there were questions which I honestly wouldn't have been able to answer - and I'm German. They focus too much on opinion (what opinion can you have on environmental pollution apart from it being bad? What kind of discussion do they expect???), and the sample questions for the discussion were sometimes downright stupid - how is a student in a stressful exam situation supposed to react to a question like "Glaubst du, dass du alles tun darfst, was du willst?" when the exam is about the question if young people should be allowed to get their driving license one year earlier? Additionally, they expect a range of grammar which a native speaker would just never use in a conversation. The aim should be to test if the student is able to communicate efficiently - and not to test if the student can talk the way Germans are writing! The essay questions aren't too difficult, in my opinion, but I think the problem is that the opinions on the question what a good essay actually is diverge extremely. Problems could be avoided if the teacher of the A-Level course marked the essays. Students would know exactly what is expected from them.
  8. Exactly Sarahger! I have a number of bi-linguals and training them to do things like answering a Warum question with Um.......zu makes them shrug their shoulders in bewilderment. Phrases such as so ....wie moeglich and ohne.....zu..... which the examiners like are inserted in an unnatural way in an A* script. They have to literally work their way down the checklist.
  9. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Tattyb, I could have written your post. The worst thing is, I'm becoming defeatist and don't even think any longer that a C for speaking by some of my top students should be questioned. After all, I've been burned before - I questioned a C and it went down to a D (that was a student who'd scored 100% in the other unit, yes, even bizarrely that year in the essay, and got an A the year before for her speaking). I've just looked at AQA's enhanced result analysis and another top student, who scored pretty much full marks on everything else in the paper, scored 3/25 for the content of her essay! How is that even possible?? I'm going to get it remarked and hope to God it's a clerical error, but you're right, this year even the very bright don't get into the top range.
    The worst is, what can we do? What on earth are we supposed to do? Marks are upheld or even lowered when we ask for remarks (talk about petulant childish attitude), I keep going to training meetings and seeing exemplar material that is of the same standard as what my students produced hailed as a model, and there's absolutely nothing I can do. I can't take the recordings I've saved from those exams with me, because I would be disciplined for taking confidential material, no doubt. There is no way of whistleblowing something that is obviously very, very wrong. So then I start not trusting my own judgement and it's very difficult not to take it personally. Kids are beginning to clock that A-levels in languages are not only hard, they are not fair and not reliable to get them the high grades they need for uni, and I don't blame them.
    It's not just in languages, though. My history colleague is facing a similar haemorrhage from AS to A2 as kids get really low results in the subjective essay-writing and don't want to risk not getting their result at the end of the second year. He has a few examples of kids going from a C at AS to an A* at A2 (a combination of remarks, resits etc) and he rightly describes the whole process as a farce. I only wish that was the case for me, and that my kids did end up with the right grade in the end, but it's not. Somehow the exam boards for languages refuse to accept when they're wrong (or maybe it's just my limited and bitter experience of dealing with them).
    Sorry about the rant, I really needed that. And by the way, there is no difference of treatment between state and private - I teach in private and obviously the situation is just as bad here, despite the fact we have very small classes, lots of one to one time and coaching and plenty of resources.
    Just going to go and cry in a quiet corner now... [​IMG]
  10. Well, but that is the case because you wouldn't use it in private conversations. In a professional environment (also in 6th form) people are more likely to use it, but it's certainly inappropriate vor GCSE and for most of the A-Level topics.

    The problem is that they want them to be used frequently - and we just don't use them frequently. I hated having to make them do it, as did their teacher (who was also German) and the other German teacher (who grew up in Luxembourg and had spent a year in Germany). It sounds a bit clumsy... hölzern as we would say in German...

    My school kept having good results in their A-Levels. Both the French assistant and I were determined to get them through, so we gave them a pretty hard time during practice sessions. We asked the most stupid questions we could come up with, counted all the structures that were top on examiner wish lists and told them to include more of them. The bad thing about it was that some of them began to hate our sessions because they felt the pressure - but they managed to get their grades. The AS stuff wasn't that hard, because they at least got conversation cards that were quite okay topicwise, but the A2 exam format is just inadequate for testing language skills. It tests if a person can come up with far-fetched ideas. But that is certainly not what exams should be about.
  11. westnab

    westnab New commenter

    I think this is exactly it. It's all about making it easier for the examiner to mark. Just like at GCSE they need to learn the formula. At GCSE though the language is so basic that the formula is simple and easier to apply. At A-level, especially A2, they have to actually think about quite complex issues AND think about how they can express it AND think about accuracy AND think about structuring their argument logically AND THEN consider this made up tick list of structures and try to manipulate what they say to fit in as many examiner whims as possible - all in less than an hour after they are exhausted from the reading and listening parts of the exam! The exam boards could at least be transparent about what their silly formulae are so we have a hope!
    If the grammar schools struggle as well, what chance do my students have when they are rushed through GCSE in 2 terms in Y9 and nowhere near as hard working (most of them)?!!!
  12. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter

    It would be a really interesting exercise if schools entered their native speaker teachers and/or language-assistants for MFL A2 exams next time, and see what grades they are awarded.
    Has anyone done this already?
  13. I totally agree with you and it's nice to know that other people feel the same. I was starting to question my own teaching but every year I spend ages practising for the speaking test, I spend ages preparing for it and making sure that I'm doing everything I should and this year the grades were terrible. Each year I ask myself - what do they want? I think AQA standards are very high and especially for A2, having to think about your opinions on such political & social topics are really difficult.
    I give in aswell!!!
  14. HelenMyers

    HelenMyers New commenter

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