Many of you reading this blog will know of the work we have been doing to review exam boards’ sample GCSE maths papers. Those particularly interested in the detail may wish to see our latest report which describes what has happened since our research was published in May. But in summary, exam boards submitted fresh sample papers to us, which we evaluated in two ways:
- Qualitatively, by asking maths experts to review compliance with content coverage, and assessment objective weightings and allocation requirements; and
- Quantitatively, using a comparative judgement methodology – very similar to that used in study 1 of our earlier research – to compare the expected difficulty of the sample papers.
As a result, some further, minor changes were needed, and they have been made. We now judge the boards’ final sample papers to be very similar, in terms of expected difficulty, and also likely to differentiate across the full ability range of students. They meet our requirements.
If you are a teacher, you will want to look at the new sample papers in deciding which specification to choose. I do urge you to look at these revised papers, rather than earlier versions, as it is these new ones that represent the standard to expect in the live assessments.
We appreciate that teachers will want to choose a specification that best suits their students and the way that they teach, with the assurance that, whichever one they choose, standards will be comparable when students sit their exams in 2017 and beyond. We are already looking ahead to 2017, and new checks and balances we will put in place beforehand to make sure that the real exams are set at a comparable level of difficulty. So, you can assume that live papers will be similar to the new sample papers and similar between exam boards, in terms of the level of difficulty.
Of course, live papers will always vary by small amounts. That is inevitable. During awarding, standards are aligned so students are not disadvantaged or advantaged by taking papers set by any particular exam board. The new GCSE is materially different to the current one, and we will be regulating 2017 awarding tightly so that those students who are taught and who study the new qualification for the first time are not disadvantaged.