Shelley Monk, OCR Geography Subject Advisor
In the past weeks, we’ve been running online Q&A events to give you a chance to ask subject-specific questions about this year’s advance information (AI). This followed our more general FAQ blogs for teachers and for students. In this blog, I’ve summarised the questions asked at our AS and A Level Geography Q&A event.
Our Advance Information guidance gives a couple of points about the purpose of advance information, as well as the coverage of specification content.
Key points to remember for advance information:
A good, broad understanding of all the content of the specification is always the best preparation for success in an examination.
Teachers and students should bear in mind that prior learning in a key idea or topic area might provide useful knowledge and understanding and be required for students to be able to answer questions fully. This is particularly the case, for instance, for synoptic questions and those questions marked using a levels of response mark scheme.
For geography specifically (page 10), the guidance says: Advance information will list the content assessed by exams and the information will include the key ideas and bullet points within the specification and skills from the Geographical Skills appendix.
The approach is intended to get back to the pre-pandemic standard, but not in one jump. 2022 will therefore be a ‘transition year’ that recognises disruption and provides a safety net for students who might otherwise just miss out on a higher grade. Results overall will be higher than in 2019, but not as high as in 2020. The aim is for 2022 to ‘reflect a midway point between 2021 and 2019’, then in 2023 ‘to return to results that are in line with those in pre-pandemic years’. Ofqual has published an article with further information.
The content coverage in the advance information includes the synoptic questions (on p24 for AS Level and p25 for A Level). The AI does not, however, signpost which content is being assessed for the synoptic questions within an individual topic. Within each of the topics the AI includes content that will be assessed, however it does not differentiate this content by assessed component or synoptic questions.
The advice on the front of each document confirms that teaching and learning should cover the entire subject content. Therefore if a student wanted to ‘draw upon other areas of specification content where relevant, credit will be given where appropriate’.
We will not be providing any further questions ahead of the examinations in the summer. The AI is there to support exam preparation without targeting questions too specifically, so as so maintain the validity of the examination process. If exam boards prepared sample questions to support this summer’s live assessments, then we would not be permitted to use the questions again in the live assessments.
The advance information for AS and A Level Geography covers all mark tariffs.
The advance information lists the content to be assessed in the exams and includes the key ideas and bullet points within the specification and skills from the Geographical Skills appendix. The advance information also shows the topic connections for the synoptic questions for AS and A Level Geography.
These have been included in the AI where relevant. For A Level specifically, at the end of the Earth’s Life Support System section, the topic specific skill listed includes a statement in brackets, i.e. ‘Analysis and presentation of field data (OS map analysis)’. This is to exemplify the bullet point, as fieldwork is not assessed in an examined component.
Geographical skills are listed in the advance information and will be assessed across all the components (please see past questions for how this has been done in previous exam series). The geographical skills are assessed within each of the topics at AS and A Level.
It is probably an obvious point, but worth noting – for revision purposes students and teachers should focus on what is in the advance information and not what isn’t in the advance information. We cannot provide more specific information beyond the advance information about exactly what types of questions will or will not be included in the summer 2022 exam series. Please be assured that our exam paper structure, style of questions and mark tariffs will not be changing, so you can continue to use past questions to help students prepare.
The Geographical Skills listed on page 48 of the specification can be assessed in any of the components (the 3 examination papers). For the quantitative skills (4.4) the students need to understand their purpose, the difference between them and be able to use them in appropriate contexts. However, for 4.4 (b) we have said ‘such as…’ in the specification to give examples (Chi-squared, Spearman’s rank, etc.), but we don't know what teachers have covered and therefore, we can't ask students to work through calculations.
These quantitative skills could also be required for a student’s NEA, so that they integrate one or more of them in their analysis. The quantitative skills can therefore be assessed in an examination and through the NEA. For an example of how we have assessed these quantitative skills, see November 2020, Component 01, question 4.
Questions 4(a)(i) to (iii) requires students to interact with a graphical resource – looking at the relationship shown and the reasons for this, these are geographical skills, from the table in the specification (p48). The data on the graph is contextualised within the Earth’s Life Support Systems topic. Question 4(a)(ii) is more aligned with Spearman’s rank, but it does not require students to complete a calculation, rather to comment on the statistical significance of the relationship.
If you have any questions about this summer’s assessment and would like to talk to us, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @OCR_Geography. You can also sign up for email updates for information about resources and support.
Shelley joined OCR after teaching geography for 16 years. She has considerable experience in delivering GCSE, IGCSE, A Level and the International Baccalaureate qualifications, as well as leading departments in secondary schools in the UK and internationally. She has eight years’ experience as Head of Year 12 and 13, supporting students both pastorally and academically. Shelley worked with the geography team to reform the GCSE, AS and A Level qualifications and she currently supports teachers through the development of a variety of resources, the CPD programme and subject communications. She loves walking her dog, exploring distant places and finding new recipes to trial on family and friends.