Steven Walker, Maths Subject Advisor
This blog has been updated with new links to Teach Cambridge, our new secure resource platform.
No two students are identical. At OCR, we consider it vital to offer centres as much choice as we can, for you to select and deliver a course to suit the particular needs of your own students and centre.
For this reason we offer two suites of AS and A Level Maths qualifications, A and B. The A suite has been designed entirely by OCR and include these four qualifications:
The B suite was developed in partnership by OCR and respected curriculum body Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI):
Almost all the content for Maths and over half the content for Further Maths is the same across the two suites. However, there are differences between the two in the qualification structure, emphasis, and approaches to assessment.
For more details of the B suite, see my accompanying blog A Level Mathematics specification B (MEI) – what’s in it for you?
Both suites are administered by OCR and any queries about the exams should be directed to us. Amy, Ruth, Neil, Caroline and myself are always happy to help. Email any questions to email@example.com. We may not know every answer, but we should know who does.
All of the qualifications provide clear progression from AS to A Level and from Maths to Further Maths.
Both use the same set of examination command words. This means a large proportion of questions from one suite can also be used to create tests for students studying the other suite (you can easily use our free ExamBuilder platform to do this).
Both suites have separate question papers and printed answer booklets. This means candidates can see both the full question and their answers on their desk together, to ensure any question scaffolding is not lost through page turning.
There are no multiple choice questions in the assessment of either of these suites. Candidates will be rewarded for correct attempts rather than simply penalised for errors.
All of the Maths qualifications include Pure and Applied (Statistics or Mechanics) together on a paper to support synoptic links across the curriculum. One reason why neither specification opted for two pure papers and a separate applied paper is because there was no requirement to assess statistics and mechanics synoptically.
Question papers for all of the Maths qualifications include a formulae sheet at the start. Further Maths question papers come with a separate formulae booklet that incorporates all the formulae that can be provided (Maths and Further Maths). This means that candidates only studying Maths are not swamped by additional material that is not needed.
Both Further Maths specifications allow candidates to sit additional optional components for a broader curriculum. Grading will automatically identify the best grading combination.
Exam papers and resources for both specifications are available to all teachers signed up to Teach Cambridge.
We run a full programme of professional development for each specification, but our teacher networks bring together teachers from both specifications for more general discussions on maths themes.
The structure supports teaching
In the specification, the content is presented split over two stages. This clearly distinguishes the initial AS content (stage 1) that forms the backbone of student’s content knowledge, from the A Level only content (stage 2).
The content is also clearly split into sections 1, 2 and 3 (Pure, Statistics and Mechanics). The Further Maths specification also continues this numbering with sections 4–8, making it easy to cross reference content between the two specifications.
The assessment structure supports revision
Students can start by revising pure maths only for the first paper they sit, H240/01. Students then add statistics into their revision for H240/02 and finally mechanics for the final paper, H240/03.
Pure and applied A Level Maths
Spec A has separate sections assessing Pure and Applied content in H240/02 (Section A Pure and Section B Statistics) and H240/03 (Section A Pure and Section B Mechanics). This helps students to clearly know what topics they will be answering questions on in each paper. Both sections have an increasing gradient of demand, so may require some exam discipline to know not to spend too long on any challenging Pure questions in Section A, but instead to move on and then come back to any missed questions after completing Section B. If students would prefer a single gradient of demand through each paper instead, this is available in our Maths B qualifications, which you can read more about here.
Students should also bear in mind that some Pure topics may be incorporated in the Applied sections.
Large data set
One of the requirements of the DfE’s reformed A Level Maths criteria was that students become familiar with one or more large data sets (LDS), so that they gain experience of using technology to investigate and interpret real data.
The LDS for Maths A contains census data on travel to work and age structure for local authorities of England and Wales in 2001 and 2011. This provides multiple data categories to ensure that students recognise that statistical techniques are applicable a range of investigations. This LDS allows students to start local and then compare this data with other regions.
Spec A has had the same LDS since accreditation, so all the H240/02 papers (sample, practice, live and alternative) have example questions based on the same set of data.
The design criteria defined 50% of the A Level Further Maths content as mandatory (all pure). This left specification designers the remaining 50% to construct different options for centres to choose between.
In A Level Further Maths A, students have a choice of four different options, from which they must pick at least two. All option combinations are fully co-teachable with Maths at both AS and A Level.
Options in Further Maths A
The Statistics option enables students to explore the theory underlying the statistics content in A Level Mathematics, as well as extending their range of statistical concepts and techniques. Topics include probability involving combinatorics, probability distributions for discrete and continuous random variables, hypothesis tests and confidence intervals for a population mean, Chi-squared tests, non-parametric tests, correlation and regression.
In the Mechanics option, students extend their knowledge of particles, kinematics and forces from A Level Mathematics, as well as using their extended pure mathematical knowledge to explore more complex physical systems. Topics include dimensional analysis, work, energy, power, impulse, momentum, centres of mass, circular motion and variable force.
In Discrete Maths, students study both pure mathematical structures and techniques, as well as their application, to solving real-world problems of existence, construction, enumeration and optimisation. Topics include counting, graphs and networks, algorithms, critical path analysis, linear programming and game theory.
In the Additional Pure option, students broaden and deepen their knowledge of pure mathematics, studying both discrete and continuous topics that form the foundation of university study in mathematics and mathematical disciplines. Topics include recurrence relations, number theory, group theory, the vector product, surfaces and partial differentiation.
Structure of the specification
The Further Maths specification continues the section numbering started in the Maths specification with sections 4 – Pure Core, 5 – Statistics, 6 – Mechanics, 7 – Discrete, 8 – Additional Pure. This makes it easier to cross reference content between the two specifications.
Full information about the qualifications is available from our AS/A Level Maths A and AS/A Level Further Maths A webpages. You can download each specification to see the qualification requirements, including the content to be studied. You can also download a range of sample and past questions papers, plus free resources.
All our assessment and support material is available on Teach Cambridge.
If you have any queries you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_Maths. You can also sign up for monthly email updates to receive information about resources and support.
Steven joined OCR in 2014 during the major qualification reform period and now primarily focuses on supporting the Level 3 maths qualifications. He originally studied engineering and then took an extended period to work and travel around the world before completing a PGCE in secondary mathematics. Steven began his teaching career with VSO in Malawi and has taught maths in both the UK and overseas. He taught legacy components in A Level pure, mechanics, statistics and discrete from different specifications having originally studied the linear A Level qualifications of Maths and Further Maths when it was limited to pure and mechanics back in the 80s, picking up the statistics content as part of his engineering course and introduced to the discrete content through online CPD with FMSP (now AMSP).