Hints and Tips - 7 minute read
Isobel Woodger, OCR English Subject Advisor
We do realise that exams are not necessarily at the forefront of your minds right now, but we are conscious that some of the resources we have most available for students to use are our past exam materials. Past exam materials are documents and resources that are connected to exams, or internal assessments, that have taken place in the past. This article will walk you through where to find them, what they are and how you might use them at home (we promise, it’s not all sitting past papers in timed conditions!)
For each subject, we make available all but the most recent set of exams on our website. The best way to find them is to search for your qualification, such as GCSE Maths (9-1) and then, on the left hand side, click ‘Assessment’.
There you’ll find a series of titled sections which, if you click them, will open a list of documents. Some documents have a padlock next to them, which means they are held on our secure site for teachers. These will usually be resources linked to the most recent summer series.
Most qualifications have the following sections on their Assessment page:
Our Cambridge Technicals have another important section: Model assignments. In the next part of the article, we’ll explain what each of these sections contain and how you might use them.
This section holds three different kinds of documents, all of which work together but can be used on their own. Everything here is listed by year so you need to click on the year you’re after to see the documents.
Question papers are the exam papers that we’ve set in the past. These are usually individual papers in the order you would sit them. Sometimes these have inserts, which are a separate document with the sources or images for an exam paper; some subjects might also have what are called ‘pre-release’ papers, which is the information given to students to prepare before an exam.
How could I use these?
Mark schemes are the documents we give to examiners, and teachers, to mark the work written in answer to an exam paper. Mark schemes often include a grid breaking down the assessment objectives (AOs) for each question into levels.
Some subjects like Maths have marks for method, marks for explanations as well as marks for the right answer (to the required degree of accuracy) so, it’s important to know where those are. Other subjects sometimes include what we call ‘indicative content’, which is an explanation of the kinds of things assessors could expect to see in exam responses.
You can use mark schemes to mark your own work, obviously. However, there are other things you can do:
In Maths and related subjects:
Examiners’ reports are written by principal examiners (basically the lead examiners) to reflect on the ways students responded to the exams in a particular series. They try to comment on every question, include strengths and weaknesses and sometimes include examples from student responses.
You can use examiners’ reports to help direct what you need to focus on, or to think about skills the examiners are looking for. You could:
This section contains assessment materials (exam papers, mark schemes and sometimes exemplars) that were written before anybody had sat the exams. They were designed to show how the exams would be set out and what kind of work we might expect from students in response.
Most of these are exam papers so take a look at our advice for exam papers above!
These are real student responses taken from actual exams. These are scanned by our team and are selected because they are examples of particular levels or approaches. These are often accompanied by a commentary from an examiner, explaining why the response achieves the level it has been given.
It’s important to say here that for subjects where there are a lot of optional questions, not every combination will be covered by these exemplars.
These are specifically for Cambridge Technical qualifications and only for internally assessed units (the parts your teachers mark, not the exam board).
Model assignments provide a scenario and a set of tasks that is assessed against the grading criteria, which is found in the specification. (The specification is a document which outlines everything in a qualification; these are found on the subject page, on the left hand side, under ‘Specification’.) When using model assignments, it might be worth checking our article on Teaching and Learning documents for Vocational Qualifications.
If you’d like to use these, do check first with your teacher which assignment your class are, or were intending, to do. It’s also important that you have a copy of the specification because you need to be aware of all the possible content for that unit, even if the model assignment doesn’t mention it.
Model Assignments are divided into two main sections: general information for teachers/assessors and general information for learners. The assignment is broken up into a number of tasks which relate to specific learning objectives.
Finally, all the material above can be found on the qualification pages of the OCR website and you can use our handy ‘past paper finder’ to get past papers! Just click the link and off you go!
Isobel joined OCR as a member of the English subject team, with particular responsibility for A and AS Level English Literature and A and AS Level English Language and Literature (EMC).
She previously worked as a classroom teacher in a co-educational state secondary school, with three years as second-in-charge in English with responsibility for Key Stage 5. In addition to teaching all age groups from Key Stage 3 to 5, Isobel worked with the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education as a mentor to PGCE trainees. Prior to this, she studied for an MA in film, television and screen media with Birkbeck College, University of London while working as a learning support assistant at a large state comprehensive school.