Deb Gajic, Guest Blog Author – examiner and former Head of Psychology
2021 has already proved to be a strange year, and this comes on the back of a strange 2020. Again this year, students will not sit external exams. The DfE and Ofqual have announced how GCSE, AS and A Level students will get results. Some details are still to be confirmed, but we do know that teachers must assess their students’ performance, based only on what content has been delivered to them, to determine the grade each student should receive. Teachers should make a holistic judgement of each student’s performance on a range of evidence. Therefore, we owe it to our students to ensure that our marking is as fair and consistent as possible.
Here are the key issues and advice which emerged from the mock marking workshops.
There’s a full range of assessment materials on the Psychology qualification pages, including 2017 and 2018 papers, mark schemes, examiner reports and candidate exemplars. On Interchange we have published the exam papers, mark schemes, examiner reports and candidate exemplars for 2019 and 2020.
If you haven’t already, make sure you sign up to ExamBuilder. This will help you construct mock exams for your students to make sure that your exam is at the correct standard. We also have more information about how teachers will assess their students for 2021 and an information page updated for teachers. We have published the timeline for summer 2021 and the stages ahead of you.
Some centres set a whole paper as a mock exam and do so every year. We publish our exam paper grade boundaries, so you can see the 2020 and 2019 grade boundaries. Make sure you use the relevant grade boundaries for the paper you are setting. If you are using a range of questions from different papers then you could take an average of the grade boundaries.
OCR mark schemes are very user friendly. Get your students familiar with them by using them for self and peer assessment tasks. You should share with your students the mark schemes and show them how there are written. For example, look at the Research methods 2018 mark scheme for H567/01 2018 Q24. The left-hand ‘Answer’ column gives the expected student answer, while the right-hand ‘Guidance’ column gives the limits for crediting an answer.
Standardisation, or some sort of centre based internal quality assurance, is always good practice. It is important to ensure consistency, accuracy and fairness whenever you mark. If you work within a team the standardisation process is relatively easy to organise, but it can be more difficult if you are a lone teacher. You could consider forming alliances with local schools/colleges in your area or in your multi-academy trust. Distance need not be a barrier, you can standardise via email or Zoom/Teams, but remember to anonymise scripts for data protection. We can let you know of OCR Psychology centres near you: just email us.
Whenever I deliver training which involves practice marking, I’m always met with the comment ‘I wouldn’t have marked it that high!’.
Two important points to consider:
Remember in section A MCQ, there is no benefit of the doubt (BOD). If students choose more than one letter, mark incorrect.
In the 15-mark extended writing questions, the best responses tend to use a paragraph for each required feature (RF). Your students need to identify, describe, explain and justify the RF in the context of the stimulus material, and refer to their own practical activities. There’s guidance on how to structure the extended questions in the Examiner Report in 2019 (An Interchange login is needed to access this, so you may need to sign up).
A common issue on paper 2 is that students become too immersed in the minute details of the core studies and do not apply their knowledge well. Remind students to read the questions carefully and make sure they answer them.
In section C, any suggestions must be grounded in psychological theory and not anecdotal or common-sense suggestions. When these suggestions are evaluated, the evaluation must focus on themes and debates and not be generic. See Guide to Assessment for Paper 2 for guidance on how best to structure responses for Paper 2.
In section B (Options), question a) is worth 10 marks. Candidates should be advised that although there are 5 marks available for A01, this should not overshadow the requirement to apply their answer to the question posed (as there are 5 marks available for A02 – Application).
For part b) questions (15 marks), candidates have to discuss to achieve over the 8/9-mark band. They should make three points that are linked to the question issue and use two or more pieces of relevant psychological evidence to support and illustrate the points being made. Valid conclusions are also important for this question.
For part c) questions there is often a lack of detail of exactly what the suggestions would involve. Suggestions are often broad but lack detail of how they could be applied, lack psychological rationale and are not specific enough to the scenario. Note that one suggestion is enough as the specification states ‘at least one strategy’, but it must be substantiated with psychological evidence. The November 2020 examiner report discussed some common misconceptions and offered some tips on improving performance in paper 3.
You might want to consider becoming an assessor next year. Before you do, you might like to try the trial marking section on the website. It really is the best CPD ever and gives you a real insight into the examination process.
You can download the materials from the How to mark a mock paper: A Level Psychology for free. We have published other free CPD materials that help with assessment on the Professional Development section on our website, under past courses – in particular materials for Understanding the Assessment: Exams Preparation for A Level Psychology.
Many great online resources are available, so join the conversation by sharing your ideas and resource links in the comment box below. If you have any queries, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter @OCR_Psychology. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive email information about resources and support.
Deb Gajic is a former Head of Psychology at an outstanding school in the Midlands. She now works as an examiner, trainer, tutor and author and is passionate about psychology. She is an active committee member of the Association for the Teaching of Psychology and the British Psychological Society.