Caroline Hodgson, Ruth Wroe, Steven Walker and Neil Ogden – OCR Maths Subject Advisors
We have been running online Q&A events in the past weeks, to give you a chance to ask subject-specific questions about this year’s grading process. This followed our playlist of support videos and our roundtable video, which support you through the whole summer 2021 process, give suggestions on how to use materials we’ve provided and answer many general grading questions. In this blog, we’ve summarised the questions asked at our maths Q&A event on 28 April 2021.
You need to consider the evidence as a whole across the subject and the quality of the evidence holistically should guide you. Consider elements like the coverage of content, assessment objectives, etc. It doesn’t need to be every aspect of the specification, but the aim is to include evidence that shows the student’s ability across the range of content taught and, where possible, all assessment objectives.
You’ll need evidence supporting each grade that you’ve determined, evidencing that it is the grade that the student is working at. This evidence is not being prescribed by exam boards, but does need to be as consistent as possible for all your students to ensure that your grading judgements are consistent for your students in your centre.
You may use different evidence however if the student has experienced adverse circumstances. Please check the JCQ publication A guide to the special consideration process (available from within the ‘Regulations and Guidance’ section) to see the types of adverse circumstances a student might experience in a normal year of examinations. JCQ has also published the guidance ‘Special consideration – Summer 2021’ and ‘Special Consideration Decision Tree’ on its summer 2021 webpage that may help you.
It can be replaced as long as you provide a justification. Please remember to look at JCQ’s worked examples; if you have enough holistic evidence to provide a grade then you can justify omitting it, but if not you would need a rationale to explain the replacement (which could be just ‘'the student was absent’). It would be useful in this case if the replacement was similar, as this would provide greater confidence in the result you are providing.
Your approach should be a holistic one, using your professional judgement in order to come to an overall grade. Consider the quality of the evidence that you have, the level of control it was created under, etc. Review the evidence and read through the grade descriptors (available from the JCQ summer 2021 webpage for GCSE, AS and A Level, or from the qualification pages for Core Maths A, Core Maths B or Level 3 Additional Maths FSMQ), or for Entry Level our guidance on grading. Match the student’s evidence to the suitable statements within the grade descriptors.
A student’s collection of evidence may contain characteristics from different grade descriptors (for example, characteristics of a Grade 6 in one area and characteristics of a Grade 2 in another area). For assistance with making grading decisions in such situations, please refer to JCQ’s worked examples. Our grading exemplars also include commentary on uneven profile candidates.
Autumn 2020 was an atypical series for all qualifications (including GCSE (9-1) Maths, which does normally have a November series). The last ‘regular’ exam series was 2019. Use the grade boundaries as a guide, but remember grades should be determined by a holistic look at the evidence for the student. There isn't a requirement to use question papers and turn the result into a grade; the mark might suffice when compared to grade descriptors and exemplification.
Schools and colleges are required to compare the grades they submit this year with the grades of their cohorts from pre-2020, when exams took place. However, grading judgements should not be driven by this data. Historical grade data should only be considered after grading judgements have been made.
At all times, it will be the evidence of students’ work that must form the basis for each student’s grade. Centres should not change grades only on the basis of data comparison.
If outcomes are much higher or much lower than in previous years, you should consider the potential reasons for this. We recommend that you record these variations and the rationale for these differences. You should keep this evidence ready for any quality assurance visit. It is possible that after the review of the historical data, you may need to reflect on the grading standard teachers have applied in one or more qualifications.
Do not change grades only on the basis of the data comparison. Remember that the evidence produced by the learner must form the basis for their grade.
Yes there should, however it really doesn’t need to be extensive in most cases. Given the requirement for consistent sources of evidence across a class or cohort, a sensible approach would be making a record at class or cohort level of the evidence you have used and why. Then for each student confirm that you have used that, or if you have moved away from consistency (e.g. because that student was ill for a mock or similar) you have noted that for the student in question. You should also note if you needed to take account of a failure to provide access arrangements, or special considerations. Finally, if the student is in anyway borderline, you would explain why you went for one grade and not another.
In some cases you will hence have very little to record, because the student has the same evidence as everyone else, there are no circumstances to take into account and nothing much to say on the grading determination as it is very straightforward. For other students there may be a longer record.
It is up to each centre to decide how to record the information about the grading determination, but there are some templates available from JCQ's summer 2021 webpage that you may find helpful.
For more information about the forthcoming quality assurance and sampling processes, please see Ofqual’s blog for GCSE, AS and A Level, as well as our own guides for Core Maths and Level 3 Additional Maths FSMQ, or Entry Level.
If you have further questions about this summer’s grading process, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_Maths. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
All advice and guidance provided by Awarding Bodies regarding arrangements for summer 2021 undergoes ratification by the JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications). This is to ensure that Awarding Bodies provide consistent information to centres. The content of the above blog is currently being reviewed by the JCQ and is therefore potentially subject to some change in wording.
The Subject Advisor team support our full suite of maths qualifications from Entry Level Maths through to A Level. This includes quality assurance of resources, leading sessions at network events and conferences as well as responding to queries from teachers via email, telephone and social media. They are wonderful people and you’re welcome to get in touch anytime with queries about our qualifications.