In this blog we take a look at some of the arrangements that centres may wish to consider specifically regarding the use of technology for external examinations in mathematics and other numerically rich subjects.
As we move towards the date for examination entries, centres often worry about how best to support their students with specific access issues. Whilst generic information about eligibility for access arrangements can be found in the JCQ Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments 2018-2019, this blog discusses how these rules apply to mathematics.
Reasonable adjustments and access arrangements allow learners with special educational needs, disabilities or temporary injuries to access the assessment and show what they know and can do, without changing the demands of the assessment. Applications should be made before the examination series.
The JCQ Instructions for Conduction Examinations 2018-2019 (ICE) provides the underpinning guidance for assessment. Word processing technology can support candidates, either to type responses themselves, or to provide guidance to a scribe. Section 14.25 covers general issues around using a word processor, a reasonable interpretation of some of these points with regards to mathematics examinations would be:
1. Must be used as a typewriter, not as a database, although standard formatting software is acceptable.
Standard formatting software covers the use of either Mathtype or Equation Editor within Word to ensure clear presentation of mathematical arguments.
2. Must have been cleared of any previously stored data, as must any portable storage medium used. An unauthorised memory stick must not be used by a candidate. Where required, the centre must provide a memory stick to the candidate, which is cleared of any previously stored data.
Centres should be aware that Mathtype has the ability to store equations on its toolbar. Any such stored data must be cleared before the examination.
3. Must not be connected to an intranet or any other means of communication.
Any software must be run from a locally installed version, rather than accessed through a network or from the internet.
4. Must not give the candidate access to other applications such as a calculator (where prohibited in the examination), spreadsheets etc.
J560 GCSE (9-1) Mathematics Foundation paper 2 and Higher paper 5 are non-calculator. Legacy GCE Core 1, final resit assessment summer 2019 (OCR Mathematics 4721 and MEI Mathematics 4751) is also non-calculator. All other assessment papers permit calculators (with no distinction between scientific or graphical calculators, see section 10 of ICE).
For non-calculator papers, any computer technology must be set up so that inbuilt calculators cannot be accessed.
Inbuilt desktop calculators may be limited to the useful functionality. The two main calculator manufacturers, Casio and Texas Instruments, provide computer emulators that mirror the hand held models that the majority of candidates have for classroom and examination use. These may be an appropriate approach to issues of small calculator screens, or concerns that a candidate may have with the accurate data entry by a scribe.
Other graph-drawing software (e.g. Autograph, Omnigraph, Geogebra, Desmos) is permissible where a graphical calculator would be normally used, but its use must be strictly limited to imitating functionality available on a calculator permitted under JCQ regulations (see section 10 of ICE). The invigilator will need to be familiar with the proposed software and permitted calculator functionality.
5. Must not be used on the candidate’s behalf by a third party unless the candidate has permission to use a scribe.
The JCQ Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments 2018-2019 (AA) does permit the candidate to have a scribe and/or a practical assistant. In mathematics this may be to perform drawing activities, but could also refer to data entry into a calculator. The use of a word processor and computer displayed calculator (on two screens if appropriate) would allow a candidate to see clearly all the work done by a scribe and/or practical assistant. Where a scribe is used to hand write the responses then an electronic visualizer may help candidates see the written responses clearly.
General information on access arrangements can be found on the OCR website. For specific mathematics related queries contact the maths team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Steven Walker, OCR Maths Subject Advisor
Steven joined OCR during the recent qualification reform period, working on the redevelopment of Entry level, GCSE (9-1), FSMQ and the suite of A Level Mathematics qualifications. He now focuses mainly on supporting the level 3 qualifications. Steven has taught secondary mathematics in UK and overseas.