With the autumn term in full swing, it can all feel as if last summer was a lifetime away.
While it’s only natural to focus on your goals for the year ahead, my first blog post aims to reveal why it’s a good idea to take full advantage of our examiners’ reports. I’ll describe what type of valuable information they contain and how insights from the previous exam series can be used to support your teaching throughout the new term.
Let’s begin by looking at the most obvious and newly released resource in your teaching tool kit: question papers.
The summer exam papers are now ready to be used for assessing student progress as in-class or mock assessments with detailed mark schemes. These can also be used for building team confidence for standardisation.
ExamBuilder is free for those with an Interchange account which is an easy tool for creating your own test papers drawn from historic past papers, a great way for your students to practise.
Examining and moderating is a fantastic opportunity for professional development as this can help enable whole departments to get first-hand experience in exam marking being advised by experienced lead examiners.
This leads us into the examiners’ reports: another invaluable aspect of the examining experience but often overlooked.
Over the years, feedback from teachers and examiners has enriched the quality of evidence contained within our reports with the aim of making them both more accessible and more useful to all.
Our examiners’ reports are written by our principal examiners and begin with a detailed commentary on the cohort’s approach to the whole exam paper, followed by an analysis of the paper question by question.
They also include candidate exemplars with individualised commentary so that it’s easy to understand how students dealt with each exam question, together with valuable insight into the common elements of success and challenging areas for development for last year’s cohort.
The reports take the time to explore what responses and approaches were popular and served candidates best, as well as succinctly detailing approaches that candidates who achieved lower-level responses broadly tended to use.
The reports also identify areas on a broader scale than any one department is able to achieve alone. For instance, this year the A Level Literature Component 1 examiners’ report commented on an increased use of time during the exam while establishing that this is an area that does still need focus and attention.
They also identified in Component 2 a need for students to approach the unseen passage question “primarily as an interesting piece of writing, considering contextual issues as a secondary matter.”
Similarly, all reports at both GCSE and A Level identified terminology as a site of anxiety for students and offered some clarity from an examining perspective – something I will be talking about in next month’s blog.
While it’s true that the level of detail provided is pitched at teachers, many of our reports are written with the appreciation that students may well engage with the information they contain.
As such, they are full of teaching points as well as clarification about what examiners are actually looking for and responding to in candidates’ work.
In our new improved format, we offer brief summations of our examiners’ findings shown in the example below taken from the GCSE English Language Paper 1 report:
Examiners’ have been asked to comment on the successes and barriers in each question, which students can reflect upon, helping them in their studies or following on from practice assessments they have completed. I’ve included an extract below:
The summer series of exams can contribute a great deal to students and teachers long after the exam season is over.
The June 2019 series examiners' reports are now available on Interchange and as mentioned above these reports follow the new style introduced last year giving you more detailed feedback on the summer exam papers.
I trust my post has given you a quick insight and stirred your curiosity to download a report and glean some wisdom for yourself. We’d love to hear your feedback and ideas too.
In November, you’re invited to join a series of ‘Understanding the assessment: exam feedback’ events for GCSE Literature, A Level Literature, A Level Language & Literature and A Level Language.
These are face-to-face events where we’ll be sharing feedback from the previous exam summer series and have detailed and constructive discussions about student performance and how to better support future cohorts.
These events complement our examiners’ reports and exemplar materials and give you the chance to discuss specific misconceptions or issues, to find out more and book your place visit our professional development page on our English page.
If you have any questions please submit your comments below or email us at email@example.com. You can also sign up to receive email updates or follow us on Twitter at @OCR_English.
Isobel Woodger, OCR English Subject Advisor
Isobel joined OCR as a member of the English subject team, with particular responsibility for AS and A Level English Literature and AS and A 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.