I never complain about exam papers - I mark them myself, and recognise that questions must be set that provide a good differentiator, leading to a broad range of marks.
But. that said, I am really concerned by today's Section A in the A2 Unit 3 exam paper (option: Boom, Bust & Recovery). The Section A questions seemed incredibly narrow in their focus (immigration and McCarthyism); certainly not reflective of the major themes of the exam paper; and not reflective of the organisation of the syllabus provided.
I may be the only person who feels this way (highly possible!). If so, this leads me to believe that I must have mis-interpreted the syllabus / specification. Is there any way Edexcel might provide some detailed clarification on the content for Section A - by which I mean the depth required and the conceptual focus? Immigration, for example, was mentioned simply as "The door closes: the end of mass migration - 1917, 1921 and 1924 Acts" which implies a narrative understanding, rather than a causal one, as the exam question today asked. Furthermore, the First World War was in the part of the spec asking about impact on the economy - not impact on society; so I certainly taught the war, but not in relation to its impact on immigration - I focused on its impact on the economy. Similarly, McCarthyism is referred to only as "The impact of the Cold War on domestic politics: rise of McCarthyism" which I did not take to mean the impact on society as todays exam question asked, but its impact on exactly 'domestic politics'.
I'd really appreciate a response - I have 2 classes of students who are dreadfully upset, and I'd really like to be able to provide them with some answers about what went wrong - i.e. did I mess this up?
Esther is not the only person to be surprised by the questions in Section A and the fact that they 'seemed incredibly narrow in their focus'.
I think Esther has picked out all the key problems with the questions in relation to the specification and I concur fully with her misgivings about this half of the examination paper and also its probable effects on student performance.
I would like to echo Esther's concerns about this paper, in particular the question on immigration. A glance at some of the standard A Level textbooks on this period ( Clements, Willoughby for instance) shows that the causes of American immigration policy are dealt with without any great detail and no specific link to World War I is made anywhere. As Esther points out, there is nothing in the syllabus which explicitly makes this link either. Although I would expect A Level students to be able to explain some of these causes, it seems to be asking a great deal of them to produce 900-1100 words on the issue as the guidance recommends. I thought that this question was unfair and seems to be far less accessible that the (a) questions set on the other part of Option C. It may well be that the Edexcel endorse textbook covers these issues more thoroughly - but of course it is yet to be published!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
We would also like to echo all of the points made above regarding the narrow focus of the 30 mark questions. The Part a questions in the sample assessment materials were broader and directly tied to the bullet points of the specification. As we only had these to go on and no official EdExcel endorsed resources we assumed the questions yesterday would be of a similar nature.
We are intrigued to see the indicative content when it is published.
I totally agree with this. I thought that the exam was one of the most unfair that I have seen for a long time. Somebody needs to thing long and hard about reducing the grade boundaries for this paper. Otherwise faith may rapidly be lost in the new A2.
I have to agree - this is the first time in 16 years that I have been really upset by any exam paper. It is also the first time I have complained.
As Esther quite rightly points out the Spec does not suggest these questions were likely ones. Are we in the game of guessing what the words really mean rather than taking them at face value?
The focus was too narrow on Part A - Part B was fine. If you give students a big chunk of time to write in they need a meaty topic. Why not ask for the reasons for intolerance in the USA so as to widen it out and give candidates the chance to select from their broad knowldge? Both part A questions depended on a small and not very well resourced part of the course.
The students were gutted - they felt the questions were flat and lacking in imagination, but at the same time rather specific. Even the invigilator said she had never seen such a shocked group of students. She said they students were simply bemused by the question and looked depressed when they read it. Some did the part B question first and then did their best with part A. Not the best way to end their 7 years at school.
I would like to add my concerns to the ones already wriiten here. I am also both surprised and disappointed with the part A section. As the Edexcel book is not as yet published it would seem to me to have been only fair on the students to select topics that were covered clearly and in depth in the other main texts. Additionally it would also have seemed sensible to ensure that it is closely tied to the bullet points, particularly as this is the first run through of the exam. I think there is now an emphasis on Edexcel to be extremely clear about the topic areas for part A.
I too was very concerned with the part A questions. The questions on the Revolt, Republic and Restoration paper that I also teach were clearly linked to one of the 5 hour units. 'To what extent was Charles I himself the basic obstacle to a political settlement in the years 1646-48?'. This allows students to draw on a wide range of material that they studied across three 100 minute lessons. Both of the questions on this paper were far too narrow in focus. I can only hope that the marking reflects this.
I am writing to complain about the first exam for the topic: Unit 3, Option C, Topic C2: The United States, 1917-54: Boom, Bust and Recovery.
My complaint relates to Section A of the exam. The Section A questions were narrow in their focus and did not seem to fit the key areas to be assessed in Section A according to the syllabus:
Topic: The door closes: the end of mass immigration-the 1917, 1921 and 1924 Acts- 1 hours teaching.
Topics: The impact of the Cold war on domestic politics: rise of ‘McCarthyism’ and Eisenhower and the fall of McCarthy 1952-54- 2 hours teaching.
I logged onto the Edexcel Forum and have found fellow teachers of this topic share my opinion.
I echo the points Esther raises:
Immigration, for example, was mentioned simply as "The door closes: the end of mass migration - 1917, 1921 and 1924 Acts" which implies a narrative understanding, rather than a causal one, as the exam question today asked. Furthermore, the First World War was in the part of the spec asking about impact on the economy - not impact on society; so I certainly taught the war, but not in relation to its impact on immigration - I focused on its impact on the economy. Similarly, McCarthyism is referred to only as "The impact of the Cold War on domestic politics: rise of McCarthyism" which I did not take to mean the impact on society as today’s exam question asked, but its impact on exactly 'domestic politics'.
As this was the first assessment for this topic I feel setting such narrow questions was inappropriate. I do not think students will be able to write an extended essay on either topic. To achieve a high level of response seems impossible on either question.
According to the Section A mark-scheme to achieve a Level 5:
Candidates offer a sustained analysis which directly addresses the focus of the question. They demonstrate explicit understanding of the key issues raised by the question, evaluating arguments and – as appropriate – interpretations. The analysis will be supported by an appropriate range and depth of accurate and well-selected factual material.
I am unsure how students could produce answers demonstrating both range and depth of knowledge when the syllabus required such short teaching time on both topics used to form questions for the first part of the exam.
There has also been the further difficulty through the repeated delays in the publication of the official Edexcel textbook for this topic. No doubt this would have provided teachers of this topic with much needed guidance.
Will the grade boundaries for Part A of the exam be lowered if this problem is repeated across all exam centres?
Please note that I did not think that the entire exam was unsuitable. I felt Section B was suitable and matched the suggested course outline.
I would like to show my support for the above comments concerning section A of this paper. Many of my students were also quite upset and
bemused by the questions and are aware that they have not done themselves justice. I also agree that the questions for section B were suitable.
There needs to be an inquiry into the section A questions and appropriate guidance given to the markers for this exam. More appropriate questions in
future exams will reduce these types of issues. I have also never complained about questions before.
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed above and was moved to write the following e-mail to Mark:-
I’ve tried to add some comments to a discussion on the Edexcel community forum today but to no avail.
Yesterday, we had forty students at the school sitting the Unit 3 paper on the USA : Boom, Bust and Recovery. The Section A questions in my opinion (and it seems to be a view shared by all those on the forum and in an informal teachers network we have set up around the unit) were far too narrow in focus. Immigration is barely alluded to in the suggested teaching scheme and yet constituted one of the questions.
I appreciate that it is A2 and that students should be stretched but the choice of questions seemed odd to say the least. It’s been difficult enough teaching the unit with no board-endorsed textbook without having to contend with this.
I also appreciate that it’s done and dusted but would like my comments noted and taken back to the relevant individuals.
GCE History 6HI03/C
C2 - The United States, 1917-54: Boom, Bust and Recovery
My name is Karen McNulty and I am the Qualification Delivery and Award Manager for Edexcel's History qualifications. I work closely with Mark (Battye, History Subject Advisor) and the senior examining team.
I have read your comments on this forum and I would like to thank you for your feedback on the above question paper, which I have discussed with the Chief Examiner. The Chief Examiner is aware of your concerns and will further consider the points raised with the senior examiners next week. We will post a statement after this discussion.
Once again, thank you for your feedback, which we welcome. It enables our examining team to get immediate feedback on how a question paper has performed, which, in turn, enables us to take it into account during the examiner standardisation and awarding meetings.
Qualification Delivery & Award Manager
History & Law
One90 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7BH
Best wishes Karen McNulty Subject Leader for Citizenship and Religious Studies, Edexcel email@example.com
I would also like to add my concerns about the section A of the exam paper. The focus was incredibly narrow and has left lots of students upset and concerned about university places. Like others have mentioned it seems edexcel guidance and resources were limited.
I have raised exactly the same issue with Edexcel over the Part A questions of Unit 3 with the French History option (Option B1 France 1786-1830: Revolution, Empire and Restoration). Again the focus of the Part A questions was very narrow and very different from the Specimen Paper. Part B, however, was fine.
Simon Taylor (Howard of Effingham School)
Many thanks for your response; I was really pleased to hear from you. I now wondered if there was a statement available from you or the Chief Examiner (as advised)? I understand that standardisation will have taken place by now, so perhaps we could be informed whether our concerns are being taken into account (perhaps by an alteration in the post-standardisation mark scheme, or by a change in the grade boundaries for Question 1).
I look forwards to hearing from you,