The new maths GCSE
The new maths GCSEs have been approved, and schools now face the prospect of selecting which board they are going to go for from next year. A few weeks ago I attended an exam board briefing which included presentations from the three main boards. Today I’ve been working on a presentation to share what I’d learned there with the department and I thought I’d share a few thoughts, and a few of the questions from the sample assessment materials, here.
The compulsory stuff
Obviously, all three boards are constrained by the curriculum set out by the government, if you’re still unfamiliar with the new curriculum (get your act together!) there’s a lovely summary here and you can download it here. They had the option to add extra stuff in, but according to the presentations none of them have. Although stem and leaf diagrams have been removed from the national curriculum but still appear on the Edexcel sample materials.
The exam papers have to run for a total of 4.5 hours, with at least half being calculator assessed. These three have all gone for three 1.5 hour papers, with one non-calculator. I believe the Welsh board have gone for two 2.25 hour papers, one of each. I think the three paper option is sensible, although I would have preferred them to have two non-calculator exams. Edexcel and AQA have assigned 80 marks per paper, where as OCR have assigned 100.
The make up of the tiers will be different, the new 4 will be equal to the old C and the new 7 the old A. That is to say the bottom of each will be the same. Foundation will test 1-5, with 50% coming from 1-3 and 50% coming from 4&5. Likewise, higher will be 4-9 with 50% 4-6 and the rest 7+. The gradings at the top will be slightly different, with the top ten percent getting 9 and the rest being split between 7 and 8. I’m not sure I agree with this. One year a 7 and a 9 maybe a couple of marks different, and one year they may be a ton. It’s a weird hybrid of curve grading and criteria grading and it will potentially confuse folk.
So what are they offering?
As far as the support goes, I think any of the exam boards would be a great call. All offer things that are exceptionally good. AQAs free interactive route maps and all that comes with them are a massive selling point, Edexcel’s free results plus service is phenomenal and OCR are offering a free mock exam service which in the first instance negates the lack of past papers and going forward offers a fresh mock paper so pupils haven’t seen then before. On top of this they all offer an exam paper builder, although OCR charge for this.
So how can we choose?
Given that up until now all three boards seem to be pretty equal, I guess the final choice will cone down to the sample assessment materials. It is here where we see a major difference, particularly in the foundation paper.
AQA, during the briefing, were particularly keen to get across the idea that they’d worked hard to ensure they had the lowest word count. The briefing saw the representatives have some amusing banter over this, with Edexcel suggesting “we’ve always used words, we gone for the best, accessible questions, rather than counting words”! Although I’d question the accedibility of a foundation paper that has questions like this on it:
I also find that at times the Edexcel foundation papers overcomplicate some of the questions:
Then there’s this, which I’m not really sure the point of:
Obviously, the content has to be harder, that’s part of the constraints, but I feel these questions are overly complicated for what they are. There are good questions on there too though. I love this one:
All 6 questions appear on Edexcel foundation SAMs.
The other boards, for me, are much more accessible. OCR have a much more accessible approach to standard form:
But they are still a little overcomplicated at times:
Both from OCR foundation SAMs
AQA have really worked to eliminate unnecessary and confusing wording:
And this question is my favourite on any of the Foundation SAMs:
All 3 taken from AQA Foundation SAMs.
I think I prefer the AQA FN papers at the moment, but I’m still looking at them.
What about the higher papers?
The higher papers are, for me, all superb. I like the fact the content is much tougher, and I feel all three boards have done a great job putting the higher tier papers together. We will need to ensure all members of staff in our departments are secure in their pedagogical subject knowledge of the new curriculum, as there are some tricky topics that haven’t previously been taught until A – Level.
Here are some examples of questions not on the current syllabus:
OCR HIGHER NON-CALCULATOR
All these questions are, in my opinion, excellent. They are challenging and require a good amount of mathematical thinking. On the whole, I’d be happy sitting my learners any of the higher papers, so I think the decision will probably come down to the foundation papers.
I’m excited by the new curriculum, and I’m now excited by the sample assessments. I can’t wait to get into the teaching of it! I also can’t wait for the exam boards to release the new A Level specs and sample assessments!