AQA A-level Chemistry ISA's / Grade boundaries

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AQA A-level Chemistry ISA's / Grade boundaries

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     Help!!!

     

    I have taught A-level chem for several years now, but this year and last year I have hit a huge stumbling block.

     

    Last June my AS students were slammed with some awful results - in particular their ISA's.  I was shocked to find out that AQA had upped the grade boundaries by four marks from the year before.

    I am still puzzled how 34/50 is just an E, and how 41 / 50 is only a C - This seems to be asking a lot considering it is a relatively blind exam on what should be a large range of subject area.

     

    Basically i am needing some advice on what to get them to do to improve - many need to go from 41 - 45 marks as this represents the difference between a C grade and an A grade.

     

    Also did anyone else have similar isues last June??

     

    Cheers

     

    Martin

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    Not sure if this will help but we noticed a very small range of marks between the A & E grades for Physics last year too.

    I think this is partly due to the fact that 9 of the 50 marks are awarded by the school (I assume this is the case for Chemistry too) . Given the conflict of interest this represents, most (all?) pupils will be starting off with 18 % and the range of marks available to the examiners for differentiation between grades is now 41.

    Secondly, it is quite 'easy' to get 25-28 marks on the papers. Pupils have to be a bit dopey not to follow their teacher's instructions to label columns correctly, add units to numerical answers, plot a graph & take a gradient, apply the formulae for calculations that they will have practiced etc. Examiners allow teachers' interpretation of correct error calculation, so this will inflate the marks too.

    We have noticed in Physics, that the real differentiators lie in the last 2 questions on the written paper when pupils have to think for themselves & apply  the Physics they know to a situation suggested by the exam paper.

    Using past papers & getting the pupils to apply the 'rules for awarding marks' that we were given by AQA when they introduced the ISA, helps address these two questions.  However, the boundaries are creeping closer each year so I don't know how tenable the system is in the long run.

    Try to go on an ISA training day with AQA - you may get some useful info.

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    Part of the issue is that there are 12 marks avaliable for the ISA. Having attended an ISA course a few years ago the average mark an E grade candidate was getting was between 11 and 12 marks. That essentially means that the discrimation comes from the paper as most centres award PSA marks of 12 to all candidates. Physics and Biology have fewer PSA marks avaliable.

     Since the introduction of an ISA the difference between an A and an E grade has been 11 marks on the paper. Last year grade boundaries were increased for each grade were raised by 2 marks meaning that an E grade was 35/50 or 23/38 on the paper (if you give 12 for the PSA) this year compared to 21 the year before.

     I can't see how grade boundaries can get any higher as it is ridiculous that to gain an A grade you can only afford to lose 4 marks on the paper. The real killer though is the UMS conversion. Some students last year would have got 6 more UMS marks for the same mark on the paper as in previous years. Essentially one mark difference on the paper is a 3 mark UMS difference!

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    It is incredibly frustrating to deal with these ISA's. Students usually get consistent grades between Chem 1 and Chem 2, but Chem 3 can be very different and in some cases affect the final grade because of a couple of marks up or down in the ISA. Surely it would be better to make the PSA a compulsory part of the A level, but not give marks for it. Then either make the ISA paper worth 42 marks, or drop the UMS to 40. I think the latter would be fairer given the scope for abuse of the system when teachers know the content of the paper in advance.

    A comment from AQA justifying the present system would be helpful.
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    Hi, I am also finding the chemistry ISAs a real challenge. I have sat one ISA with my year 13s. I have A grade students, with over 95% average UMS in the other units scraping a grade C. What are other centers doing that I am not? I find the past papers of limited help - they get students used to how questions are phrased and the level of detail, but on the whole the questions seem to differ greatly from one ISA to the next. I find it very difficult to provide students with suitable support material, before announcing what the ISA concerns, that wouldn't give the game away/be considered cheating. I have looked at both the biology and physics ISAs and they seem much easier to prepare students for. It would be possible to get students to plan an investigation about an alternative topic, but still make sure science skills are up to scratch by covering fair testing, controls etc.The chemistry questions seem a much more random selection! The one thing I did find of some help was completing one of the PSAs most similar to the ISA just before hand. Has any one come up with/ found any, methods or resources that really help the students? Cheers!
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    My advice to you Martin, would to change from the ISA to the EMPA. Look at the ISA vs EMPA UMS grade boundaries.

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    Those vary mind. June 2011 there was a 14 mark difference between A and E on the EMPA. In june 2010 it was just 10 marks.

    They both have pro's and con's. I'd expect that PSA marks will be out with the new A-level. No idea what we'll get instead but hopefully we'll get another year out of these syllabuses before the government changes A-levels completely! 

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    It would be really helpful and appreciated if a AQA A level chemistry person/representative would comment or respond ... I have an issue that the Isa grade boundaries for a level chemistry are ridiculously high for a extremely hard and tough exam , whereas even Isa a level biology are lower , what makes chemistry higher and also the mark schemes are extremely strict and don't allow more than one answer which isn't really fair ... Thank you ( please respond )
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    Come on, we all know what the reasons are for this...schools are cheating.

    The only reason the grade boundaries have got so high is to stop huge numbers of candidates getting top grades on this component - raw marks are being inflated every year, so the UMS boundaries have to go up.

    What were the boundaries for each grade on thr ISA in the first year of the specification? what were they last year?

    Mark

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    MarkS
    What were the boundaries for each grade on thr ISA in the first year of the specification? what were they last year?

    Mark

     

    The grade boundaries have only changed by one raw mark since first year of spec. We got totally stung the first year we submitted ISA marks for our cohort. 

     

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    found nemo

    MarkS
    What were the boundaries for each grade on thr ISA in the first year of the specification? what were they last year?

    Mark

     

    The grade boundaries have only changed by one raw mark since first year of spec. We got totally stung the first year we submitted ISA marks for our cohort. 

    Really? Well I must admit I'm surprised...I know that they've crept up every year on the equivalent Biology spec!

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    I'm afraid this is spot on. Pupils who I teach have told me what goes on at the schools of their friends and quite frankly its shocking.

     We get above average results each year but last year our ISA grades we distinctly lower for almost every student. The simple fact is that if you follow the rules then there is no way that under the current grading system your students can match their exam performance on the ISA's

     The answer is simple, AQA needs to identify centres who's ISA scores are matching or surpassing their performance in unit exams and investigate them. I teach very bright and gifted students and I know that if you follow the guidlines it is impossible to get anyhere near the grades they get in their exams even though they are getting 70-80% correct.

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    Biology ISA marks at A level have also caused me much head scratching. I have to agree with the above. I cannot understand how schools can produce national data that shows year on year lower marks in theory papers than a coursework mark that is supposed to test that theoretical knowledge as applied to unfamiliar data? The mark schemes them selves are often inconsistent from one year to another when students are asked, for example, to explain why repeats were done. In one year merely saying "so that the results were more reliable" gained a mark but the following year students had to state that a "more accurate mean could be calculated"; NO marks awarded for mentioning reliability.

    The stats section at A2 for Biology are a total train-wreck but that's a different issue I guess.

    FYI: Below are the AQA grade boundaries for Units 3 and 6 of the Bio A level coursework. We publish the grade boundaries alongside the marks pupils have been given for coursework as soon as we mark a piece of work. Pupils can make their own best guess as to what their raw mark will equate too ....

    Unit 3TMax 50UMS=601 mk=1.2 UMS pts
    Jun-09EMPAJun-10EMPAJun-11EMPAJun-12EMPAJun-13
    A 3833393140404238
    B 3530362837373935
    C 3227332534343632
    D 2925302232323429
    E 2723282030303226 

     

    Unit 6TMax 50UMS=601 mk=1.2 UMS ptsEMPAJun-11EMPAJun-12EMPAJun-13
    A*   423443384439
    A   393140354236
    B   362837324033
    C   332535293831
    D   312333273629
    E   292131253427 

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    On the topic of fairness in the A level ISA exams, how do you physically arrange the exams? For the last couple of years, our groups have done the practical part in their individual lessons, then all taken the paper together under exam conditions. However, I have now been told that I cannot book the hall and have the individual exam tables put out if it is not an actual exam week (i.e. Jan and May/Jun).

    I know the GCSE ISA's are done in classes, but the scope for even further abuse if this is done for the A level exams seems enormous.
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    Any thoughts on this year's ISAs? Is it just me or has AQA made them harder?
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    mm38
    Any thoughts on this year's ISAs? Is it just me or has AQA made them harder?
    Much harder
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    Cheating does occur. My own pupils tell me that their friends in other schools are given practice questions that are almost identical to the ISAs. I won't name the chemical because I don't want to damage security even more but one boy asked me about a named reagent that we have never mentioned in Chemistry. He had obviously been in touch with someone who had access to inside information. The other problem is PSAs, If the vast majority (as is quoted on the examiners' report) is scoring an unmoderated 12/12, any differentiation has to come in the ISA section and hence the apparent severity. Ironically, the severity of the ticks to UMS conversion caused by the cheats actually encourages more schools to cheat so that they are not left out. Meaningful assessment of practical skills is important but is difficult to achieve. Perhaps the old practical exam (with the chance that an exams inspector might just turn up on the day) might be the way forward.
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