Join hundreds of science teachers in the TES Science group. Find lesson ideas and inspiration, share best practice and get your questions answered by your peers. This is also the place to go to debate the latest issues in science teaching.
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??
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.
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!
My advice to you Martin, would to change from the ISA to the EMPA. Look at the ISA vs EMPA UMS grade boundaries.
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!
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?
MarkSWhat 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.
found nemoMarkSWhat 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!
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.
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 ....
mm38Any thoughts on this year's ISAs? Is it just me or has AQA made them harder?
Top of page