If you’ve come here looking for me to bang on about how wonderful statistics is … you’ve come to the wrong place – not that I don’t love stats but now is not the time!

I’ve been doing some analysis of the first 4 sittings of the new maths GCSE’s for all the boards and am stepping away from it for fear of analysis paralysis. Actually, I’m at a point that I can cut and slice the data in lots of different ways but rather than throw it all out there I’m going to do it bit by bit – I suppose … in bitesize chunks. I’m also not really sure whether some of it is useful and so will share some more over the next couple of weeks and also more after this Summers exams (I’ve already shared some of the fruits of this on JustMaths Online – see the NEW THIS WEEK document at the bottom of the “essentials” tab of “the teacher toolkit” for those of you that use JMOnline!). One of the things I’m really excited to share after the August results are published is the proportion of grade 3’s, 4’s and 5’s awarded on each tier for each exam board for what will then be the first 5 sittings … but that’ll have to wait for now. I’m really conscious that people will read all sorts of things from the data and it’s at that point in the year when we, as teachers, don’t need another thing to think about.

Despite all that preamble, I’ve still made good use of the work I’ve done and so I thought I’d share the first “thing” I’ve compiled (there is a health warning that I may have missed the odd question but have tried to make sure that this hasn’t happened!):

Common Assessment Items.

You may be aware that the GCSE subject level conditions and requirements for the new Maths GCSE (this document from Feb 2017 from Ofqual .. which superseded the April 2016 version but there were no changes to this specific bit of text regarding common items) specified that “an awarding organisation must ensure that at least 20% of the marks available in the assessments for each tier are made available through questions that are common to both tiers.” … note the use of the words “at least 20%”.

So I’ve been looking at the common items for Edexcel, AQA and OCR which you will see below. We based our SOW (which I have written about here) on the DFE programme of study whereby the underlined content * is taught to all students at various points (so higher attaining students get taught it in year 9) and so our JustMaths Online stuff is built around what we call the “Crossover” … I digress but it’s important to understand why I think this area of the exams is important – The previously mentioned subject level conditions doc from Ofqual also states that the common “questions must be targeted at a Level of Demand consistent with grades 4 and 5.” and focusing on these topics may go some way to explaining some of the results that we’ve achieved in the past. That said though, even though I’ve looked at common items I have also looked at topics that are what we would classify as “crossover” topics and they aren’t limited to just the common items they appear elsewhere in the exams too – above these questions in the higher tier and below these questions in the foundation tier generally (but some exam boards common content isn’t linearly placed in their exams … not all the boards do the same as Pearson/Edexcel who for example, generally have the last few questions on foundation (apart from the very last question) as the first few questions on the higher tier.

I’m not making any judgements as I just think it’s interesting rather than “telling” us anything … but would love to hear you thoughts .. if you have any! I did a similar exercise on the Samples and Specimen papers back when the new GCSEs were being introduced (it seems like a long time ago now) and I asked the question of the boards whether we could expect this to reflect the live papers …

First one up is Pearson/Edexcel. Pretty much as per the samples and specimens (where the lowest on any individual paper was 25% and the highest was 33.75%, and the average across the 4 sets of sample/specimens papers was 30.00%) with the live papers coming in at 30/31% appearing on both tiers and it is good to see that the common questions across all 3 papers in each sitting is now pretty evenly spread too.


Next one is AQA. The live paper percentages have increased over the 4 sittings but the average of these (28.65%) is similar to the samples/specimens (28.01%) – what is notable is the number of marks available on the crossover items does appear to vary between each paper within a sitting but that was the same with the previous analysis.


Finally and by no means the lesser important is OCR – the thing to note is that because the OCR papers are out of 100 the percentages are a bit misleading. Compared to the samples and specimens (only did 2 papers though!) where the average was 21.67% its now slightly increased to 23.7%  


Not sure if anyone will find this useful but I’m sharing it anyway!!

By way of an update … lets just say I’m busy, busy, busy … not helped by having spent 6 hours yesterday migrating everything to a new laptop! I could scream!

*All students will be assessed on the content identified by the standard and the underlined type; more highly attaining students will develop confidence and competence with all of this content.