Research Matters 16

  • Research Matters 16 - Foreword

    Oates, T. (2013). Foreword. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 1.

    By virtue of having developed and managed qualifications for well over a century, Cambridge Assessment has accumulated considerable ‘policy memory’ regarding change in assessment and education. Without a flow of high quality evidence, ‘evidence-based policy’ is impossible. The studies included in this issue aim to ensure that this flow is sustained.

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  • Research Matters 16 - Editorial

    Green, S. (2013). Editorial. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 1.

    The articles in this issue address a range of investigations and perspectives on the theme of ‘change’. Within this theme, not only the details and descriptions of what has changed are addressed, but also how change can be best informed and what the intended and unintended consequences of change can be.

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  • Changing times, changing qualifications

    Rushton, N. (2013). Changing times, changing qualifications. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 2-9.

    During recent years there have been many changes in education and assessment in England. Since 2000, curricula have been updated, particular skills have been included then removed from assessment, several new qualifications for students in English secondary schools have been added to the Register of Regulated Qualifications and other qualifications have been withdrawn. When so many changes occur in a short space of time it is difficult to keep track of them, and the time at which they happened.

    This article tracks some of the changes that have occurred in England since 2000. The article is divided into three sections: qualifications being added and withdrawn from the Register of Regulated Qualifications; changes to GCSEs (including the proposed English Baccalaureate Certificates); and changes to A levels. For each section, a time line is included to provide an overview of the most important dates alongside a summary of the major events associated with each qualification/reform.

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  • A level reform: Is the Government in tune with its stakeholders?

    Suto, I., Mehta, S., Child, S., Wilson, F. and Jeffrey, E. (2013). A level reform: Is the Government in tune with its stakeholders? Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 9-14.

    Reformed GCE A levels are on the educational horizon for many students and their teachers. Awarding bodies are in the process of redeveloping their courses and from September 2015, the new syllabuses will be taught in sixth forms across England. In this article, we give a chronological account of the recent developments in Government policy which have fed into these plans. Alongside this account, we describe five studies that we have undertaken within our Higher Education (HE) Engagement research programme. An overarching aim of our research has been to ascertain the views and experiences of stakeholders in schools, colleges and universities on multiple aspects of A level reform.

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  • Comparing progression routes to post-16 Science qualifications

    Vidal Rodeiro, C. L. (2013). Comparing progression routes to post-16 Science qualifications. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 15-23.

    Awarding bodies in England provide schools and students with a wide choice of level 2 (aimed to 14-16 year-olds) science qualifications designed to ensure that pupils study science that is relevant and up-to-date. However, it has been argued that some courses may not be good preparation for the study of science at a higher level. Consequently some students may decide not to pursue a science subject post-16 or, if they do so, they may drop it or not fulfil their potential. This work aimed to collect detailed information (e.g., prior attainment, level of deprivation and school attended) about the students who obtained different level 2 science qualifications and investigate their uptake of and performance in post-16 science courses.

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  • Early entry GCSE candidates: Do they perform to their potential?

    Gill, T. (2013). Early entry GCSE candidates: Do they perform to their potential? Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 23-40.

    A large and increasing number of candidates are certificating for GCSEs at a younger age than scheduled. The scrapping of KS3 tests means schools can now start teaching some GCSE subjects in year 9 and subsequently enter candidates at the end of year 10, or in the winter sessions of year 11. One possible reason for early certification is that candidates can ‘bank’ a grade in the subject allowing more time in year 11 to concentrate on other subjects. The concern is that many of these candidates are not reaching their potential in the subject because they certificate before they are ready. Furthermore, candidates who certificate early usually then have a break in studying the subject, meaning that they may lose interest or feel less confident that they are prepared for further study (e.g., A levels). Those students who do go on to take the A level in the subject may struggle because of this break. This research explores the extent of early certification, GCSE performance based on certification session and
    participation and performance in the same (or similar) subject at A level. We found a big increase in early entry for Maths and English GCSE, with early entry students in these subjects less likley to achieve a grade A or better. However, there was no evidence that early entry students were less likley to go on to take an A level in the subject or that they performed less well at A level.

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  • Reaching for the A*: Exploring the extent and effect of resitting at A level

    Sutch, T. and Wilson, F. (2013). Reaching for the A*: Exploring the extent and effect of resitting at A level. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 40-48.

    The introduction of Curriculum 2000 changed the traditional linear structure of A levels to a modular structure, and introduced an integrated AS level qualification, comprising half of the modules and set at the standard expected of A level students after one year of study. This reform afforded candidates opportunities to resit individual modules to improve their grades, using the best results obtained in each module to count towards the A level. However, there has been frequent criticism that this has led to a "resit culture", with students resitting modules multiple times until they achieve their desired grade, leading to fears that students may be achieving high grades at A level by resitting. In November 2006 changes to A level specifications were agreed. These changes included the introduction of the new A* grade. This study aimed to compare the resitting patterns of students achieving the new A* grade with less highly achieving students across five contrasting A level subjects. In particular, we investigated two main areas: the extent of resitting across different grades, and the effect of resitting on the final grade and marks.

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  • Comparing difficulty of GCSE tiered examinations using common questions

    Dhawan, V. and Wilson, F. (2013). Comparing difficulty of GCSE tiered examinations using common questions. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 49-56.

    In tiered GCSE examinations the overlapping grades in the two tiers, C and D, are intended to represent the same level of performance, irrespective of the tier on which they may be achieved. A comparison of the performance of candidates at the overlapping grades can be used to maintain standards between the two tiers. One way this can be done is to include questions that are common to both tiers. In this study we investigated the difficulty of the common questions between tiered question papers to gather evidence of whether the tiered papers were functioning as expected or not. We also explored ways in which the analyses could feed into the process of writing questions for tiered examinations and thereby help in improving the current practice of producing such question papers.

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  • Statistical Reports

    The Research Division (2013). Statistical reports. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 56.

    The ongoing Statistics Reports Series provides statistical summaries of various aspects of the English examination system, such as trends in pupil uptake and attainment, qualifications choice, subject combinations and subject provision at school. This article contains a summary of the most recent additions to this series.

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  • Research News

    The Research Division (2013). Research News. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 16, 57.

    A summary of recent conferences and seminars, and research articles published since the last issue of Research Matters.

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