Tom Sutch

Tom Sutch

Since joining Cambridge Assessment in 2012 I’ve been involved in a variety of projects involving statistical analysis of assessment data, focusing on subject uptake, attainment and progression, and quality of marking.

Most recently, as part of the Data and Analytics team, I have been exploring the phenomenon of exam-related discussion on Twitter, and have produced a number of the Data Bytes which are published on our website.

I studied at the University of Cambridge, gaining a BA in Mathematics, before going on to obtain an MSc in Applied Statistics from Birkbeck College, University of London.

Publications

2017

Geographical variations in A level uptake in 2016
Sutch, T. (2017). Statistics Report series No. 118
Geographical variations in A level uptake in 2016 - Data
Sutch, T. (2017). Statistics Report series No. 118 - Data
Social media discussion of British school exams
Sutch, T., Klir, N. and Keirstead, J. (2017). Presented at the 4th European Conference on Social Media, Vilnius, Lithuania, 3-4 July 2017
Tweeting about exams: Investigating the use of social media over the summer 2016 session

Sutch, T. and Klir, N. (2017). Tweeting about exams: Investigating the use of social media over the summer 2016 session. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 23, 2-9.

In recent years, social media discussion of particular GCSE and A level exams and questions has led to coverage in the national media. Using exam-related tweets collected from Twitter in real time, we investigated the extent of this phenomenon, the topics being discussed and the sentiments being expressed. We quantified sentiment by monitoring the occurrence of popularly used emoji within the tweets. We found that the overall volume of tweets followed weekly and daily patterns, with activity peaking in the periods just before and after exams. Discussion of particular subjects was concentrated on days when relevant exams took place. When we focused on the Mathematics GCSE papers sat on a particular day, we were able to identify several distinct phases based on the words and emoji used in tweets: discussion switched from revision to wishing others luck before the exam, then reflecting on performance and discussing individual questions afterwards.

2016

The effect of specialism and attainment in secondary school on the choice of Higher Education institution and field of study

Sutch, T., Zanini, N. & Vidal Rodeiro, C.L. (2016). The effect of specialism and attainment in secondary school on the choice of Higher Education institution and field of study. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 21, 2-11.

Progression from secondary to Higher Education (HE) has direct implications on wage returns and social mobility. The recent expansion of HE in the majority of European countries has highlighted that returns to HE are not just associated with the decision to study at university rather than enter the labour market, but also with the choice of studying in a particular field at a specific HE institution. Because the process of application and admission to universities in the United Kingdom (UK) places a strong weight on attainment, both overall and in specific subjects, the educational background of students is a key factor influencing progression from secondary education to specific fields of study and HE institutions. The aim of this article is to provide evidence about the relationship between educational background, measured by subject choice and attainment in the final years of secondary education,and HE participation in terms of institution attended and choice of the field of study, an area in which not much research has been carried out so far.

Using association rules to understand subject choice at AS/A level
Sutch, T. (2015). Cambridge Assessment Research Report. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Assessment.

2015

Provision of international GCSE subjects 2014 - Data
Sutch, T. (2015) Statistics Report Series No. 96 - Data
Provision of international GCSE subjects 2014
Sutch, T. (2015) Statistics Report Series No. 96
Uptake of international GCSE subjects 2014 - Data
Sutch, T. (2015) Statistics Report Series No. 95 - Data
Uptake of international GCSE subjects 2014
Sutch, T. (2015) Statistics Report Series No. 95
Progressing to Higher Education in the UK: The effect of prior learning on institution and field of study

Vidal Rodeiro, C.L., Sutch, T. and Zanini, N. (2015). Progressing to Higher Education in the UK: The effect of prior learning on institution and field of study. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 20, 13-21.

Students applying to study a course in a Higher Education (HE) institution have to make two choices: what subject to study and at which institution. These decisions are influenced by a range of different factors, for example their personal interests, their socio-economic background and, in particular, their prior qualifications and performance. However, new qualifications that aim to prepare learners for study at university have been introduced quite recently, some qualifications have been withdrawn, and others are being comprehensively reformed. It is therefore crucial to better understand how current qualifications, both academic and vocational, are used by young people to progress to HE. The main aim of this work was to provide detailed quantitative evidence to shed light on this topic. Specifically, the research focused on the following issues: understanding the range of qualifications and combinations of qualifications held by learners aged 16-19 who progressed to different types of HE institutions to study different subjects, and identifying the HE destinations (both institutions and subjects) of learners holding different types of qualifications and of learners with a mixed economy of qualifications.

A level reform: implications for subject uptake
Sutch, T., Zanini, N. and Benton, T. (2015).  Cambridge Assessment Research Report.  Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Assessment.
Progressing to Higher Education in the UK: The effect of prior learning on institution and field of study

Vidal Rodeiro, C. Sutch, T. and Zanini, N. (2015). Progressing to Higher Education in the UK: The effect of prior learning on institution and field of study. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 20, 13-21.

Students applying to study a course in a Higher Education (HE) institution have to make two choices: what subject to study and at which institution. These decisions are influenced by a range of different factors, for example their personal interests, their socio-economic background and, in particular, their prior qualifications and performance. However, new qualifications that aim to prepare learners for study at university have been introduced quite recently, some qualifications have been withdrawn, and others are being comprehensively reformed. It is therefore crucial to better understand how current qualifications, both academic and vocational, are used by young people to progress to HE. The main aim of this work was to provide detailed quantitative evidence to shed light on this topic. Specifically, the research focused on the following issues: understanding the range of qualifications and combinations of qualifications held by learners aged 16-19 who progressed to different types of HE institutions to study different subjects, and identifying the HE destinations (both institutions and subjects) of learners holding different types of qualifications and of learners with a mixed economy of qualifications.

2014

Pathways to Higher Education: the effect of different prior qualifications on institution and field of study
Vidal Rodeiro, C.L., Sutch, T. & Zanini, N. (2014). Presented at the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association, London, 23-25 September 2014.
How do A level subjects and grades determine university choices?
Zanini, N., Sutch, T. & Vidal Rodeiro, C.L. (2014). Presented at the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association, London, 23-25 September 2014.
Academic and vocational pathways to higher education and their impact on the choice of institution and field of study
Vidal Rodeiro, C.L., Sutch, T. and Zanini, N. (2014) Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Porto, 1 -5 September 2014
Uptake of GCE AS level subjects 2007–2013
Sutch, T. (2014) Statistics Report Series No. 75
Uptake of GCE AS level subjects 2007–2013 - Data
Sutch, T. (2014) Statistics Report Series No. 75 - Data
Analysis of the use of Key Stage 2 data in GCSE predictions
Benton, T. and Sutch T. (2014). Analysis of the use of Key Stage 2 data in GCSE predictions. Ofqual, Ofqual/14/5471, Coventry.

2013

Progression from GCSE to AS and A level, 2010
Sutch, T. (2013) Statistics Report Series No. 69
Uptake of IGCSE subjects 2012
Sutch, T. (2013) Statistics Report Series No. 63
Provision of IGCSE subjects 2012
Sutch, T. (2013) Statistics Report Series No. 62
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.

Prior learning of undergraduates in UK Higher Education institutions
Vidal Rodeiro, C.L., Sutch, T. and Zanini, N. (2013) Cambridge Assessment Research Report. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Assessment.
Popularity of A level subjects among UK university students
Vidal Rodeiro, C.L. and Sutch, T. (2013) Statistical Report Series No. 52
Exploring the value of GCSE prediction matrices based upon attainment at Key Stage 2
Benton, T. and Sutch, T. (2013). Cambridge Assessment Research Report. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Assessment.

Research Matters

Research Matters

Research Matters is our free biannual publication which allows us to share our assessment research, in a range of fields, with the wider assessment community.