Same questions, 'meetier' answers - how have expectations changed?

Same questions, 'meetier' answers - how have expectations changed?

We recently attended the A Level Statistics Conference in Manchester. It was great to meet with Maths teachers from across the UK and discuss what we had been learning from creating exam-style questions for the new spec. There were two main revelations for us at the conference which we wanted to share, which will affect how we teach and prepare students for their summer exams. Here it is!

My job at MarkIt is to create exam style questions from scratch that are completely tailored to the new specification. I have seen first hand how there is so much temptation to fall back on using harder questions from the legacy specification. Here are 3 ways to avoid being blindsided and preparing students for what’s new.

With the introduction of the large dataset this year, there is now additional knowledge students need in order to get the top marks in their summer exams! They will still need to know and understand the process behind statistical analysis and apply that to new data in the exam, but as of this September, they will *also* need to recall information about the large data set.

*and why we should be fussy about the work we set this year.*

How will the exam boards frame an exam style question around this unique way of using Logs? And where will they seek ways to add curve balls to really test students’ understanding of the models involved? Reading through all the textbooks, specifications and specimen papers for all exam boards, here’s what I found.

In the world of the new A Level Maths, one of the most significant changes applies to the...applied modules! Firstly to say, a lot of the content itself for Mechanics and Statistics has remained the same, so you will still see resolving forces for the years to come...

So what has changed?

How to prepare when you don't know enough about what you're preparing for. We have summarised, in one clean list, all they key aspects of our research into the new A Level, with your lessons in mind. Read about where to find past papers that match, how to work with problem solving and where the hidden pitfalls lie in the new A Level Maths exams.

If I did every single Solomon, Elmwood and IYGB paper for any exam board from the old spec, **I would still struggle to get an A on the new A Level exams. **

With an increased emphasis on Problem Solving and Mathematical Argument, the new specification focuses on teaching students to strategise. Given a lot of information, an end goal, and little breakdown into simpler parts, they will need to unpack problems on their own. Crucially, it will be entirely on them to ask themselves : **would a sketch help me here?**

**Given that there is greater ambiguity about what could come up in the exams and specimen papers will not be enough, take the time to plan your teaching around the Overarching Themes. If it is a question that challenges your own familiarity, it will do that and more for students too! **

**Simply using legacy syllabus past papers will not be enough, they provide too much of a comfort zone! Questions will not so easily fall into topic specific boxes like a ‘quadratics question’ or a ‘Trig question’. Several topics will be tested within one question as a way to exercise the Problem Solving muscle. Read my take on alternative past papers that have been around for years!**

Gone are the days of being given equations and asked to find unknowns - much deeper interpretation and problem solving will be expected of A Level students. This is a good change!

This week I completed Specimen paper 1 of the Edexcel specification for the new A Level. It was a pleasant surprise to see changes in the way quadratics could be examined in the new specifications. I include the question I found and some interesting points of comparison with the old specification.

There is a lot to consider when choosing an exam board. Why would you even consider changing? My meetings with teachers in recent weeks have resulted in questions being asked of my opinion on each board and which I would recommend. I was very interested to hear the way that they themselves were making comparisons and looking at the tradeoffs involved in picking one board over the other. I share my findings here.

In the last few weeks, I have been doing sample A Level questions from the new specifications to get closer to what this change in tone feels like. Although the A Level is not meant to be more challenging, it has certainly increased the demand for mathematical rigour and ‘on the spot thinking’.

This week I attended a free and wonderfully enlightening CPD session at the King’s Maths School called ‘Problem Solving at Key Stage 5’.

**After going through the new A level Maths specification for Edexcel with a fine toothed comb most changes are really positive. Students will be stretched and challenged in healthy ways, actually applying what are routine calculations to ‘wordy’ contexts. It looks like actual ‘on the spot’ thinking will be required - just knowing the computational basics will not be enough. Based on my experience, I deeply believe that it will produce stronger mathematicians. **

Last minute revision activities are usually one or more of the following:

- Working out what is most likely to come up from previous papers;
- Testing yourself on key words;
- Doing as many past papers as you physically have time for;
- Checking in with friends to see how much revision they have done;
- Writing out exam cards to take with you on the day;
- Panicking or giving up!

As soon as I tell people I am a tutor, I often get asked by a concerned parent in the vicinity if I have any advice. To start, I would ask about what subject, which level and what target grades we are looking at here but the reality is, it does not matter. Here's why...