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How to teach The Large Dataset - tips for teachers!

How to teach The Large Dataset - tips for teachers!

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.

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We have done research into each exam board and what is expected and I hope the outcome of this will be useful to you this year! We'll talk through what additional things students will need to know and how the exam boards differ so you are able to make sure you access appropriate and effective past paper questions throughout the year.


What students have to remember:

It is difficult to look at the entire dataset and know exactly what to recall for the exam. It would be impossible to remember all the data points themselves so here are a few things you should make sure your students can recall as the exam questions (in every board) will test this knowledge!

  • Rough data sizes - students should be able to recall the number of rows and the number of columns so they can answer sampling questions. Knowing the data size will allow them to pick sensible, practical sample sizes which are appropriate for the data set;
  • Null values - students will need to know which colums/rows have null values in them. Questions such as 'why will you not get a full sample size' will be probing into this knowledge, checking they understand that you allow a null data point to contribute to any locational or dispersion factors of a dataset;
  • How data varies between sheets - students will have to recall how the rough means and dispersion values (variance & standard deviation) vary between the sheets. For most exam boards, the different sheets represent different years, locations or circumstances and students will need to be able to recognise the following:
    • Trends in averages between sheets;
    • Trends in dispersion between sheets;
    • Trends in range between the sheets;
  • Know the existence of summary columns - I have seen many exam-style questions asking about how to process the data from the large data set and typical slip-ups include not realising there are summary columns that have already calculated averages. Students should be aware of the different hierarchy of data presented to them and be confident that they know what data is there so they can describe the fastest analysis in the exam!

How the exam boards vary

This next sections is more for teachers, conveying our research to make sure you get the best past paper questions aligned to your exam board! Here are ways the exam boards vary:

  • Completely different datasets - each exam board has picked a completely different dataset, not only with different data but perhaps more importantly, a different structure! The AQA, dataset for example, has it's hierarchy by rows whereas the Edexcel and OCR datasets have their hierarchy by column.
  • Therefore they require different question types - When setting questions, make sure you only set questions for the dataset of your exam board. Even if other exam board questions look like good practice when you run out of material, they could confuse your students!

Links to the datasets

Here's the links to all three exam board datasets in case you want to have a look!

Try some exam questions with your class

Do try our questions out with your class on the new datasets, we have them for every board and welcome comments and feedback...

For more exam-style questions, sign up for a FREE account and get access to new spec A Level questions: 

I will be writing next on the excel skills needed to teach the dataset so watch this space! You can subscribe to receive all our research hot off the press below...

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