Exams

AQA sorry for ‘stress’ over A-level law question not in advance info

Exam board makes second apology in a week over issues with advance information

Exam board makes second apology in a week over issues with advance information

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The exam board AQA has apologised to A-level law students for “confusion and stress” after complaints that a 30-mark question in a recent paper was not included in advance information.

But pupils will have to wait until after the paper is marked to find out what the board will do about the issue.

Pupils, parents and teachers tweeted their dismay about a question in AQA’s A-level law paper 2, which was sat on Monday.

Twitter users complained that the topics of a question on nuisance and the Rylands v Fletcher ruling was not covered in advance information which was aimed at making the first public exams since 2019 fairer.

Although advance information is not meant to cover every topic that may come up, pupils said they were led to believe it would cover all topics for questions attracting more than five marks.

One said advance information was meant to “level the playing field for those caught worse by Covid, not to trick people”.

“Your guidance clearly stated questions attracting more than 5 marks would be from the topics in AI.”

Another said: “It explicitly states that topics not listed will be the lower tariff questions!! Disgraceful.”

In guidance issued ahead of advance information, AQA said it would provide a “list of topics from the specification content that will be assessed on each paper”, and said higher-mark questions would “draw on these topics”.

“Topics not included on the list may still be assessed in low tariff, multiple choice or synoptic questions,” the guidance continued.

AQA ‘didn’t mean to cause confusion or stress’

AQA told Schools Week that advance information “wasn’t designed to cover everything in the exam”.

But they acknowledged that “many students expected us to include the focus of both the 30-mark questions – especially in light of guidance we gave before we released the advance information”.

“We didn’t mean to cause any confusion or stress for students and we’re sorry that we did. The fairest way to address this is for us to look at how students performed on this paper after we’ve marked it, and we’ll take any action necessary to protect them.”

It is the second time in a week that AQA has apologised after complaints about advance information.

The board apologised last Friday after a GCSE physics paper included a question on a topic that had been specifically ruled out in advance information.

All pupils who sat higher tier paper 1 last Thursday will all be awarded the full nine marks available for all parts of a question on energy transfers and circuits, AQA has said.

The board admitted that its advance information for the paper had specifically stated that circuits would not be assessed in the exam.

It also follows criticism of AQA last week over a question in a GCSE geography paper which campaigners warned was “inaccessible” to colour-blind pupils.

Edexcel this week also apologised over an error in its GCSE Geography B paper 3 which labelled Gabon as the Democratic Republic of Congo on a map of Africa.

Edexcel apologised on Twitter “for the unintentional error in the labelling of a map in our GCSE Geography paper and any confusion caused”.

“We will ensure students are not impacted by awarding marks for references to either country.”



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  1. Lawteacher

    AQA law candidates were not “led to believe” the topics not covered by the advance information would not be tested on the higher tariff questions, as has been suggested by the exam board and by this article; they were clearly and unambiguously told that higher-tariff questions would be drawn from the advance information topics and that they would not be tested on any material not on the list, except for short and synoptic questions e.g., questions 1-7, 9 or 11. The nuisance scenario appeared in question 10 on the paper, which is neither short nor synoptic.
    It was a direct 30-mark question representing almost a third of the marks available for the paper and an entire grade for the examination as a whole .

    The December advice is still clearly visible on the AQA website, screenshots of which have also been widely circulated online. It does not say what AQA are suggesting. Please feel free to read it for yourself.

    Whilst candidates might have been expected to revise every topic to some degree, they would not have practiced producing essay-length answers on nuisance and Rylands v Fletcher, they would have only revised in the appropriate form and detail to answer short-form questions because they would have trusted the exam board not to mislead them.

    This is a much bigger deal and a much bigger mistake than AQA is willing to admit – it is worse than the physics debacle as it is such a high tariff question and has shattered the confidence of candidates who were left stunned and confused about what to revise for the next paper. The unhelpful message from the exam board has been to revise everything in detail, which is a tall order in the seven days between paper 2 and paper 3.

    According to ofqual, “the policy intention of providing advance information is that it will support students’ revision”. The entire point of all the exam boards being instructed to issue advance information, was so that candidates were NOT required to revise everything in detail.

    Therefore, the key question might be, if AQA genuinely believes that all learners were still expected to revise for all topics in all subjects in enough detail to complete a 30-mark essay, why has this issue not arisen on many more papers in many more subjects? Statistically, it should have happened on about a third of all question papers, approximately one paper per subject.

    Furthermore, stating it would be fairer to mark the papers before making a decision on how to proceed does not help all those hard-working students that are finishing off the most difficult two school years in living memory by desperately cramming for the final paper, potentially jeopardising their performance in other subjects as well.

    What teachers are hearing from AQA is not an apology. What they are hearing is a litany of feeble excuses that are as misleading as the December guidance itself.