Messages from Above: OCR Updates

With tight budgets, it is not always possible to attend a lot of conferences, courses and training but I always keep an eye on the OCR CPD feedback sessions, especially when they are more local to Scarbados (e.g. Leeds – London or Manchester make it a very long day!). So I couldn’t wait to attend the session run by Hugh Campbell on ‘Understanding the Assessment’ and really get into the minds of the examiners…until my train was delayed by nearly two hours and my body was finally shutting down with every bug going. I ended up in bed. Worry not though, as a very kind colleague of mine sent me all the information in the post!

The Headlines:

  • Better responses showed a holistic approach – wide ranging knowledge from the whole course (synoptic links are good but make sure they are linked back to the argument/ question).
  • Effort was made to read around the course material and demonstrated assessment of primary sources (I use a few primary sources and often have students take a quote or snippet of information from them but assessment of these or wider reading…who has the time with such a full spec?).
  • Still evidence of ‘Blue Peter’ answers – problem with showing model answers (is there an alternative for demonstrating essay technique?)
  • Prevalence of ‘comparing’ rather than evaluating/ assessing (I think this is a really good point. I think sometimes students think that comparing thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle equates to evaluating, when actually they are just comparing A to B. Assesment needs to take place as to why A is more convincing than B etc).
  • Still issues of asserting rather than assessing – X says this Y says that and therefore X is right with no sense of why X is right (again I think this is a really valid point. Students often state the views of thinkers and if the view of that thinker is negative e.g. Dawkins this means it counts as evaluation. In fact all you are doing is asserting the view of someone else. Assessing means weighing up why their view works or does not work.)
  • Better responses sustained a line of reasoning. Thread the argument from paragraph to paragraph – building from one point to the next.

Overall Tips:

  1. Go by what the spec says, not the textbooks or revision guides. Everything should revolve around the spec.
  2. Practice essays in timed conditions (I try squeeze in three full mocks in exam conditions on the run up to the exams in June – hard going on the students but very good practice for timings – I also do not mark the papers but the students self assess them based on my verbal instructions e.g Highlight links to the question. Have you used any defence arguments? Are all names evaluated and analysed? etc.)
  3. Regularly review past topics (I give my second year students revision packs at Christmas, February and Easter holidays to support revision of first year topics. I also set Key Knowledge Exams – short mark questions to assess content recall- after each of these holidays to check their revision).
  4. There is more than enough on the spec without over teaching the content. All relevant points are credited but students often throw everything they know without good selection.
  5. In an essay establish an argument from the outset with reason to support the thesis chosen. The material can then be used to support this rather than creating a shopping list style approach of all the names I know, at the risk of ignoring the question.

For a fuller analysis of the examiner’s feedback for each paper see: First Year and Second Year


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