Setting common examination papers that differentiate
By Frances Good
Many GCSE syllabuses are examined with examinations in which all candidates take the same papers. The setting of such papers is problematic because of the wide range of abilities and achievements of pupils at the age of 16, together with the requirement that appropriate differentiation should be provided (i.e. opportunities for candidates to show what they know, understand and can do must be given).
This paper considers a number of issues relevant to the setting of such examinations. These include how differentiation may be provided; the wording of questions; and how marks should be allocated.
It highlights a number of potential pitfalls and concludes that although papers, which are accessible to all candidates and discriminate appropriately, can be set, common papers will not always provide adequate opportunities for the most able and least able candidates to show what they know, understand and can do.