Level of demand of GCSE Languages papers

Wednesday 15 Jul 2020

An end of term update from Judith Rowland-Jones, our Head of Curriculum: Languages.

We know there have been some discussions recently about the level of demand of assessments. Here is some information on some of the points which have been raised.

We’re committed to fair and accurate outcomes for all students – every year

Our question paper tasks are designed to distinguish between students of different abilities. This gives us a broad distribution of marks across the full mark range and allows us to set grade boundaries that are spaced out and clearly differentiate. We know that where questions prove to be easier than expected, this results in higher marks and higher grade boundaries.

Our papers make sure that higher demand questions, testing more challenging aspects, (for example making an inference, drawing a conclusion, demonstrating close listening and reading skills) are accessible to a wide range of students, even though we expect only the highest attaining students to get full marks.

We focus on accessibility

In Listening and Reading tests, the length of the heard material and the stimulus texts is carefully considered, along with the requirements of the task, to make sure the questions distinguish between abilities effectively while still being fair for our students. We work hard to simplify contexts and reduce word counts, to create tasks that are accessible and still differentiate effectively.

Practising teachers are involved in reviewing the draft questions that our assessment writers create. If individual questions and/or papers have not performed as intended (eg they were more accessible or more challenging than expected), this is taken into account in the setting of grade boundaries and also as part of continuous improvement for our future papers.

We review exam papers and make changes every year

We conduct a detailed review of our exam papers after each series. As part of this review, we consider any feedback received from teachers and use data about how students have performed on each question. We want all our assessments to be the highest possible quality for your students and we work continuously to achieve this.

Pauses in our Listening tests

We know that many students worry about answering questions in the time available. The pauses in our Listening tests have always been carefully tailored to the question. The length of the pause varies according to the amount of reading and writing required, the task type and page-turns. We know this hasn’t been the case for all exam boards.