The History team have had a busy November attending INSETs, and running free Teacher Networks for GCSE History B (SHP). At these events we’ve each been asked some similar questions so I thought it best to answer these in a straightforward blog post.
And as ever, it was great to meet so many enthusiastic teachers who have really got to grips with the GCSE course and to hear so many great stories of engaged and inspired students.
A key thing is that we have also been learning too. The evidence of two full assessment cycles puts us in a much better position to provide the clarity that you’re asking for.
Q1. On papers 1 and 3, how many factors should be given for the Explain question (question 3, the 10-marker)? In 2018 it was 3, but last year 2 was enough, what will it be in 2020?
A. There has never been a set number of factors required, otherwise the question would have to state ‘give x number of reasons.’ Examiners simply noted what typical answers were doing.
If you want to advise your students to give two reasons, then you can do so in full confidence that that in itself will be no barrier to them being awarded full marks. Equally, it is possible that if they give three reasons, then depending on the quality of their explanation, they may have reached full marks by the end of their second factor.
It is unlikely that just giving one reason, no matter how well argued, will genuinely show the ‘sophisticated understanding’ and ‘strong knowledge’ required for the top level, so at least two is the message here.
Q2. For question 7 on the non-British depth study, the 15-marker, do they only have to deal with 2 of the 3 sources/interpretations? That seemed to be the case on the Nazi Germany paper last summer – will it also be the case in 2020?
A. Our advice for this question remains that all three sources and interpretations should be fully considered for their usefulness in relation to the issue in the question. However, prior to standardisation of examiners, senior markers will always look at how the question has worked in reality.
If a particular source or interpretation has proved unexpectedly problematic for candidates, then in order to ensure the full range of marks can still be awarded, and out of fairness to candidates, allowances may be made.
This was the case last summer on the Living Under Nazi Rule paper, where many otherwise able candidates were not able to engage as fully with the short interpretation, and hence the indicative mark scheme was amended to reflect that. However, it should not be assumed that that will be the case in future series – and the advice is to try to deal roughly equally with all three sources/interpretations.
Q3. For question 7 on the British paper, the 12-marker, is it true that students don’t have to deal with ‘how far’ the interpretations are different, and it’s really just ‘how’ they are different?
A. No. This is not the case. The question stem is fixed, there will always be two interpretations, and candidates will always be asked ‘How far do they differ and what might explain any differences?’. Therefore candidates who do not engage at some level with the extent of difference are not fully answering the question.
That said, this should not be seen as a tricky additional hurdle, and it can be done implicitly (examiners are always looking to mark positively). Remember also that asking ‘how far’ benefits candidates as it allows them to discuss similarity, if they choose.
Lastly, it is worth bearing in mind that just considering one way in which the interpretations are e.g. actually very different, or really not very different at all, is sufficient. It is all about the quality of the answer, and no set number of differences and/or similarities is asked for or expected.
I hope that’s been helpful! We’ll be producing more assessment guidance in the near future.
In the meantime you can submit your comments below or email any queries to email@example.com. And if you haven’t already, sign up for our email updates or follow us on Twitter @OCR_History. That way you can be sure never to miss out on knowing when new resources and support options become available.
Mike Goddard - Subject Specialist - History
Mike is a history subject specialist and has worked at OCR on the history portfolio since 2007. Previously he has held roles at Cambridge International Examinations and for an educational publisher. Mike has a degree in Economic and Social History from the University of York and a Masters in Modern History from UCL. In his spare time he enjoys crosswords and snooker.