MEI discussion paper on development of new A levels in Mathematics and Further Mathematics

May 2013

New linear A levels for some subjects will be developed for first teaching from 2015 with other A levels being developed for first teaching in 2016. MEI has produced a paper to facilitate discussion about the reform of AS and A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics: Changing the structure of AS/A levels in Mathematics and Further Mathematics.

Your Comments

The only way this can work is if in-class testing by teachers is counted as part of an assessment scheme in which accumulated grades from coursework and testing count towards student applications to universities. Any examination board that fails to acknowledge this will automatically fail in producing decent mathematics courses.

I enjoyed reading your paper and found the proposed models very interesting. However, I would like to know if the non-calculator element is being kept. I agree that the flexibility and choice of units must remain. In model 1 you cite 8.5hrs of FM assessment as a disadvantage compared with other subjects. Students and teachers would happily accept this if the fact was acknowledged by HE admission tutors. What would happen if an applied unit certified at the end of year 12 for AS-Level, was then sat again at the end of year 13? Could it be certified for both AS and A-Level? Would there still be a comprehension element in the core assessment? What about coursework in C3 and several applied units? Will the Section A/Section B structure of questions remain? I think increasing the further pure content of model 2 could be incorporated into model 1, but for the loss of flexibility model 2 is a non-starter.

I agree in principle with your comments in this document. It is important that changes are carefully planned and have a timescale that allows teachers to prepare properly.
As a Subject Leader using the OCR (MEI) specification I recognise how MEI addresses AO2 in the type of questions it sets and believe this should be a feature of all exam boards. Sitting the exams at the end of the course should allow time to develop proficiency and the understanding to decide on the best method to use to tackle a problem.
If exam boards are to agree on a greater assessment of AO2 are you also expecting agreement on the assessment of AO4? Adding a comprehension paper to the 3 hour C1-C4 paper is not realistic. Since C3 and C4 build on C1 and C2 maybe the 3 hour paper could be replaced with a 2½ hour paper plus a ¾ hour comprehension.
Coursework in the MEI modules works well because teachers who teach the MEI course believe it allows appropriate assessment of the topics addressed. Introducing coursework across all exam boards is likely to result in it following the path of GCSE coursework where the scaffolding and marking criteria came too prescriptive.
Is the loss of coursework and the comprehension something MEI is prepared to consider?
For further mathematics model 1 is more realistic. We need to retain the option to study applied modules in depth. The content of the current FP1 and FP2 across the different exam boards is not coherent and all awarding bodies will need to make changes. Here the universities could make it clear which topics they see as priorities.

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