Preparing A-level students for the new style of exam papers

19th May 2016 at 17:28

Subject Genius, Primrose Kitten, Preparing A-level students for the new style of exam papers

This time last year I was handing out packages that represented a small dead tree. I gave each of my AS and A-level students all the past papers and mark schemes, and I had a lot to give out! 

This year my AS students are not even getting a tiny branch. With the change in exam specifications there are just no past papers for our students to use.

There wasn't a massive change in what we needed to teach them, but there has been a massive shift in how they are assessed. This was causing problems through the year and it is most noticeable now. 


What are the changes?

There have been three main changes in the style of assessment for the new specification. The introduction of multiple choice questions, longer questions with less intermediary steps to help them through and hierarchal marking. Each of these changes present its own problems and we need to teach exam techniques to go with each of them.


Longer maths questions

In the past the maths questions have been broken down into sections, part a,b,c etc. This leads the students through the question little bit by little bit, sign posting the way. 

In this year AS exam, students will be given the question with no sign posting along the way. 

I've just a rather 'arts and crafts' way of solving this problem, taking past papers and tipexing out the sub-questions, so there is no part a,b or c. My students think I'm really mean!

Subject Genius, Primrose Kitten, Preparing A-level students for the new style of exam papers

Multiple choice questions

Hated by many as multiple guess questions, and loved by others as easy. I don't think these are a welcome addition to the exam papers. 

20 questions in 25 minutes is challenging, I would like students to draw everything out fully and do each calculation step by step. But there just isn't enough time for that. We're having to teach them how to look at a question and work out the correct answer in 60 seconds. 

To try to help them with this, I've been giving them 20 questions every week. To save me from marking them all I use edpuzzle. 

I remember a final year exam at university which was multiple choice, with adjusted marking. If I'm in a evil mood I'll use this as well, or just make students resist the quiz until they get them all correct.


Hierarchal marking

With these big long questions worth just under 10% of the paper, missing out a tiny bit is now missing out a whole grade. In the past with a check list for marking missing out a small bit meant only missing out on a mark or two. 

If you miss out a key piece that is needed to get out the level one box, even if this is only one sentence, you have lost nearly a whole grade, even if everything else you write is perfect.

I've been writing paper after paper to try and prepare then for this.

I hope I've done enough.


Please see Primrose Kitten's resources on this topic:


Multiple choice questions:


Paper written in exam style:


If you wish to see other resources created by Primrose Kitten please visit her TES shop:


Primrose Kitten teaches chemistry and physics at a girls school in Hertfordshire, as well as running a popular YouTube channel.