Y11 GCSE Exam Paper Analysis

This guest post was written by Steve Allen (@iPEteacher). “A Picture paints a thousand words” 1 Analysing exam papers isn’t something that is particularly new or ground-breaking, but is incredibly useful to give a snapshot of how each student performed and how, as a group they performed. Were there particular questions or topics that students didn’t answer well? Was it a particular type of question that caused students problems (describe, explain, evaluate)? This information can be powerful when looking where to go next – for the student and as a teacher. Students receive personalised feedback and clear steps for how they can move forward. Teachers can use the data to go over common problems with questions or maybe to re-teach specific areas of content to clear up misunderstandings.

The process

Following an end of unit test or mock exam, I use a spreadsheet to input a breakdown for each student per question. I then use this spreadsheet to set up a Mail Merge to export the data to Word. This is then printed for each student where we spend some time going over the test – some of which is teacher led and some that students work independently on. See the images for an example of the spreadsheet and student output. 2 3

How the idea came about?

This is something I have been doing for the last four years, since having my first GCSE PE group as an NQT. I have gradually tried to streamline the process, to reduce teacher input time to maximise the impact for students. I first used this process following a mock exam at the end of Year 10 but soon rolled it out following each end of unit test. Looking back at my first attempt and how it has evolved since then is staggering, both in terms of inputting the data and from a visual point of view. I have used conditional formatting to give a clear visual picture.

The Set up

The initial set up of the sheet to determine maximum marks available, question topic/unit and command words doesn’t take a great deal of time. I generally split each question into its constituent parts but this doesn’t have to be the case. The conditional formatting is calculated in the following way; 25% of marks = red, 50% of marks = yellow, 75% of marks = green. The percentages are automatically calculated and the cells change colour based on the marks achieved. See image for the blank spreadsheet. 7 After I have marked all of the test papers I then input the data per student which takes me around 20 minutes to complete.

The Impact

In my experience of using this with a range of groups and also rolling it out across my department, there has been considerable impact. Initial staff response was that it would be time consuming and not useful to improve progress. I spend the time setting up the spreadsheets for every end of unit test and PPE’s (Pre Public Examinations – (Mock’s). I encourage staff to use them for end of unit tests and insist they are used for the PPE’s. Considering that staff’s initial thoughts, all members of my department have used them in a recent end of unit test.

What does the data tell us?

The RAG rated conditional formatting gives a clear picture of how the group have done as a whole. I also set up a class average at the bottom of the spreadsheet which is also RAG rated to give an indication of common misconceptions and misunderstandings. This is extremely powerful in planning subsequent lessons. I also use the standard deviation function (a quantity expressing by how much the members of a group differ from the mean value for the group) to see if the question was a problem for all students or just some of the group. 8

The follow up

Students use their individual breakdown to highlight areas of strength and areas for development. As a group we will then go over the questions which caused problems as a class before getting the students to use the mark scheme to go over areas that they didn’t perform as well in individually. I have used this to group students for common problems they may have faced. See images for an example of a PowerPoint I used for a reflection lesson. 10 Following this task I ask students to summarise their paper with statements of “What went wel” and “Even better if”… They then used this information to write a reflection in the back of their book which is something new that I am trialling this year. The plan is then for me to respond to their reflection, creating a learning dialogue which can be used throughout the year. 11 12 I am happy to share any of the resources (#sharingiscaring) detailed in this article if you feel that they could be useful for you or your department. I would also welcome feedback if you have used similar in your teaching and would be interested to hear of the affect that this has had on learning.


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