The Difficulty of Predicting A-Level Achievement

Last year my predictions of grades for my A-Level were unfortunately a little off. Since then I have been thinking about what I did wrong or whether it was purely a consequence of the exams changing slightly and exam pressure….

I do think the exams were slightly harder the last time round, but I have also decided that I should make any end of chapter tests (I also do full past paper mocks) a bit more rigorous. As an example of my slightly improved tests I have uploaded the one I used for Taylor Series approximations here. I particularly like Question 9,

Screenshot 2016-02-02 21.02.21

The easy way is to apply Leibniz’s formula for derivatives, but of course A-Level students won’t have come across this explicitly and so it relies on them spotting a pattern in the derivatives to answer the question successfully. I’d love to hear your views on this assessment!

Predicting A-Level achievement seems, to me, harder than predicting KS4 achievement. I know that over a country wide cohort predictions based on previous attainment prove to be accurate but anecdotally the spread away from predictions is significantly higher at KS5. I think that part of this is due to the increased importance of students actually working at A-Level. In maths, for instance good students can get an A* at GCSE without doing any work outside of the classroom and then can sometimes fail to recognise the importance of hard work to achieve similarly at A-Level. I often tell my students that the step up from GCSE to A-Level is harder than the step up from A-Level to degree level and I firmly believe this to be true: We expect a lot more independence, tenacity and perseverance from an A-Level student than we tend to during previous Key Stages and if they can crack this then the transition to university study shouldn’t be too hard as they will have already developed the skills required for success.

How do you predict A-Level grades (particularly in Maths and Further Maths)?

One thought on “The Difficulty of Predicting A-Level Achievement

  1. Nice post Tom, I too find predictin A level maths much more difficult than predictin GCSE, I’ve not found a fool proof method yet, past papers in exam conditions are as good a predictor as I have found but classes have usually seen at least some of the questions already. I have been trying the international papers this year, they tend not to find them themselves.

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