Edexcel maths A level fiasco

(17 Posts)
Lasteleven Tue 18-Jun-19 16:42:58

NC recently but have posted here a lot before.

I thought it might be helpful to have a separate thread to follow what’s happening with the Edexcel A level maths - both the leaks and allegations that the pure paper were too hard.

I’ve just read a quite reassuring post in the A levels thread about how easy it is to spot inconsistencies in the results and also to track the leaks on social media. Not something I have any knowledge of, so I have been really worried for dd and others who sat this exam.

I’m also worried at the suggestion of removing the 2 questions that were widely leaked from paper 3 from the marks, because I know dd didn’t finish the paper but did these questions, so there would presumably be a disadvantage for students who maybe spent too much time on one or both of those questions. But I don’t know what would be a good solution. I wish Edexcel had pulled the paper as apparently they are doing for further maths this week.

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fedup21 Tue 18-Jun-19 16:45:04

Eek-I hadn’t heard of any of this, I must have been in a cloud the last week! My DS is doing maths A level next year.

What’s happened exactly?

OKBobble Tue 18-Jun-19 17:17:40

NobleGiraffe - a maths teacher has already posted an update on here so there is a thread going. Perhaps someone could link to that thread for you.

Lasteleven Tue 18-Jun-19 17:43:49

Ah thanks OKBobble. I did search but couldn't see any threads specifically on this.

fedup21 AFAIK the Edexcel paper 3 was leaked the night before and was up for sale on social media. 2 questions were widely shown scribbled out, but I think it is generally thought the whole paper was available. There have also been some claims that the first two papers were leaked, in particular there was one school in which students with an exam clash saw one of the papers while they were quarantined waiting to sit that exam.

Edexcel say they have identified the source of the Paper 3 leak and have now withdrawn this week's further maths paper because the same school had opened the package containing that paper. They will replace it with a new paper.

There were also suggestions that Paper 2 was extremely difficult, with some students unable to complete much of the paper. My dd & friends have said it required techniques only taught in further maths and that some of the material was either not on the spec or was asked in such a different form from the sample questions & textbooks that it made it difficult to know how to approach the questions.

I know several students were in tears during and after Paper 2 at dd's school - high achieving students who had been unable to answer a substantial part of the paper. If the difficulty level is so high, it's hard to see how massaging grade boundaries could take account of this, because an A/B student unable to tackle a difficult question would get the same mark for that question as a student who had skipped half the lessons and done no revision.

This is the third year in a row that Edexcel maths papers have leaked.

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TheFirstOHN Tue 18-Jun-19 19:56:19

Thread about Edexcel A-level security breaches, including the latest situation with the Further Maths paper:


Lasteleven Tue 18-Jun-19 20:38:03

Thank you ThefirstOHN. I didn’t look at the secondary board as thought it was aimed at those applying for secondaries. I will put a watch on that thread - very useful.

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GHGN Wed 19-Jun-19 07:30:37

I can answer some of the questions for you from my experience and own opinion

My dd & friends have said it required techniques only taught in further maths
This is totally not true. There is a question on series which could be solved quicker with FM knowledge but it is not necessary at all. FM students generally have better mathematical knowledge and know more advanced techniques so they can solve a problem in more than one way.

that some of the material was either not on the spec
Everything is in the spec. It is down to the students, teachers and schools to teach it.

was asked in such a different form from the sample questions & textbooks that it made it difficult to know how to approach the questions.
This is true but only partly true. In the legacy spec, all Edexcel papers are pretty much the same year on year. Students just need to do a few past papers and they pretty much would see the same thing in the real paper. Teachers were used to the format of the exam and could skip many things because the chance of they ever turned up was almost zero.

Fast forward to present day, with any new spec, teachers have no idea what will be in the paper so they will either teach in the same way as before, hoping the paper will be set in the same manner as before or try to teach everything but not in enough depth. It is not the first time Edexcel changed their spec with a lot of warning about increased difficulty but in the end the change was minimal. Some teachers I used to teach with still using the same textbook. This will take a couple of years for people to adjust, develop resources and knowing how to teach it better.

My view of the new spec is it is consistent with what Edexcel has been doing with the GCSE spec. It is harder, which means students really need to change two things. Learn their Maths properly, not by rote but gaining a full understanding of everything that they study. Secondly, they need to change their expectation of how to do a Maths paper. Don’t expect to complete the paper but go over the paper, concentrate on a few questions, spend more time on each of them but do them very well.

Schools need to change their approach as well. Letting grade 5 or 6 students taking A Level Maths will surely end in disaster. AS exam would need to go eventually except in special cases so the end of year 12 could be used for teaching.

I am not arguing that the change is good or bad. It is what it is and how to deal with its present form.


uzfrdiop Wed 19-Jun-19 08:31:45

I agree with the pp, especially:

Learn their Maths properly, not by rote but gaining a full understanding of everything that they study. Secondly, they need to change their expectation of how to do a Maths paper.

Too many students were revising for Maths using past papers, learning to do questions by rote - and not understanding in depth material that they thought wouldn't show up in the exam or would just show up in standard questions.

BTW these changes have been made very clear by the exam boards. The need for deeper understanding and ability to apply concepts to unseen problems is written into the syllabus and into the exam boards materials. There have also been many (free) CPD courses for teachers on the new specifications.

noblegiraffe Wed 19-Jun-19 08:37:18

The new A-levels weren’t meant to be harder though, the change was meant to be to a linear format.

Changing the level of difficulty of maths A-level was done before, and it was a disaster resulting in plummeting uptake. The country can’t afford people not taking maths A-level so they had to change it again quickly to make it easier.

I suspect that this A-level incarnation will not last long. I also suspect that Edexcel will lose centres to other exam boards whose papers weren’t so difficult.
God knows how low the grade boundaries will be.

fedup21 Wed 19-Jun-19 09:11:34

Was the cock up with maths or further maths A level?

DS has just done AS maths and said that it was very hard, though all those taking FM said it wasn’t! I suppose they’ve all done more maths.

What do you think might happen next year, noble?

titchy Wed 19-Jun-19 09:31:15

It was Maths A level. FM affected only in that this weeks paper was leaked so is being substituted for the reserve paper.

stucknoue Wed 19-Jun-19 09:47:37

In respect to paper 2, dd said it was hard but manageable, it required them to apply their knowledge somewhat. She isn't doing further maths. Paper 1 & paper 3 were "easy" apparently. I await results day in August. She's predicted A, and needs an A for her degree course.

Lasteleven Wed 19-Jun-19 15:14:19

stucknoue that's interesting, I think some of the higher achievers found the paper ok, though I know of many who didn't. But surely the paper needs to be accessible for those expecting B, C, D, E too? It seems the pure papers were aimed at the A/A* students, but how then do they set the grade boundaries to differentiate between a C student who has worked hard to get that C, and someone who has done no revision at all? In making A levels more challenging, we mustn't forget that they are meant to effectively assess the whole range of A level ability.

Also interesting to hear about the spec and the history of the changes. Before this I had naively assumed that all A levels require roughly the same level of ability & amount of study, as much as you can compare different subject areas. I was quite shocked to hear that some exam boards are considered easier than others, or that maths is considered to be a much harder A level than others. For students not planning on studying maths or related subjects at uni, surely that is a disincentive to take maths A level, because it would be easier to get their uni grade with a different subject? That can't be what exam boards, schools or government are aiming to achieve?

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Hortz Wed 19-Jun-19 16:52:23

DS is a Maths teacher and teaches A level Maths and FM. It's not actually that long since he took his own A levels. He freely admits that he sailed though his Maths A levels because of repetition of old papers.
His take on the difficulty tallies exactly with GHGN and uzfrdiop.
He has been trying to teach his students much more about how to do unfamiliar questions using the Maths they actually know.
I think it's unfair that Edexel are getting the flack for the leak as it seems to be a particular school that is responsible.

Lasteleven Wed 19-Jun-19 17:14:21

I think it's unfair that Edexel are getting the flack for the leak as it seems to be a particular school that is responsible.

I think where Edexcel is at fault is in not dealing with the paper 3 leak quickly enough. It was known before the exam that the paper had been leaked & was up for sale online. They could have withdrawn the paper, used a reserve paper if time allowed, or rescheduled for the contingency day if not. Instead they decided that tens of thousands of students should sit a compromised exam. In the light of their actions over the FM exam, I imagine they now realise this was a mistake.

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GHGN Wed 19-Jun-19 23:37:47

There are way too many centres using Edexcel so arranging a replacement paper would be almost logistically impossible in the time frame. They are replacing a paper so at least they are trying to do something about it. Whatever they do, they will get blamed rightly or wrongly.

Lasteleven I agree that the papers do not differentiate very well for the E,D candidates. Each question requires time to think and application of mathematical understanding. Some later questions were actually pretty easy and similar to the legacy questions. So if a weaker student can’t do an earlier question and gives up then they will lose out on many marks in the later questions.

Hollybollybingbong Fri 21-Jun-19 18:43:25

Hi all, I hope you don't mind my hijacking this thread but I thought you were probably the most relevant group!
The following was posted on Facebook, it seems an interesting opportunity which would look good on a personal statement:
Year 12 girls: want to study maths here? Study & live in Cambridge over a free 12-day residential course. But hurry! Applications close on Friday 28 June. Find out more 👉https://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/st-johns-mathematics-summer-camp-girls-application-form
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