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A level English - wtf?

(51 Posts)
bibbitybobbityyhat Thu 16-May-19 18:59:48

I'm flummoxed that I'm in this situation.

Dd (high achieving perfectionist putting herself under A LOT of pressure and feeling the stress quite keenly now) has come home in floods of tears because she has had her English course work mark given to her by her teachers at school and it is lower than she had hoped for. It was 1 mark less than the grade she is aiming for. So now she has completely lost her confidence and feels she can't get the grade she wanted and is in absolute bits about it.

How is this helpful? Tbh I had no idea that 20% of her A level is even marked by teachers. She is now obsessing over the fact that she didn't ask for more help from the teachers when some students asked for and got a great deal of input and got that 1 or 2 magic marks more than she did. She is really shaken up and not in a good way and I find it unbelievable that anyone thinks it is a good idea to share these marks with students before all the exams are over!? Why do it?

Have to admit to being astonished that exam papers are even assessed in this way!

BringOnTheScience Thu 16-May-19 19:56:03

Course work is course work. It's assessed by the teacher, then usually has some form of moderation, depending on the qualification.
1 - your DC will have been told this is the method. It's totally expected to onow your coursework mark.
2 - can you get some help (as in counselling / support, not a tutor) to work on this perfectionism? That level of reaction is not healthy.

The incentive now is to nail that exam, so get focused on the final run of revision. smile

SabineSchmetterling Thu 16-May-19 20:00:17

They are required by the exam boards to share the marks with students. Although it sounds like the school have shared the marks very late and they've told the students after marks they’ve been submitted to the board. Really they should have told them first and let them have a chance to challenge them. Nobody knows what the grade boundaries are for this year yet so your daughter shouldn’t be upset over being “one mark away” from the next grade. It might be one mark away, or it might be more, or she might have got the grade she is aiming for after all. I’d tell her, as gently as possible, that she needs to get a grip. It’s made one mark difference to the mark she needs for the grade she wants out of the remaining 80% available, She needs to keep it in perspective.

nomilknosugarplease Thu 16-May-19 20:01:02

Whilst it may seem like she’s lost a whole grade, she’s lost one mark. I used to console myself by saying if I get one or two extra marks in the exam it’ll level out. Maybe try that?

LIZS Thu 16-May-19 20:01:11

It is unlikely it has gone through moderation yet so could yet change. However one mark is easily recoverable in an exam. She needs to focus on what is to come now.

citrine10 Thu 16-May-19 20:01:16

Grade boundaries change each year, so the idea she's '1 mark off' is nonsense. All her teachers can do is say what the boundaries were last year. They may well be lower or higher this year.

The exams are far more important in deciding final grade - 80%! That's where her attention needs to be.

percypig Thu 16-May-19 20:03:49

Firstly, 1 mark isn’t going to make a massive difference unless she’s already a borderline candidate between 2 grades.

Secondly, she needs to forget about it and focus on the exams. If she’s been given an estimate of what the UMS will be she can use that to motivate her performance in the exams. I have had pupils who did really well in the coursework unit but totally bomb an exam unit, and still come out with a high B - it’s the overall UMS total which matters, not the grades for individual units.

Finally, the coursework is a really important part of A Level English, great prep for uni, and it’s absolutely standard for it to be marked by the teacher and moderated by the exam board.

bibbitybobbityyhat Thu 16-May-19 20:04:08

She's not so bad she needs counselling. She keeps it all under control and quietly gets on with it. But this has really knocked her confidence after all her hard work! English will be her subject at University and it means so much to her.

What is the thinking behind telling the students before final marks are in?

EvaHarknessRose Thu 16-May-19 20:06:52

Just be grounding for her, it will be fine and she can do this - don’t get caught up in catastrophising with her.

citrine10 Thu 16-May-19 20:10:45

The school has to tell the students their mark submitted. But it doesn't sound like the process has been explained very well to your daughter - the mark she has has not been moderated by the exam board yet and so can be changed. Also, boundaries have not been set, so it is impossible to say exactly what grade the mark equates to.

1 mark is nothing. The best advice you can give her is to pull herself together if she's "in bits" as that is a massive overreaction, and she needs to focus on her revision. The coursework is tiny in comparison to those exams. Hope she prepares well for them and in August you're wondering what on earth you were worried about!

Michaelbaubles Thu 16-May-19 20:10:57

My students have found it quite empowering to know their grades - you can then look at the exams (2 papers for my subject), marks they’ve got in mock papers, what that might come out at (grades given before an exam are always estimates but you can give a ballpark figure) and how much that equates to per paper. For example, a student worked out she needed about 8 marks more per paper than she’d been getting to get an A overall - obviously I emphasised that this isn’t an exact science but she was very energised by that because it suddenly seems so achievable.

KnitFastDieWarm Thu 16-May-19 20:12:07

English will be her subject at University and it means so much to her.

She needs to treat it as a learning experience - when she gets to university there WILL be people better than her and there WILL be work she doesn’t do as well as she’d like on. Better to get used to that now! Part of being good at humanities subjects is learning to have your ideas and faith in you abilities robustly criticised from time to time - I’m about to start a PhD in another humanities subject and that’s essentially what higher level academic work is all about. Don’t let her obsess over it, perfectionism is unhelpful.

Piggywaspushed Thu 16-May-19 20:14:26

Just backing up the idea that there is no such thing as a 'grade' in coursework and , if your DD's teachers are telling her there is, then they are talking stuff and nonsense. Grade boundaries for English are notoriously moveable feasts!

LolaSmiles Thu 16-May-19 20:15:21

The JQC state that schools have to tell students their marks before they are finally submitted. That isn't so students can get help and change the mark, but if the student wants to challenge the mark then the piece can be second marked. In most centres it's standard to moderate every piece of coursework anyway so a change is unlikely and staff try to find marks and award.positively.
She has lost one mark. That's easily able to be picked up in an exam. Also, boundaries are set after everything is in so whatever boundaries her school are using will be last year's.
I think, to be blunt, she needs a bit of grounding and perspective. She'll be going to university with a lot less scaffolding than school, where she will probably be of a similar ability to her peers and no longer used to getting the highest marks all the time. It's a fairly textbook reaction for some high performing girls (and praised further down the school) but it really isn't healthy.
If she has revised for her exams then she'll be just fine.

TheFallenMadonna Thu 16-May-19 20:18:57

There is a requirement to tell students NEA (work marked by teachers) marks so they have the chance to appeal. If she was only told today, that is actually too late, and the school/college has messed up a bit. DS found out his History coursework mark last week, and that was one day before the deadline for appealing. I was a bit miffed because he had to hand it in in November, so I would have preferred any potential upset to have been out of the way long before the exams started. He got his EPQ mark last week too, having already made University choices based on that. He handed that in in October confused

DobbysLeftSock Thu 16-May-19 20:19:54

What is the thinking behind telling the students before final marks are in?

Students have a right to know the mark attained. By this point it will have been internally moderated (i.e. marked by another teacher at the school, possibly looked at by a team of teachers - the exact process depends on the school, number of students, etc.) and the mark given to your dd is the mark sent to the exam board. The exam board will then do external moderation. The process this takes varies as well, mostly depending on the number of students. If it is a small entry, like 9 students total, the exam board check all of the coursework. If a larger number, they will call a sample - usually a couple of the highest marked, couple the lowest, and some random ones in the middle. If they find the marking accurate, all marks stay the same. If the school is consistently over marking by a few marks then they will adjust everyone down, and vice versa. If the marking is inconsistent or out by a lot, they remark all of them. Grade boundaries vary year by year and are fixed after all the coursework and exams are completed. They don't tend to change by much at a level but if she's really only one or two marks off what she'd hoped for that is within the scope of change. She needs to focus on the exam now, not stress about the coursework, which has been and gone!

TheFallenMadonna Thu 16-May-19 20:21:05

But yes, grades are meaningless here. It is the marks that are totalled up and the grade based on that. One mark is definitely gettable.

bibbitybobbityyhat Thu 16-May-19 20:30:01

I have no intention whatsoever of catastrophising with her! I am the polar opposite of that sort of parent. I'm distressed to see her so deeply upset when normally she is so level headed and capable.

Being told that she got 1 mark off the grade she is aiming for by the school has knocked her for six and upset her! She is a robust character but this has come so close to her A levels and she can't do anything about it now. I still can't see the point of it.

But it's interesting some of you are saying school have given her this information too late. Can you tell me more about that? or where can I Google?

TheFallenMadonna Thu 16-May-19 20:34:48

JCQ guidance

TheFallenMadonna Thu 16-May-19 20:39:05

It is clear that candidates are not allowed to change their work as part of the appeal process. In fact they are only allowed access to it under supervision. The Centre's deadline for completion stands.

OKBobble Thu 16-May-19 20:40:02

She can have a "mark" at the moment but not a grade because until all papers are in and marked grade boundaries are not set. It is one mark in 20% of the weighting. Tell her to go on and smash the remaining 80%!

LolaSmiles Thu 16-May-19 20:40:20

There's a date usually given my the boards/ JQC. I can't remember when it was this year as mine were in really early.

Whether they've been told or not enough to raise it will depend on a few things, mainly have they been given their marks before?
E.g. I know of students getting their marks back 'subject to moderation' and then no news is no change. In those situations I dont think there's anything wrong with that.

People saying about how they handed in in October and should have had marks earlier need to be aware that there is a procedure for coursework and spending a year redraftinf endlessly to get the mark you want isn't in the rules (though some centres do it which is why coursework has been reduced in weighting).

TheFallenMadonna Thu 16-May-19 20:44:50

I'm a teacher myself and well aware of the rules. I didn't want him to be able to redraft after marking. I wanted any potential disappointment to be closer to the hand-in date than a week before his exams started. It took over 7 months from hand in to the mark being given to him.

SabineSchmetterling Thu 16-May-19 20:47:31

She’s overreacting in quite an extreme way. If, for example she does AQA and is aiming for an A then out of 150 marks she needs one extra mark on the exams. So depending on paper options it might be the difference between needed 52/75 and 54/75 on the two papers vs. 53/75 and 54/75. Or the grade boundaries might be totally different this year. No one knows.

In the first year of the new specs one of my students got an A* on her coursework, had a seizure in the exam and got a D overall. Another girl last year got a D on coursework and got a B overall. And her exams weren’t A* or anything, just solid mid-Bs.

In regards to the regulations this is from JCQ:

Is the centre required to tell candidates what marks they have been awarded?
Yes. The centre must inform candidates of their centre assessed marks as a candidate is allowed to request a review of the centre’s marking before marks are submitted to the awarding body.
What is the correct procedure for a candidate requesting a review of the centre’s mark?
Any review must be undertaken before marks are submitted to the awarding body. Sufficient time must be given to candidates in order to allow them to review copies of material, as necessary, and reach a decision. The centre must also allow sufficient time for the review to be carried out, to make any necessary changes to marks and to inform the candidate of the outcome, all before the awarding body’s deadline. The review must be carried out by an assessor who has appropriate competence, has had no previous involvement in the assessment of that candidate and has no personal interest in the review. The reviewer must ensure that the candidate’s mark is consistent with the standard set by the centre.
Centres must also make it clear to candidates that any centre assessed marks are subject to change through the moderation process.
The awarding bodies have produced a set of Frequently Asked Questions which may be found at:

LolaSmiles Thu 16-May-19 20:57:51

I see what you mean.
The complaint we typically hear on coursework marks going out after a reasonable break (usually due to us needing a break from seeing it to mark properly with fresh eyes and the way our mock exams fall) is the claim that the student should have been given time to change their work and we've caused stress and worry by failing to ensure they can get the grade they need. There's no mention of the months spent on it and help offered and help not taken, just that we should have marked it quicker and that way they wouldn't have got a C when they need an

TheFallenMadonna Thu 16-May-19 20:59:17

I think as a teacher it's easy to see this as an overreaction (because with is!), but it's also easy to lose sight of the fact that when you are highly stressed, you might well respond irrationally to something like this. My DS would also really have had his confidence knocked by a lower than expected coursework/EPQ mark this close to the exams, and he is pretty "chill".

bibbitybobbityyhat Fri 17-May-19 08:33:22

Thanks TheFallenMadonna.

I'd like to see any A level student not be in tears about a situation like this at this stage in the whole exam process. She is quite definitely NOT an overreactor, re. school or anything else in her life. She is a model student who wants to do the best she possibly can - of course she's going to be upset by apparently missing her grade by 1 mark! Her confidence has taken a knock just before she sits her exams ... crazy.

DobbysLeftSock Fri 17-May-19 09:48:01

But you have to explain that shes hasn't missed a grade by 1 mark. That is a nonsense. There are no grades!!!

What does she mean when she says this? Is she one mark under the band in the mark scheme? Or one mark under last year's grade boundary?

TapasForTwo Fri 17-May-19 10:02:40

The teachers shouldn't have helped the others. DD took the new spec geography A level last year, and there were strict rules about the work having to be the student's own work with no input or guidelines from the teachers. Why aren't other subjects given the same treatment?

bibbitybobbityyhat Fri 17-May-19 10:31:54

"What does she mean when she says this? Is she one mark under the band in the mark scheme? Or one mark under last year's grade boundary?"

I don't know. Her teacher told her she got 45 and if she'd got 46 she would have been at a grade higher. Neither she nor I know exactly how the marking works, nor how it changes year on year.

This is why I started a thread on Mumsnet - to ask for more information by those in the know. And to say I don't think it was a helpful thing for the teacher to have said to her at this precise moment!

TapasForTwo Fri 17-May-19 10:43:39

At least it was on only 20% of the marks. She has another 80% to ace her exam.

Piggywaspushed Fri 17-May-19 10:58:51

Honestly, I'd take this up with the teacher : s/he really should not be attaching grades to marks. Are you SURE s/he didn't say 'band' or 'level'?

tapas, there are strict rules for very subject which still has coursework at A Level but I doubt it is ever 'no' input. I think in Eng Lit the teachers are permitted to look at one draft, but are not permitted to make corrections : they can just give general guidance for improvement. In Film Studies, all drafting materials have to be kept and logged and submitted to the board on request and only one draft can be looked at by the teacher (again no corrections are allowed). Any conversations have to be logged! It's a faff. The rules are outlined in specifications.

harper30 Fri 17-May-19 11:12:20

Just tell her the boundaries change every year, so her 'one mark' might not actually make any difference; the boundaries might be lower and therefore she's on track for her desired grade already, they might be higher and therefore that one mark makes no difference at all, she'll still just have to try very hard in the exams regardless, to account for a worst case scenario that the boundaries are higher.

I'm a bit confused about why she was told that mark so late in the year though, is she in year 12 or 13?

I teach theatre studies not English, but generally my students all do the 'coursework' element in year 12 so they know their marks for that first component for a whole year by the time they sit their final exam? Although it's all subject to moderation anyway so my students also know that although they know those marks now, they might change if my marks are moderated up or down.

So your DD's marks might get changed anyway.

DobbysLeftSock Fri 17-May-19 11:25:28

Ok so it sounds like the teacher is using last year's grade boundaries to give the numerical marks some meaning.

So - first point, these are only last years grade boundaries, they change year on year. So her 45 may have been a C last year but could be a B this year. If she'd got a 46 that might have been a B last year, but it could be a C this year. This is why I said that it is a nonsense to say that she has any particular grade for the coursework element. She doesn't. She has a number.

Her final grade will be worked out by the addition of her coursework mark and her exam marks. The coursework 'grade' doesn't pull down or cap the exam mark beyond the fact that the board add 45 marks to the exam score rather than 46. So, all she has to do to 'fix' this is get obe additional mark in the exam. In my experience (10 years A level English teaching) a mark in an exam is easier to pick up than a mark in c/work.

Grt online and find out last years gradw boundaries. You can do the maths to work out how many marks she would have needed in total (exam and cwork) for the grade last year. This will give her a good idea of how many marks she needs to get in her exams.

SuperSange Fri 17-May-19 11:27:57

So, once again, it's the staff at fault. 🙄

bibbitybobbityyhat Fri 17-May-19 11:28:05

Harper30 she is in Y13 - about to sit her A levels. Also, she and I have no way of knowing that this is "late in the year" (but this thread has been illuminating) so is it something we should be raising with the school?

harper30 Fri 17-May-19 12:12:34

Hmm yes I would maybe drop the teacher an email, explain that your daughter is upset, and ask why the students weren't told about their marks slightly earlier, or ask when the work was sent off for moderation. Our deadline was the 15th of May, with Eduqas exam board, but we sent ours a bit earlier as we've had it marked and ready to go for so long.
If it was me I'd also maybe ask if their marks have been changed during moderation in previous years or not? Just to get some idea of how accurate their marking is.
Although obviously at this point, what will be will be with that component of work, all your daughter can do is aim to work hard in her exam and hope for the best, I'm sure that mark won't have an impact in the end as it was only 20%.
Best of luck to her in her exams in the next few weeks!

Piggywaspushed Fri 17-May-19 13:57:17

Not sure what that face implies super but in this case : yes, it is. All of the experienced teachers on this thread are saying this has not been handled very well.

DobbysLeftSock Fri 17-May-19 14:31:04

Super I haven't said anyone is at fault for anything. It's relatively late to be giving out the coursework marks at this point, in comparison to when I have done so in the schools I've taught at. Generally I think we've done so at the end of april/ start of may ish, as that is when we've finished our internal moderation. Too early and you get students (and parents!) whinging at you to let them have another draft to improve, which isn't allowed. Too late and you risk upsetting them unnecessarily right before the exam. Maybe this school has had problems with students & parents mithering for extra drafts / help / remarking in the past and that's why they do it so late. Maybe it was a cock up. Maybe they didnt think the students would mind. Who knows?

It may also be the case that everything I've explained on here re grade boundaries has already been explained to the students as well. God knows I've said it til I'm blue in the face only to have students say "I only need two more marks to get an A". Sometimes people don't listen!

harper30 Fri 17-May-19 14:43:01

On a tangent, I love your username @Piggywaspushed 😂

Piggywaspushed Fri 17-May-19 15:16:20

Thanks harper. Poor old Piggy sad

LolaSmiles Fri 17-May-19 16:20:42

Whether staff are at fault will depend on whether any marks were shared earlier in the year. If they had their marks earlier pending moderation then the school are fine, but the whole '1 off a X' isn't helpful. If they haven't shared any marks until this late then they haven't met JQC guidelines.

I find the grading coursework by last year's boundaries not terribly helpful yo share with students. It's useful for internal referencing but it is meaningless to students.

NonHypotheticalLurkingParent Fri 17-May-19 19:49:14


I hope your dd has had time to digest her mark. Is she doing AQA English? If so she’s got 45/50 which is 90% and puts her slap bang in the middle of band 5 (the top one).

You can’t put a grade to coursework only know what band it is. Unless it’s moderated down, it’s a solid mark to have ahead of her exams and one to be proud of.

LooseAtTheSeams Fri 17-May-19 20:18:33

OP if your dd cried, that's fine - that's how she felt and no one has the right to criticise her for how she feels. I have to cope with a DS who says 'but I was only x marks away from Y. It's quite annoying!
However, to cheer her up:
The teacher is wrong to equate marks with grades - PPs are right to say you can only connect Marks with bands. Honestly, she needn't worry at this stage. And I know it's easy to say that.
If the ones getting 1 or 2 marks more had help they are not going to do as well in the exams when you're all on your own.
It's only20% of overall grade - 80% of her grade is up for grabs! So the teacher's timing was bad but honestly it is fine.
Oh, and piggy and * Dobby* both have very cool usernames!😀

DobbysLeftSock Fri 17-May-19 20:22:41

Aw, fanks! blush

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Fri 17-May-19 20:24:42

I teach OCR A Level English Lit.

We are required to release coursework marks to the students: this is not optional, so the school had no choice there. This should be done in a timely fashion so if students believe the marking criteria have not been correctly applied to their work, they have the chance to request it be re-marked by another marker (it will usually get sent to another school at this stage).

Crucially, any discussion of grades at this stage is meaningless. The boards have not yet set this year's grade boundaries, nor will they until the exams have been sat and marked. So your DD's mark is just that - a numerical mark. Her getting upset about where she thinks she is in relation to a grade is utterly pointless because she has no way of knowing and nor does her teacher. All she can do is use last year's grade boundaries as a very rough guide.

It does sound as if your DD has massively overreacted, though. I'm also worried that she seems to equate having one mark fewer in ONE module with having "missed the grade above" overall? She does realise that she still has 80% of the marks to play for, doesn't she? confused

TheRedBarrows Fri 17-May-19 21:03:53

“It does sound as if your DD has massively overreacted, though.l

Is it any wonder? They are under such grade driven pressure.

Bibbity, I hope some of the info will re-assure her. I can quite see how her confidence is knocked just as they are at peak nerves before exam week begins.

bibbitybobbityyhat Fri 17-May-19 21:43:58

Thank you to everyone who has replied on this thread - it has been enormously informative and helpful. Dd is much calmer today. I told her the pertinent facts as I understood them from this thread. Interestingly, she said she thought her teachers at school were too busy and understaffed. She has one teacher who is part-time but who has been coming in on his days off recently. She said there are 31 pupils in her English class.

If she drops a grade she's still going to get on to the course of her choice. It's a matter of pride for her I guess, and the culmination of 13 years of consistent effort at school!

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Fri 17-May-19 21:48:20

Well, yes they are. But most of them are able to understand that the difference one mark makes to the overall UMS score is not worth catastrophising about at this stage. And they also understand the utter pointlessness of any speculation about grades based on the completion of the module with the least weighting. As many have said, there are still 80% of the marks to play for, so obsessing over this one mark rather than focusing on the exams to come is actually quite damaging in terms of what effect it might have on her performance in the exams.

There are very strict rules on how much help teachers are allowed to give, by the way, so I'm interested by her observation on that aspect of the coursework...

Shadowboy Fri 17-May-19 21:49:59

Schools are obliged to give students their grade to allow them to appeal in case the mark scheme has been misapplied. Marks were due to the moderator by the 15th so it’s too late for that anyway.

Grade boundaries are nominal anyways as exams are no longer modular. Boundaries will also change although not usually by much. It’s unlikely to be changed by moderation- I believe only 7% of marks submitted were regressed last year and 1% increased (teachers tend to mark to the top end of what could be deemed permitted)

Piggywaspushed Fri 17-May-19 22:01:21

Your DD's hard work will see her through OPsmile

gin for you, not her!

Thanks for the username love , people. I am so attached to it, I think I am called Piggy!

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