Although the last year for the old syllabus in terms of assessment – the May 2015 examination reports always give some great feedback to teachers and students alike. It is available on the OCC as normal and below are a few of the highlights. I always share this with my students when it comes out to give them specific guidance – that comes from the EXAMINERS so hopefully they will take the advice on board.

Project Advice

This advice is similar to usual and will in fact be more pertinent for the new project syllabus as the IA will focus on simply the one project:-

Teachers are to be reminded that candidate work should not be submitted where too much teacher guidance has been provided or the work is group work, as the work must be of that of an individual candidate. This continues to be less evident than in previous years, but still prevalent in Planning; Aspects 1 and 2 and Research; Aspect 1 where too much direction is provided. Candidates need to explore open ended problems for project work, and this continues to be the case for 2016 where candidates will also need to consider client and market opportunities.

Only one project will be assessed from 2016. This project is more extensive than the current design project and adequate time will need to be given to address both SL and HL work. New criteria should enable further differentiation of marks and teachers are requested to use the full range of marks available where appropriate. Use of the exemplar material in the TSM to ensure standardisation of marking is recommended.

And finally a simple one but a useful reminder – to get students to use “clear headings for each assessment criteria” so it is easy for the examiner to award marks!

Paper 1

Again the examiners comments here continue to show similar themes to recent years – and show that students really do not answer 9 mark questions very well :-

Candidates would be well advised to read all the questions very carefully before attempting to answer them, particularly question stems which contain a large amount of information such as Question 1 in Section A and the Section B questions. Candidates should be encouraged to look for key words in these questions and relate the command terms used to structure appropriate responses. For nine mark questions in Section B, often the mark scheme “clusters” the answers with three marks for each cluster. In the examination, candidates should try and anticipate what these clusters would be and how to differentiate between them to avoid repetition and vague answers. Each cluster is made up of three distinct points.

And for data manipulation questions – important to be specific rather than general in their answers:-

For the data based question (Question 1) candidates should appreciate that the two sets of data are linked and that the second piece of data examines the context in more depth. When answering the questions candidates should be looking to refer to appropriate aspects of the data and avoid generalisations.

Paper 2

Any candidate whose handwriting is poor should be reminded that if the examiner cannot read the response they will not get any marks. Students should be reminded that it is pointless to write out the question again as part of the response. Teachers and candidates must be familiar with all command terms. For three mark questions, candidates must make sure there are three significant and distinct points that allow them to achieve the highest number of marks.

The classic plea for planning of long answer questions – and how they are structured is important:-

Teachers must emphasize the importance of planning the long answer part in section B questions. Writing long connected prose is not necessary and the use of sub-headings for the three parts to split them up into obvious sections is encouraged where necessary or appropriate.

Some great advice for the upcoming May 2016 questions: –

In May 2016 there will be the first set of examinations of the new syllabus. Teachers should: Focus on ‘Nature of Design’ and case studies when teaching. When teaching, explain the concepts and connect them to actual examples. Then, ask them to do the same on their own. Students could refine their common sense by reading more about the motivations, process and results an individual or company went through to introduce and sustain a product in the marketplace.

Paper 3

Again comments about how students answer the long answer questions – without technical knowledge, a correct structure and lacking specifics:-

Candidates should be urged to take more time over reading the stem and the key requirements contained within the body of the question. Too often marks are lost by, for instance, only giving one example rather than the required two. Repeating an aspect in a different form cannot be credited twice. Candidates are also advised to concentrate on the preparation for the 6 and 9 mark questions. These are effectively made up of 2 x 3 marks and 3 x 3 marks. Repetition is a common problem here, as is lack of depth of response, often due to lack of technical knowledge and vocabulary.

Some really important pointers – so get over to the OCC for more details and the full exam report and show those students as it could make the world of difference in how they achieve in those final exams.