So with the impending new GCSE, I thought it’d be a good idea to publish a few thoughts on the new specimen papers. What better way to do it than to sit each paper myself, then write down my random rambling thoughts afterwards…
I decided I’d do the OCR Higher papers first. There are three, but I just did Paper 4 (which is paper 1… very confusing). This is a calculator paper, although I didn’t really need one for 95% of the questions.
TIme Allowed: 1 hour 30 minutes
Time Taken : about an hour, during which I ate some sandwiches and listened to Radio 6 and took a phone call.
I didn’t check any of my answers once I’d moved onto another question, and I wrote comments in as thoughts jumped into my head. There are a few notes post-test when I looked over the mark scheme, which I did in red but sadly the scanner was b&w and I forgot!
You might want to open the paper in a separate tab to reference as we go along.
Finally, if the pictures below seem small, just click on them.
The first noticeable difference was that the ‘easy’ or ‘gentle’ introduction from previous years seems to have gone. Even though the first questions are only worth a couple of marks each, they’re harder than in previous papers. Of course, feel free to disagree!
Immediately I noticed that 1(b) required me to re-read 1(a), which in itself will certainly throw a few students off the case. Hopefully not many. Also I know a lot of students who will immediately start the answer to 1(a) as soon as they read the first half of the question, and will miss out the part about leaving your answer in terms of pi.
I was a little unsure what to do with my answer to Q2, so put a rounded integer and rounded 1 decimal place answer. The mark scheme preferred a decimal, although you could get the mark if you put integer with all of your working out (bit weird).
Q3 was straight forward enough.
Q4 asked me to sketch a graph where y is directly proportional to x. I know a lot of students who would not be able to access that question simply because of the mathematical language, which would be a shame as it’s a really easy question. I guess it’s testing your language rather than your mathematical skill.
4(b) was quite a nice question, but I was a little weary about whether they wanted any working out related to inverse proportion:
Turns out I didn’t need it. All marks were for the graph only. I got irritated by the whole length vs width vs height thing, but I’m just being pedantic.
Q5 straight forward.
Q6 I thought was a bit dastardly :
Firstly, the price per litre of both paints is significantly different. Fair enough, but I initially thought ‘that might be wrong’. No doubt plenty of students will think the same but be less confident of their methods. Perhaps not?
But the really tricky bit I felt was that you end up calculating the price of 5 litres (unless you use a different method to me of course), then double it to ten litres. I strongly suspect a lot of students will think they’ve worked out the price of 1 litre, then multiply it by 10, or just leave it as it is.
Q7 seemed suspiciously simple considering we’re approaching midway through the paper. No hidden agenda, just an easy question.
Q8 was the first question I really liked. It was clever and had a fun looping sequence in it. I thought part (b) was particularly tough as there’s no guidance to help you find a solution. I started thinking I’d have to find the nth term then thought better of it:
Q9 annoyed me, because exam boards still insist it seems, on writing really bad links to real life to set up a question. Anna estimates the height of a tree using a ruler. The fuck she does. Who are you kidding?! Either way, straight forward question.
Q11 Give one reason why 0 is a positive number. Blurgh. I was under the impression there were some sects that disagreed with zero being even. I checked with trusty Dr Math and apparently the world has accepted it’s even. Fair enough.
11(b) isn’t hard, but students hate proof questions.
Q12 was a nice question. A little bit tricky but a nice way of asking a pythagoras question in a puzzley way.
I think Q13 would leave a lot of students baffled, or they’d just skip it. I rushed it a bit with some crude rounding.
I lost a mark for Q14 because I didn’t use a ruler:
I also made a right bloody mess because I assumed they’d want Q1,2,3,4 and they didn’t, making it a kind of homage to Jackson Pollack instead of an answer. However, I think it’s a straight forward question.
I saw a great circle theorems question on one of the AQA papers (we’ll get to it in a different post) so I was disappointed at the boring one they used for Q16 which is a very, very standard circle theorems question:
Then a bizarrely simple question for Q17, which would perhaps have been more suited to page 1 or 2 ?!
A quite nice perimeter problem for Q18, but nothing a little bit of thought can’t handle:
And the back page is where I dropped another 2 marks, although probably error carried through, so 1 mark. Just a simple error I would hopefully have picked up had I checked through the paper. For final questions on a paper, these seem easier than in previous years. Has the ‘progressively difficult’ thing gone now?? Not convinced I’d get full marks for Q20 either, but piss off I’m totally right. :p
In summary: not as hard as I was expecting. One or two creative questions, but mostly same same. A few tricky questions with no real guidance that will trip up some students. I’ll draw up a comparison table as we go on!