News story

How demanding are questions in new A level maths?

Research aims to compare levels of difficulty of exam boards’ sample assessment materials

Ofqual is planning to conduct a research study to support the accreditation process for new A level maths qualifications.

Taking place in July this year, the research aims to compare the level of difficulty of exam boards’ sample assessment materials by having judges compare pairs of exam questions.

The qualifications are being taught for the first time in September 2017.

Dr Michelle Meadows, Executive Director for Strategy, Risk and Research, explains: “A level Maths has not been reformed for a long time, and there are lots of big changes taking place. It’s vital that the new qualifications are of the right level of demand.

“The accreditation process does look at level of demand, but it only judges each qualification in isolation. It’s more difficult to make an accurate judgement of the likely difficulty of just one exam paper or question, it is far easier and more reliable to compare two questions and rate which is going to be more difficult.”

The research will involve a pilot in which maths PhD students and maths teachers judge pairs of questions. The more reliable judges will take part in the main study. The findings will be used to support the accreditation panels. Ofqual will publish an update in the autumn.

Any current A level maths teachers who are interested in taking part in the research should contact Ofqual via email for more details.

Ofqual has also released a vlog today to explain the programme of work.