OCR: marked elements AS Inset day

This was delivered by Simon Dickens on behalf of OCR

The focus was on scripts and application of mark schemes. Simon plugged examining as a route to better understanding – the 16 teachers present were suitably impressed!

Most importantly, materials will be sent on a usb in due course- this will include marked papers and rubric. I will post the material here when it arrives.


NB different length of exams. The extra time is due to the use of the extract… Students need to be encouraged to use the whole 15 to read and annotate the extract prior to engaging with the paper. This makes Component 2 1 hr 45. Students must be encouraged to view this as annotation and thinking time since the response to this element requires using the passage as a springboard whilst developing the response from the set text. This sounds complicated, but makes sense. It is easier to maintain a structure and a focus when writing if a few ideas have been gleaned from the passage rather than responding from the se text and trying to shoe-horn the passage in as an after-thought.

The most common texts being taught in the room were: Streetcar, History Boys, Rossetti, Bloody Chamber. This is interesting but not an issue other than when a warning is clear to take care when using the less well known texts. There is a need to ensure that students know how to best use the supplementary texts and material, especially since the examiners, however well-intentioned, are unlikely to be deeply engaged in the unusual texts which they may not have encountered for some time. This led to a discussion during the day about OCR’s published resources with delegates commenting that it was perhaps surprising that OCR had published support and teaching guides for the well known texts before the less common. In my case, I have wondered for a long time when or if material for Jerusalem will be available. I am writing much myself and have shared and received resources on Twitter, but the lack of any direction as to what areas of focus might be unnecessary or vital is a shame. Colleagues working on the Immigrant experience materials felt even more unsupported. I have been told material is in the pipe-line for a long time. I was pleased to see several centres offering Hamlet, despite its length and obvious complexity and also to work on some Chaucer papers with colleagues in the room.

Mark Scheme:
H072 beginning with poetry and drama
We began with a check of the annotation and marginalia:

+ sign suggests quality in relation to the observed AO
There is no sign to indicate error. Thus the ? Is not used to indicate weakness. The comments at the end will indicate competent, and, weak etc.
The ? Will indicate error but is not punished as such…

All marginalia aimed at rewarding what is seen in the paper. Never for taking marks off.

Simon warned about the full range of marks suggests that 30/30 can be awarded… Be aware therefore that there will be a range of quality at this level… Implies a 40/30 idea.

In terms of the AOs for this paper:
AO1 well written and logical
AO2 As before- detail in analysis
AO3 double context designed to help students to engage with a nuanced perspective of context. NB all context must be relevant to the text in question. Avoid generalisation…
NB in a heavy AO3 weighting, this does not mean that the majority of the context has to be contextual. This is to do with the clarity and perspicacity of the writing. We should also be aware that context does not have to be historical, socio-economic and so on ad can be found from the context of writing. Thus in one example, reference to Streetcar being a tragedy and Blanche nbeing seen as melodramatic was taken to imply contextual understanding of the text.
AO5 critics, not necessarily named, and relevant. Ideally discuss own view of the critical view. It is also worth being aware that alternative views can be relevant if generated by characters within the text.

For marking. Place essay into a band by the AO1 rating in the wider descriptors before fining down for accuracy. Thus an holistic reading of an essay as Excellent, Goo, Competent and so on will place the essay in a band.

The broad band criteria:

Once this has happened, adjust the marks within the band. Use the dominant AO to decide whether to move up or down. Do not move the essay out of the band that has been chosen. Thus a “good” essay holistically based on AO1 will remain in Band 5. Borderline marks is always the bottom of the higher band.
Only reduce marks for instances of rubric infringement.

– are significant and in essence tie in with AO1. Vital to engage with the critique, rather than simply citing i

Looking at the grade boundaries for this element: A: 52, B:46, C: 41, D: 35, E 29, U: 0, ungraded counts up to 14/30. This seems silly to me, especially in the light of needing to use the whole range of marks. Thus U grades begin at the top of the “some knowledge” band – Band 3 of the 6. Also, A grades come in the middle of the excellent band. A B grade is mid “excellent”. My marking was harsh for the ASND passage was very harsh due to failure to recognise that the bottom 14 marks result in an Ungraded essay. This has huge implications for marking in the classroom, where we often mark harshly and then point out how to improve. I have to say that tithes strikes me as odd. If there is so much at the bottom of the heap which risks Ungraded, this causes a curious phenomenon in which the lowest mark in a single question in the 70 scripts presented for our discussion was 18.
OCR have also told their examiners to check their marking for error if they fond a pair of essays which are more than 4 marks apart. The suggestion is that the 2 questions in each paper will be written to the same quality (presumably because of the placing in a band by AO1) unless there have been obvious time issues. I am not sure whether a situation in which the two questions have been prepared by different teachers really does guarantee this. Still it is good that checks are in place.

Thus, his advice is to begin the award of marks around 12 for most essays. Below this is very weak. Note that “good” covers c grades. The OCR message is to mark as an automaton and not to get caught up in subjective consideration of what we expect to read.


– Of 80 available scripts, the lowest mark available today was 18. This is what OCR EXPECT. Note all are marked on screen: the asterisk to the end is no longer a simple turn of a page but is a scroll down for many pages on screen. This, and issues like handwriting are not assessed in the schemes but will impact he marks given.
– The modern Prose question with unseen passage requires focusing on AO4, but this must not dominate the essay. The question is on the set text. The passage is secondary. Generally use the extract as a springboard. 2 sentences on the passage and then 10 or so on the set text is the recommendation.
– As ever students need to ensure that they focus on the question. At AS, the links will be thematic and will not be tied to the same time period or even the same genre, so for example, the Gatsby extract could be from Evelyn Waugh. This is because there is not the same expectation for wider reading as needs to be evident for the A level exam. At A level it is vital to have read as much as possible because the unseen will be from the genre and the period.
– In a 30/30 paper which was discussed, the context is clear and engaged with the focus on masculinity which is highlighted in the question. “A fresh and perceptive view of masculine power”. It s excellent, it is not perfect… Why should we take a mark off simply because we are afraid of full marks? All marking should be positive. There will be weaker 30s…
– (Note to self: alternative interpretations can be derived from characters… Compare the view of Johhny held by Ginger and Davey or Lee…)
– In the drama questions a perceptive of audience is useful and is to be encouraged. Similarly look at the differences between the film and the original version of History Boys… Treatment of homosexuality might be particularly important here. With Hamlet you might seek readily alteration in some film versions…

AO2- no hierarchy between form, structure and language, language alone is good but the other elements are needed to enter the top levels.

AO5: can include own interpretations, critics, characters, context of creation/reception, rewritings. All writing must be based on an exploration of the question. Keep repeating the key elements from the question. Do not get hung up on “I think” and focus on the debate.

All AOs: the dominant AO should not dominate the essay per se.

Chaucer/poetry: root response in the passage but expand. Around 70% of the response should be based on the extract. Wider reading is ammunition, they should not try to use it all in every answer!

We did not discuss the Component 1 paper in any depth, so I have little to add about Shakespeare and pre-1900 poetry beyond the comment above about the passage in the poetry question.

I enjoyed the day, and days like this always offer some hitherto unknown points of interest. That said, I find the placing of an essay into a band by AO1 rather confusing and also feel that the weight of marks available for a U is simply confusing. For me logic suggests that ta C grade essay will be around half way up the table. Its clear there that an essay which our gut might give around 15/30 will be a U or, at best, an E. I find this counter intuitive since I do not really consider grades when I am marking. I did not seem to be in a minority around my table, and this does take some getting used to. In short, A grade papers require 2 essays both scoring 26/30 as a minimum. That seems hard. Harder, I feel is that a C requires 2 essays scoring around 21 – how many of us imagine the bottom of Band 5 as a C grade minimum?