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The accredited AQA GCSE specification (2)

Here is the link to all the AQA specimen materials:

Yesterday I looked at the Speaking assessment specimens, with a focus on the Foundation Tier questions. In this blog I'll take a look at the Foundation Writing questions, which will inevitably be of interest since this testing format differs so greatly from the current one of controlled assessments and may (no, will!) prove a difficult challenge for many students. For old hands, it's a case, to some extent at least, of déjà vu!

Foundation Tier example

Question 1 Stimulus photo (8 marks)

Candidates see a picture of some people eating in a school canteen. the rubric reads:

Qu’est-ce qu’il y a sur la photo ? Ecrivez quatre phrases en français.

Question 2 Writing a short message  (16 marks)

Vous êtes en vacances et vous écrivez à votre ami(e) français(e). Mentionnez : 
• où vous êtes 
• la météo 
• l’hôtel 
• vos activités de vacances. 

Ecrivez environ 40 mots en français.

Question 3 Translation into French (10 marks)

Translate the following sentences into French.

1. My father is tall.
2. At school I like maths and science.
3. I listen to music in the evening.
4. In my town there is a cinema and a museum.
5. I played football in the park with my friends.

Question 4 Composition (90 words) Choice of two (16 marks)

Vous décrivez là où vous habitez pour votre blog. Décrivez : 
• votre ville et ses attractions 
• les aspects positifs et négatifs de votre maison 
• une visite récente à votre ville 
• où vous voulez habiter à l’avenir. 

Ecrivez environ 90 mots en français. Répondez à chaque aspect de la question.

Vous décrivez votre vie d’adolescent(e) pour votre blog. Décrivez : 
• vos passe-temps préférés 
• vos rapports avec votre famille 
• une activité récente avec un(e) ami(e) 
• vos projets pour le week-end prochain. 

Ecrivez environ 90 mots en français. Répondez à chaque aspect de la question.


Now, I have to say that AQA have done pretty well with this. The mark allocation does not place too much importance on any one exercise type (e.g. translation). The translation sentences are fair. the composition bullet points are as clear as they can be. The final question includes past and future time and, whilst weaker candidates will be confused by the TL rubrics, with training from teachers this need not be a huge obstacle. The same issue which I pointed out yesterday applies: if you have TL rubrics, then there is a risk some students will not show off the full extent of their written skill. many teachers will regard this as unfair, but it is what Ofqual insist upon.

The element of choice in Question 4 is very welcome. If a candidate is confused by the instructions they would be well advised to do the composition they clearly understand, otherwise they may drop quite a lot of marks unnecessarily.

Much depends on the mark schemes, of course, which you can find from the link above. interestingly (and somewhat surprisingly to me) the translation question is assessed using a level (overall performance) system, not an objective point by point system which is standard at A-level. This may benefit candidates who make minor mistakes. Here it is:

Translation mark scheme

Conveying key messages

5 All key messages are conveyed.
4 Nearly all key messages are conveyed.
3 Most key messages are conveyed.
2 Some key messages are conveyed.
1 Few key messages are conveyed.
0 No key messages are conveyed.

Application of grammatical knowledge of language and structures

5 Very good knowledge of vocabulary and structures; highly accurate.
4 Good knowledge of vocabulary and structures; generally accurate.
3 Reasonable knowledge of vocabulary and structures; more accurate than inaccurate.
2 Limited knowledge of vocabulary and structures; generally inaccurate.
1 Very limited knowledge of vocabulary and structures; highly inaccurate.
0 The language produced does not meet the standard required for Level 1 at this tier.

The longer composition, worth 16 marks, gets 10 for Content and 6 for Quality of language (including accuracy). Younger teachers may need reminding that accuracy is not the be-all-and-end-all. The key messages to get across to students are (1) write stuff! (2) keep it clear, relevant and simple!

Overall, AQA have done well here, given the hand they were dealt by DfE/Ofqual. Many teachers will welcome the demise of CAs and need not fear this new assessment format too much. If students are given a regular diet of composition writing over a few years, plus an element of translation, at least in the last year of the course, they can do well. Clearly, students will need to have a decent knowledge of vocabulary and some ability to handle past, present and future without dictionary or verb table help. This ought to be a given in any languages classroom.

The weakest students will still struggle, perhaps a bit more than with CAs. Working to a time limit in exam conditions is a challenge for some, but, you know, in some ways, the translation element has its advantages. My experience was that, with weaker candidates, their problem was knowing what to write. At least with translation, they do not have to make up content.


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