Students have been the complete focus of these amendments, which will improve all learners’ chancesof success. The changes to our assessments will not affect day-to-day teaching; there’ll be no need toupdate schemes of work or lesson plans; but they will create a better exam experience for students.
After the summer exams of 2018 and 2019, teachers expressed concerns about the accessibility ofsome aspects of our assessments and the impact that this was having on students’ experience of thesubject. At Pearson, we want to see language learning flourish and make our assessments accessible toevery type of learner.
We carried out our own internal audit of student achievement and our own research with teachersand students to explore ways of improving the students’ assessment experience. We trialed amendedassessments with nearly 400 students and carried out surveys with both the students and theirteachers. After carefully analysing the results we identified the changes which would make the mostpositive impact, and we will be applying these amendments to our live assessments at the earliestopportunity, summer 2021.
And it was the learners that have directed our learning! For example, where we thought that includingexamples in the reading and listening exams was helpful guidance, students told us that they weremisleading because they were sometimes easier than the questions. They were also just another itemto process which took time away from the actual assessment and made the amount of reading andlistening material longer. We’ve therefore removed them.
Where we thought that the target language questions in the writing paper might be too wordy ordifficult to understand, students told us that if we made them shorter, they had less vocabularyscaffolding to use in their answers and less clues as to which tense to respond in. Our trialing alsoshowed that students did not perform better, or have a better experience of the question, withreduced target language prompts. We’ve therefore simplified the wording of the questions to makethem as clear and understandable as possible, but maintained the crucial scaffolding which studentshave told us they need.
Other types of improvements we have made focus on issues such as, to detail a few:
- shortening the length of listening extracts, to focus listening skills, and reduce the burden onmemory;
- reducing the use of words not on the vocabulary list in listening and reading papers and
- adapting the frequency and demand of inference questions in the listening and reading papersto ensure higher accessibility to the full mark scale.
We have created an Amendments Guide and we’ll be running an online network session on the 25th of June to talk through the changes. You can book your place at our network session on our website.
We’ve placed the learner at the heart of our assessments to create a much better exam experience,supporting them to feel confident and enabling them to access their full potential.
*At the time of writing. This is subject to any possible changes that DfE may make for summer 2021examinationsin light of COVID-19.