Shame on you OCR, you shouldn't just be apologising over that 3 marker!

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We the undersigned believe that the OCR Biology A H420/01 Paper 1 was wholly unfair and unjust. We think that the OCR needs to take greater responsibility for this life-changing decision than apologise for the mere absence of a Standard Deviation formula.


On Monday the 12th of June 2017 OCR provided the paper named ‘Biological processes Paper 1’ which has still left many students in a state of shock. This paper has led to students doubting as to whether or not they should be bothered to revise for their next exam. A* students are seeing their dreams of top universities squashed in one paper. We find this abuse of power by OCR examiners inexcusable and unacceptable.


A further evaluation of the paper has uncovered that over 60% of the paper consisted of Data questions and over 70% of the paper consisted of questions under unfamiliar circumstance which is up from the previous years’ 8%. This is absolutely unacceptable as a Biology paper was meant to test the students’ knowledge of the subject learnt over the past 2 years and not a number crunching exercise.


Finding the volume of a Kupffer cell was quite unfair for students who had not taken Mathematics for the past 2 years. These formulae are provided in the GSCE Mathematics papers in the body of the question. Formulae for surface area are given at A level to Maths students in the formulae booklet. As such, Biology students are within their rights to expect the formulae to be provided to them. What’s good enough for Maths students should be good enough for Biology students.
Using confusing terminology such as ‘order of magnitude’ was really quite unnecessary for students who had not been familiar with the current A Level Chemistry syllabus.


The vast majority of questions which contained Mathematical calculations affected the students’ performance in the rest of that question. Even though OCR will take the standard deviation question into account there were follow up questions requiring the use of answers from one part of the question to the next.
The content of the specification for this paper covered 25 A4 pages and yet the paper was extremely thin on factual Biology. Even if the OCR-endorsed textbook were allowed in the examination room, it would have made no difference to the outcome of many students’ grade. ‘Stretch and challenge questions are designed to allow the most able learners the opportunity to demonstrate the full extent of their knowledge and skills’. The more abled candidates were not able to answer both the 6 markers which were abstract and wholly unfair. Most of the paper was under unfamiliar circumstance and not seeking knowledge but the ability to deduce, analyse and calculate.


If this is how OCR wishes to structure their Biology papers for exam seasons to come, then a drastic reduction of the syllabus is required and more emphasis ought to be given towards practical endorsements. This paper cannot distinguish between those who studied Biology and those who did not. This Biology paper would do any Statistics or Mathematics examination paper proud. In fact it might be fair to say that a mathematics student would have passed this paper with no prior knowledge of Biology. We find this very unfair.


What happened to testing knowledge and understanding of the subject? When did examiners become executioners and since when their mandate is to crush the hopes and dreams of many able and capable students?

 



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