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Lessons to be learned from the summer's GCSE exams - Paper 2

Vicki Woolven

8th September 2023

Today I am moving on to look at Paper 2 - this examiner report is much shorter than the one for Paper 1, so it will be discussed in just one blog post.

It is probably worth mentioning at the start that the thing that featured most frequently in this report was the chief examiner's exasperation about the mathematical calculations that students couldn't perform - and the reminder that they make up 10% of marks and are a compulsory part of the specification.

Overall comments

What was done well?

  • Students made good use of resources throughout the paper
  • Less rubric errors than in previous years – not many students tried to answer the whole of section C
  • Time management was not an issue – most students completed the paper
  • Very few questions were left blank – examiners felt the paper was accessible to all students
  • Students showed a good understanding of the command words
  • Top students organised information in their answers in a logical way to meet the specific demands of the questions

Areas for improvement

  • Application of understanding is still weak – too much regurgitating of case study material rather than tailoring it to the question
  • A lot of ‘lifting’ from text resources without doing anything with it
  • Students need to use all resources – often photographs/images were ignored and just the text referred to
  • Some mathematical skills were week

Overall advice

  • Schools need to spend more time practising application skills
  • Practise extracting information from source material
  • Include mathematical skills more often in lessons – students must know now to calculate all of the things on the list in the specification

Section A – Urban Issues and Challenges

General comments

  • Low tariff questions well answered
  • Most students could calculate the mean – but some missed out on a mark as they didn’t round to 1 dp
  • Lots of students missed the ‘complete the graph’ question
  • Lots of stereotypes and simplistic views around crime demonstrated in the informal settlements question
  • The transport map questions were answered well
  • Congestion question was well understood – most students got at least 2 marks. Good use of own examples to back up points, but some students talked about climate change and air quality without really linking it to congestion
  • UK city importance question was answered badly – most generic answers

6-marker on planning for the urban growth and social opportunities

  • Very few students got into Level 3 with this question.
  • Good use of the photograph stimulus
  • A lot of confusion with economic opportunities, or an overly simplistic idea of social opportunities – mainly students talked about socialising
  • The ‘to what extent’ aspect of the question was not addressed well

9-marker on UK urban change and economic/social opportunities

  • Wide variation in marks seen
  • Some good reference to social/economic opportunities
  • Some students clearly didn’t know what social opportunities meant
  • Best answers discussed economic opportunities and then social, before concluding which were greater
  • Some students misunderstood and talked about opportunities vs challenges
  • Many students did a case study dump of everything they know about one city – not related to the question
  • Some students wrote answers so generic that they could have been about any city in the world!

Section B – The Changing Economic World

General comments

  • Low tariff questions all answered well
  • Map evidence questions not linked specifically to the needs of a science park
  • Birth rate question answered poorly – not many were able to talk about inaccuracy
  • Some confusion over physical causes of development
  • The majority of students were unable to calculate the interquartile range
  • 4-marker on debt relief answered well

6-marker on sustainable modern industry

  • A lot of simple resource lifting without adding own knowledge and understanding
  • Most were able to talk a bit about environmental sustainability
  • ‘To what extent’ not really addressed – so few answers got to Level 3
  • The best answers used the photograph well and discussed the environmental impact of construction and transport
  • Most answers were narrative and focused on the positive features – not much balance

9-marker on economic development and quality of life/environmental costs

  • Answered much better than the 9-marker in Section A, and answered better than previous 9-markers in this section
  • Lots of discussion about the specific improvements to quality of life against the environmental costs
  • Good case study application – particularly about Shell in Nigeria
  • Even weaker students were able to discuss environmental issues, even if their answers were quite generic

Section C – The Challenge of Resource Management

General comments

  • There was no big preference shown towards any of the options within this section, as in previous years (usually skewed towards the water option)

UK overview – general comments

  • The low tariff questions were all answered well
  • Good understanding of the need to move away from fossil fuels
  • Some students misunderstood the question about the demand for different sources and talked about why the demand had increased for energy in general

UK overview – 6-marker on reducing carbon footprints

  • Students struggled to respond effectively to the resource
  • Some misunderstood the question and focused on lowering of CO2 rather than carbon footprints specifically
  • Some good answers focused on the impact on consumer choice – e.g. for out of season food
  • Only a small number of students referred to the information from the pie chart

Food, Water and Energy – general comments

  • Calculation question was a bit confusing as it was two questions in one – most could work out the percentage (although some couldn’t)
  • Poor description of distribution generally – although the energy option fared better
  • Most students understood the term deficit in relation to their option
  • Most were able to answer about factors affecting supply

Food – 6-marker on increasing food supply

  • Lots of quoting facts without linking them to the focus of the question. Not many students got into Level 3
  • Lots of resource lifting without development
  • Some reference to case studies – e.g. rice-fish farming and Almeria greenhouse
  • Description of strategies such as GM good and hydroponics – but didn’t really discuss how they increase food supply

Water – 6-marker on increasing water supply

  • Lots of quoting facts without linking them to the focus of the question. Not many students got into Level 3
  • Lots of resource lifting without development
  • Better application than the other options – students talked about the idea of cost of schemes and the impact on supply, e.g. desalinisation too expensive for the areas that need it most

Energy – 6-marker on increasing energy supply

  • Lots of quoting facts without linking them to the focus of the question. Not many students got into Level 3
  • Lots of resource lifting without development
  • Too much focus on wind and tidal and not the other types as the question asked
  • The best responses referred to the reliability of wind and tides

Vicki Woolven

Vicki Woolven is Subject Lead for Key Stage 4 Humanities at tutor2u. Vicki previously worked as a Head of Geography and Sociology for many years, leading her department to be one of the GA's first Centres of Excellent, and has been a content writer, senior examiner and local authority Key Practitioner for Humanities.

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