tutor2u | Q&A from AQA: Question Weighting

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Q&A from AQA: Question Weighting

Below you will find a question and response from AQA in relation to: Question Weighting.


There is some real uncertainly in terms of mark allocation on certain questions. Again, I assume this is due to the paper scrutiny, but it would be great to get your thoughts here.

Here’s one question with the command terms outline and describe:

05 Outline what is meant by cognitive neuroscience and describe one practical application of cognitive neuroscience. [6 marks]
Marks for this question: AO1 = 4 and AO2 = 2

And here’s another:

06 Outline Pavlov’s research into classical conditioning and describe how classical conditioning might explain a child’s fear of school.[8 marks]

Marks for this question: AO1 = 3 and AO2 = 5

Now, I understand that the questions are worth different marks (6 and 8 in total); however, I (like many other teachers) can’t quite get our head around the weighting. Although the command terms are the same for both questions (outline, followed by describe) I can’t work out why AO1 in question 5 is weighted higher and AO2 in weighted higher in question 06. However, I do appreciate that there is more than can be said in terms of application in question 6 and that could justify the weighting, whereas question 5 is really asking for an example.

Therefore, I have two questions:

  • Will we see questions with the same command terms (e.g. outline followed by describe) receive different weighting in the real exam?
  • What advice do you give to students and teachers when it comes to approaching these difficult types of questions?
    • As many teachers have said, when their students answered questions 06, they have written a significantly larger outline (AO1) and not as much (application) and this has cost them marks?

Although I said two questions, actually, it might be easier if I ask two more:

  1. Will 8 Mark Short Essays always be 3 (AO1) and 5 (AO2 or 3)?
  2. Will 6 Mark Short Answer questions with 2 command terms (like outline and describe) always be 4 (AO1) and 2 (AO2)?


The senior examiner for this specification has been back in touch with the following response to your queries:

Initial two queries

It is possible that questions with the same command terms will receive different weightings in the exams. It largely depends on the material, for example, in some questions there would be much more scope for application than in other questions. With levels-based mark schemes, as long as students attend to both commands then they should be able to access full marks. Some students will give a thorough and detailed outline with much shorter but nevertheless effective application. Another student may produce a very succinct outline which includes key information, followed by more laboured, but in the end, successful application. In each of the cases, the student can be awarded full marks because they are each attending successfully to both demands in the question, albeit in a different way. Examiners do not award separate AO1 marks and AO2/AO3 marks so it is possible to award full marks to both types of answer. Both have a strong outline and both have effective application. As long as students attend to the demands of the Q it does not matter so much how much time they spend on each skill, it is whether in the end they meet the different elements in the descriptors. It should be noted by the way the levels descriptors include terms such as ‘clarity’, ‘accuracy’ and ‘organised’, all of which come into the overall judgement.

In the case of the answer to 06, teachers should be looking to see whether the outline is a good one rather than just a long one. They should then be looking to see whether the application is effective, even though it is brief.

Emboldened Questions

  • On the A Level papers the skills balance on a typical short essay Q is usually 3:5 reflecting the balance on the long essay style questions where it is 6:10. There could be exceptions to this, for example where an 8-mark question asks just for description or just for evaluation
  • Answer is included in the response to your initial two queries

Psychology & Sociology Secret Examiner

The Secret Examiner is an experienced teacher and examiner for A-Level Psychology & Sociology


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