Knowing what's in your Exam

Exam boards publish what will be in your exams in the subject's Specification. Most of this document lists the Subject Content - the topics to be covered in each Unit. You should use the Subject Content section of the Specification as a tick list for your revision, to help ensure you cover everything that could come up in each exam.

BUT you should not assume that the only objective of your exam is to assess your knowledge of this subject content. There are in fact a number of Assessment Objectives (AOs), listed in the Specification, and it's only by understanding them that you can begin to predict what types of questions will be in each exam, and how to answer them to get the highest marks.


It's not just what you Know...


A levels are the main route to University, that's probably why you're taking them. As an indicator of your suitability to study at degree level, the objective of an A level exam is to assess not just your knowledge and understanding, but also your ability to analyse and evaluate material. The higher order thinking skills which you need to study at degree level.
 

Understanding Assessment Objectives

Assessment Objectives identify the skills you need to demonstrate in each exam, and how many marks are awarded for them. Whilst Assessment Objectives vary across subjects, in general A level exams are written to assess;

1. Your Knowledge and Understanding of the subject.

2. Your ability to Apply this knowledge and understanding.

3. Your ability to provide your own Analysis and/or Evaluation of a topic, through application of your subject knowledge.

Weighting for Marks...


Assessment Objective

Marks





(*Figures based on average of mark allocations across a range of subjects and exam boards)
 

On Average only 30 to 35% of the marks in your exam are awarded for demonstrating Knowledge and Understanding. The majority (approx 70%) are awarded for Applying this knowledge, and providing your own Analysis and Evaluation of topics.

Exam questions are written to assess one or more of these Assessment Objectives. Below we provide an outline of these AOs alongside a list of command words (question tasks) used to assess each of them. Familiarising yourself with these will help you quickly identify which AOs you are being asked to meet in a question to get the marks.


Assessment Objective

Question Tasks (Command Words)


Knowledge

Name.. Define.. Select.. List.. Label.. Identify.. State.. Recognise.. Describe..


Understanding

Express.. Illustrate.. Match.. Explain.. Distinguish.. Summarise.. Interpret.. Give Examples..


Application

Apply.. Organise.. Choose.. Solve.. Show.. Sketch.. Draw.. Generalise.. Calculate


Analysis

Analyse.. Classify.. Categorise.. Compare.. Differentiate.. Select.. Prioritise.. Distinguish


Evaluation

Evaluate.. Judge.. Criticise.. Support.. Relate.. Consider.. Recommend.. Summarise.. Appraise.. Compare..



From Assessment Objectives to Revision Objectives

When revising you should think of these Assessment Objectives as your general Revision Objectives for each topic. When revising a topic you should complete appropriate Revision Tasks drawn from each Revision Objective in turn.

Revision Objective

Revision Tasks


Knowledge

Name.. Define.. Select.. List.. Label.. Identify.. State.. Recognise.. Describe..


Understanding

Express.. Illustrate.. Match.. Explain.. Distinguish.. Summarise.. Interpret.. Give Examples..


Application

Apply.. Organise.. Choose.. Solve.. Show.. Sketch.. Draw.. Generalise.. Calculate


Analysis

Analyse.. Classify.. Categorise.. Compare.. Differentiate.. Select.. Prioritise.. Distinguish


Evaluation

Evaluate.. Judge.. Criticise.. Support.. Relate.. Consider.. Recommend.. Summarise.. Appraise.. Compare..



So far we have considered Assessment Objectives in general, across all subjects at A level, and how you can use these general AOs to structure your Revision. Whilst Assessment Objectives are standardised across the main UK exam boards, they differ from subject to subject. Below we've included a summary of the current UK exam board Assessment Objectives for each subject, and indicate how these relate to the general AO's we identified. It is important that you refer to your exam board's Specifications to confirm these AOs.




Biology / Chemistry / Physics / Psychology
Assessment Objectives



Assessment Objective

What you should be able to do

General AOs


AO1 : Knowledge and Understanding of science and of How Science Works

recognise, recall and show understanding of scientific knowledge

select, organise and communicate relevant information in a variety of forms

Knowledge
Understanding
Application

AO2: Application of knowledge and understanding of science and of How Science Works

analyse and evaluate scientific knowledge and processes

apply scientific knowledge and processes to unfamiliar situations including those related to issues

assess the validity, reliability and credibility of scientific information

Application
Analysis
Evaluation

AO3: How Science Works

In Psychology you will not be expected to demonstrate the skills of investigation. Instead you should be able to describe and have knowledge of them.

demonstrate and describe ethical, safe and skilful practical techniques and processes, selecting appropriate qualitative and quantitative methods

make, record and communicate reliable and valid observations and measurements with appropriate precision and accuracy

analyse, interpret, explain and evaluate the methodology, results and impact of your own and others’ experimental and investigative activities in a variety of ways

Application
Analysis
Evaluation

 



Business Studies
Assessment Objectives



Assessment Objective

What you should be able to do

General AOs


AO1 Knowledge and Understanding

Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the specified content.

Knowledge
Understanding

AO2: Application of knowledge and understanding

Apply knowledge and understanding to problems and issues arising from both familiar and unfamiliar situations.

Application

AO3: Analysis

Analyse problems, issues and situations.

Analysis

AO4: Evaluation

Evaluate, distinguish between and assess appropriateness of fact and opinion, and judge information from a variety of sources.

Evaluation

 



History
Assessment Objectives



Assessment Objective

What you should be able to do

General AOs


AO1a Knowledge, Skills and Understanding

Recall, select and deploy historical knowledge appropriately, and communicate knowledge and understanding of history in a clear and effective manner.

Knowledge
Understanding
Application

AO1b Knowledge and Understanding of the past

Demonstrate your understanding of the past through explanation, analysis and arriving at substantiated judgements of:

  • key concepts such as causation, consequence, continuity, change and significance within a historical context
  • the relationships between key features and characteristics of the periods studied.

Knowledge
Understanding
Application
Analysis
Evaluation

AO2a Historical enquiry

As part of a historical enquiry, analyse and evaluate a range of appropriate source material with discrimination

Analysis
Evaluation

AO2b Historical interpretation

Analyse and evaluate, in relation to the historical context, how aspects of the past have been interpreted and represented in different ways.

Analysis
Evaluation

 



English Literature
Assessment Objectives



Assessment Objective

What you should be able to do

General AOs


AO1

Articulate creative, informed and relevant responses to literary texts, using appropriate terminology and concepts, and coherent, accurate written expression

Knowledge
Understanding
Application

AO2

Demonstrate detailed critical understanding in analysing the ways in which structure, form and language shape meanings in literary texts

Knowledge
Understanding
Application
Analysis
Evaluation

AO3

Explore connections and comparisons between different literary texts, informed by interpretations of other readers

Knowledge
Understanding
Application
Analysis
Evaluation

AO4

Demonstrate understanding of the significance and influence of the contexts in which literary texts are written and received

Knowledge
Understanding

 




Mathematics
Assessment Objectives



Assessment Objective

What you should be able to do

General AOs


AO1

recall, select and use their knowledge of mathematical facts, concepts and techniques in a variety of contexts

Knowledge
Understanding
Application

AO2

construct rigorous mathematical arguments and proofs through use of precise statements, logical deduction and inference and by the manipulation of mathematical expressions, including the construction of extended arguments for handling substantial problems presented in unstructured form;

Knowledge
Understanding
Application
Analysis

AO3

This AO is not assessed in Core/Pure Maths Papers.

recall, select and use their knowledge of standard mathematical models to represent situations in the real world;

recognise and understand given representations involving standard models;

present and interpret results from such models in terms of the original situation, including discussion of the assumptions made and refinement of such models.

Knowledge
Understanding
Application
Analysis

AO4

comprehend translations of common realistic contexts into mathematics;

use the results of calculations to make predictions, or comment on the context;

where appropriate, read critically and comprehend longer mathematical arguments or examples of applications.

Application
Analysis
Evaluation

AO5

use contemporary calculator technology and other permitted resources (such as formulae booklets or statistical tables) accurately and efficiently;

understand when not to use such technology, and its limitations;

give answers to appropriate accuracy.

Knowledge
Understanding
Application

 


Watch your Weighting !

Assessment Objectives are not equally weighted across each unit of your A level. In most cases AS units tend to place a stronger emphasis on knowledge / understanding, whilst A2 units focus more on Analysis and Evaluation. Its is important that you review the weighting given to each Assessment Objective for the particular Unit you are revising. This will further help you focus your revision. This information is provided in the Specification.



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