Response to questions sent to Awarding Organisations regarding GCSE and A-level Design and Technology

Published 13th December 2017

Early in the Autumn term 2017 and following the publication of the GCSE and GCE A level results for that year, we asked members and others in the community, if they had particular questions they would like us to ask each of the Awarding Organisations.  We collated the responses into sets with respect to:

  1. The outgoing design and technology GCSE specifications - moderation and examination
  2. The new single title GCSE.

The D&T Association approached them individually and they welcomed the opportunity to respond to the questions posed. To ensure clarity and consistency the four organisations have produced a joint response. If centres require any further information regarding the responses provided, they should contact the individual Awarding Organisation with whom centre is registered.


  1. Is the exemplar work previously provided by the AO and published on its website typical? If it marked again using this year’s mark scheme, would it receive similar marks?

"The criteria for marking coursework components do not change throughout the lifetime of any D&T specification. Given effective standardisation, any coursework folder would receive the same raw mark irrespective of the year in which it was assessed. This does not however ensure that the raw mark will translate to the same grade. When the specifications change work will be assessed against different assessment objectives. Training will be given by Awarding Organisations to support internal marking and the new standards will be set from the first series of assessment."

  1. How do you ensure consistency of approach across moderators? Members report inconsistency in moderators’ views across years. Centres have reflected previous recommendations from moderators but report that these are not being upheld at the next moderation. Similarly, there are reports of conflicting advice given by different moderators.

"All moderators are required to attend standardisation meetings and are highly trained.  Each moderator will work with and be monitored by a team leader or principal moderator during the moderation period to ensure that set standards are applied and maintained year on year. Moderation is based on the evidence presented against the published assessment criteria at the time of moderation. It does not take any other factors into account, such as the history of a centre’s assessment. Centres have the opportunity to appeal and request a review of moderation if they are not happy about the moderation of their centre."

  1. How can schools be clear about the expectations of the controlled assessment? How and where do you communicate your expectations? Does this information change year on year?

"The expectations are set out within the published and accredited specifications, and through JCQ guidelines to which all awarding organisations and schools are required to adhere. Centres are encouraged to utilise the other support services provided by all awarding organisations."


  1. How are examiners and moderators recruited and trained? How do you accommodate the need for different subject specialisms?

"All examiners and moderators are recruited with the appropriate requirements of expertise in delivering and/or assessing the component for which they are contracted. Any examiners and moderators who are new to an assessment must first complete training and receive feedback from senior associates. All examiners and moderators are required to annually attend a standardisation meeting where they receive training and must qualify before progressing onto live assessment. Several quality checks are carried out throughout the assessment windows to ensure the marking criteria are being applied accurately, consistently and in a uniform manner."  

  1. What is the process of quality assurance to ensure consistency across the different examiners and moderators?

"Quality checks are carried out on all members of the assessment teams to ensure the maintenance of the national standard. Representative samples are selected and reviewed by senior assessors throughout the hierarchical structure of the assessment teams, and at milestones through the assessment window. Any deviations from the national standard are corrected as part of the procedure. "

  1. What are the quality assurance procedures for moderating controlled assessments to ensure marking is fair and equal?

Refer to the responses to Q4 and Q5.

  1. What percentage of centres were re-moderated this year and of these what proportion had their marks adjusted: Up? Down?

"Awarding Organisations do not release this information, however each year, the Regulator, Ofqual, publishes global data on the reviews of marking and moderation for GCSEs and A Levels.  This gives the data across all the UK awarding organisations.

Any significant changes to the percentage of re-moderation within any component will feed into internal review procedures to ensure these are understood and rectified where necessary."

  1. How does this figure compare to previous years?

Refer to the response to Q7.

  1. Are there any significant variations across/between the individual D&T specialisms?

"Assessors of all specialisms undertake training and follow the same procedures. If there are any variations these will be dealt with through internal processes and quality assurance reviews."

  1. What support is provided to centres who have experienced marking adjustments to ensure they understand why and/or are clear about the process for the following year?

"Centres who have experienced mark adjustments are consistently advised to follow closely both the general feedback provided in the annual Examiner’s reports, and the specific recommendations provided in the centre’s own feedback report. Centres are always referred to the published and accredited specification as a primary source of guidance, and are also directed to the other support services provided by Awarding Organisations."

  1. How do you decide if a whole centre’s marks need to be adjusted? For example, is it the number of pupils showing a variance or the extent of divergence from the tolerance?

Moderation is a sampling procedure where moderator marks are compared with the centre marks for a sample of work. The requested sample will reflect the range of attainment in a centre.  If a significant number of the differences between the moderator marks and the centre’s marks exceed the tolerance (i.e., margin of error or variance), adjustments may be applied to the centre’s marks. As the sampling process is a consideration of a centre’s submission as a whole, mark adjustments are also applied as a whole.

(cf. Instructions for conducting coursework, Joint Council for Qualifications, 2017, Section 19.8, p. 13)

  1. Many members who received a moderation visit, have told us that they received very positive feedback and were informed that, the teachers’ marking was consistent with that of moderator. However, when results were published, coursework had been marked down. How and why does this happen?

"Moderators are specifically trained not to discuss marks with centres. The allocation of moderator marks is monitored and mark adjustments applied by the Awarding Organisation, and not by the moderation team itself.  As a matter of courtesy, moderators may discuss the presentation of the requested sample, but must not comment on the centre’s internal assessment."


  1. When considering both GCSE and A level marking, do the grade boundaries used vary between the specialist material areas? Could you explain exactly how they are set?

"Ofqual together with all Awarding Organisations set grade boundaries at the end of the exam process, after examined and non-examined components have been assessed. Every award is different depending on the cohort of students and the differences between the specifications. The process is conducted to ensure that students gain a fair and true reflection of their performance in a subject irrespective of the year in which they are assessed. To understand awarding further please refer to the guidance given on the awarding organisation websites:  





  1. Textiles teachers report that the boundaries between grades are narrower than any other AS qualification. Is this true and, if so, why?

"Grade boundaries vary according to the qualification and the cohort of students that submit work for that specification. Different cohorts display different patterns of performance and it is important that we respond to this in order to make awarding fair in all areas of the curriculum. For more information on this please refer to the links provided in the response to Q1."

  1. Why do you think that overall, performance in the examination is typically much lower than that demonstrated in the controlled assessment component?

"Examined and controlled assessment components assess different skills and different knowledge. All qualifications, regardless of the subject, are a balance of performance across the different components."

  1. Why do you think performance in design and technology indicated by residual scores, is consistently lower than in other GCSE subjects?

"Ofqual has recently conducted several research projects into inter-subject comparability, with the aim of developing a policy on inter-subject comparability. 

Recent announcement:

Full list of recent and earlier papers:

This paper may be of particular interest:

All Awarding Organisations have participated in the discussions resulting from this work. Awarding Organisations are unable to make an adjustment to the standard of a GCSE or A Level qualification without the permission of Ofqual, to ensure that standards are comparable across organisations."

  1. Do you review the teachers’ exemplar materials made available online on a yearly basis, in term of standards and expectations?

"The standards and expectations of all exemplar materials do not change throughout the lifetime of the specification. In compliance with the General Conditions of Recognition set out by Ofqual, there is no requirement to review these materials unless credible evidence is received that a review would be appropriate. Additional exemplars may be made available also as candidate interpretation of assessment criteria develops overtime."

New GCSE Qualification

  1. Teachers have expressed concern that there are factual inaccuracies in both the Specification and some text books endorsed by the AO, developed specifically to support courses.

"For example, in the section of the specification referring to textiles, leather is referred to as a fabric rather than a skin which has confused some teachers.  Where this has been noted, what is there process whereby inaccuracies are addressed and information regarding corrections conveyed to teachers?

Awarding Organisations aim to ensure that any errors made in accredited and other published documents are flagged and corrected quickly. Should you spot an error in any awarding organisation material, please contact the Awarding Organisation who will make necessary corrections. Though course textbooks can be endorsed by but are not owned by awarding organisations, centres should alert any such errors to the publishers directly."

  1. Given that the new specification will cover the breadth of Design and Technology, not just a specialist area, how will the process of marking and moderation be adapted to accommodate this?

Assessment procedures are carried out by all Awarding Organisations in a broadly similar manner across all subjects and their re-developments. Examiners and moderators are trained, standardised and monitored according to the specific assessment criteria for the component they assess.

  1. Will existing moderators and examiners receive training?

Refer to the response to Q2.

  1. Will it be the case that individual questions requiring specialist knowledge to assess, will be allocated to specific expert markers accordingly?

"All assessors recruited to mark and moderate will be appropriate Design and Technology specialists that will be capable of assessing applied knowledge and understanding of the components for which they are contracted."

  1. What do you see as the main areas of challenge represented in the new GCSE?

"All of the Awarding Organisations look forward to supporting teachers so they can better prepare their students to undertake the new GCSE. It is important that teachers spend time comparing the old and new specifications that they intend to deliver. Reform can be challenging for everyone involved. However, we are confident students of all abilities will be able to access the qualifications if they are given a curriculum in school that engages them in one of the most exciting, hands-on and thought-provoking GCSE subjects available post reform."

  1. What tips can you provide for teachers, to ensure they recognise and address these, helping to improve pupil performance?

"Any advice Awarding Organisations provide to centres must be made available in a format which is easily and equally accessible to all.  Centres are consistently advised to refer closely to the published and accredited specifications, and follow the recommendations set out in the annual Examiner’s reports and the centre’s own feedback report in order to improve candidate performance."

Links to all specifications, examiners reports and support services can be found here:





AS/A Level 


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