Students' views of stretch and challenge in A-level examinations

Claims that A-levels do not stretch the brightest students have dogged the education system in England in recent years. Part of the Government response to this has been to introduce a policy of ‘stretch and challenge’, which features different question styles in new A-level examination papers. The questions are not intended to produce more difficult A-level examinations overall, but to foster more engagement, broader thinking and higher order skills in students. Teaching-to-the-test, narrow and formulaic approaches are intended to be circumvented by the new-style examinations. QCA produced guidance for the Awarding Bodies on how to implement stretch and challenge in question paper design.
This research focussed upon that implementation, in A-level psychology and biology specimen question papers from all three English Awarding Bodies. Previous research literature did not provide a firm evidential basis for examiners to predict how demanding a question is, nor is there evidence to suggest that examiners are good at judging question difficulty. Worryingly, previous research indicated that students could be de-motivated by challenging examination questions.

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