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The accredited AQA GCSE specification (3)

You'll find all the specimen papers here;

In this third look at the new AQA MFL syllabus I'm going to look at the Higher Writing papers. The examples will be from French, but the principles apply to other subjects.

There are three questions, two of which are compositions, one translation.

Question 1 Composition (overlap with Foundation) (16 marks)

I looked at this in the least blog, so won't go through it again. The mark scheme usefully provides indicative content for examiners to help with their assessment.

Question 2 Composition (150 words) (32 marks)

Once again,ther is a choice of two compositions. Here are the examples:


Vous écrivez un article sur la qualité des collèges en Grande-Bretagne pour un magazine français. Décrivez :
• pourquoi votre collège est un bon collège
• un événement scolaire mémorable.
Ecrivez environ 150 mots en français.
Répondez aux deux aspects de la question.


Vous écrivez un article sur les vacances pour un magazine français. Décrivez :
• l’importance des vacances
• des vacances mémorables.
Ecrivez environ 150 mots en français.
Répondez aux deux aspects de la question.

Passing quickly over the slightly absurd 'authentic' nature of the task (a reminder, perhaps, that writing is the least authentic and useful of all the skills at GCSE), the two essays are of similar difficulty level and quite clearly invite candidates to write one section largely in the present tense and a second in the perfect tense. Within these two sections it would be possible, of course, to include other tenses and a good range of structures and vocabulary.

The lack of bullet points leaves plenty of scope for freedom. The word limit is approximate (exam boards do not want candidates to waste valuable time counting up words exactly). Stronger candidates would write a good deal more than 150 words. The mark scheme , again, provides indicative content for examiners and teachers.

Marks are distributes as follows: Content 15, Range 12, Accuracy 5. This clearly places the emphasis on communication rather than accuracy and this is to be welcomed. In any case accuracy will be more important in the next question...

Question 3 Translation into French (12 marks)

There are 6 marks for conveying messages, 6 for knowledge of language and structures. here is the short passage for translation;

To celebrate my birthday, I invited my friends to my house. My mother prepared a special meal. I received a computer. It is useful because I have a lot of homework. Next year in September I will do an apprenticeship in a college in the town centre and I would like good results.

As at Foundation Tier, marking is not done on a points, phrase-by-phrase basis. here are the two mark grids:

Conveying key messages 

6 All key messages are conveyed.
5 Nearly all key messages are conveyed.
4 Most key messages are conveyed.
3 Some key messages are conveyed.
2 Few key messages are conveyed.
1 Very few key messages are conveyed.
0 The content does not meet the standard required for Level 1 at this tier.

Application of grammatical knowledge of language and structures   

6 Excellent knowledge of vocabulary and structures; virtually faultless.
5 Very good knowledge of vocabulary and structures; highly accurate.
4 Good knowledge of vocabulary and structures; generally accurate.
3 Reasonable knowledge of vocabulary and structures; more accurate than inaccurate.
2 Limited knowledge of vocabulary and structures; generally inaccurate.
1 Very limited knowledge of vocabulary and structures; highly inaccurate.
0 The language produced does not meet the standard required for Level 1 at this tier.

My concern with this approach to marking is that an element of subjectivity comes into play; a phrase-by-phrase assessment is more objective, in my view. To offset this potential problem, the mark scheme provides examples of 6 imaginary students who fall into each mark category for the two criteria. This is useful, but research shows that as soon as you offer a level-based mark scheme examiners will interpret it differently. I would anticipate some discussion of this when it comes to moderation. This issue will arise with all the exam boards since it is the DfE/Ofqual who have insisted on this approach.

Anyway, the level of the translation is very reasonable (much easier than what candidates had to cope with in a different era, buy the way). Vocabulary and tenses are limited, sentence structure simple (e.g. no relative clauses). The fact that only 12 marks out of 60 are allocated to the translation question should be a reminder that teachers need not go overboard on grammar-translation in lessons. There are, as I regularly say, other ways to develop grammatical accuracy.


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