The SQA have released a consultation on the assessment arrangements for the new qualifications, which can be found here - 

Having blogged recently on the subject of assessment, I have decided to publish my own response.

[SQA questions shown in bold, my responses below]

1. Which subject(s) do you deliver?


 2. It was intended that Units in new National Courses should have both fewer Outcomes and Assessment Standards and that those Outcomes should be expressed in broader terms than the Units in previous National Courses. This was to give practitioners the freedom to decide how to assess the Units. 

How has this worked in your subject(s)?

Not at all

3. In SQA-produced Unit assessment support packs, three approaches to assessment have been suggested — Combined, Unit-by-Unit and Portfolio.

[detail of approaches omitted here]

What has been the most common approach in your subject/s and why?

unit by unit - staff are incredibly over worked and do not have the time to develop assessment material from scratch, especially when the assessment standards are so opaque. Doing so and ensuring they meet the pre-verification standards is not generally considered to be an easy process, so the most sensible decision is to use the materials prepared and provided by the SQA.

What are the challenges in using the other approaches and why?

the recording and administration of the outcomes and assessment standards achieved for every pupil in every certificate class, sometimes at two levels creates an incredible burden in the unit by unit approach. This simply couldn't become any easier by breaking it up into a larger number of smaller assessment tasks

4. Unit and Course assessment have separate and different purposes in new National Courses.

Is there duplication of assessment across Unit and Course assessment in your subject(s)?


If yes, please give details:

The UASP materials assess pupils with items that are significantly different to the style of the final exam, using entirely different marking instructions, that punish any and all errors with no credit given for correct part answers. This gives candidates no useful information about there progress and allows for no constructive feedback other than 'the SQA say your answer is incorrect'. This has a huge negative impact on the student. Unit A/B tests use exam style questions, the same marking instructions as the final exam and allow students to get an idea of their progress judged against the same criteria as their final grade will be. This also allows for students to receive constructive feedback to help them to improve.

5. How might any opportunities to use evidence from one assessment to meet one or more of the requirements in another assessment in your subject(s) be achieved?

This already happens in the problem solving component in physics unit assessments. Each of the four strands of PS need only be achieved once across any one of the three unit assessments. This may mean a student only answering one such question correctly throughout the whole course, so is not necessarily a useful approach.

[I'm not convinced I have understood your question correctly - if it doesn't mean what I think it did, I apologise for not having deciphered it correctly]

6. What implications does the requirement to meet all Assessment Standards in a Unit have for assessment and also for re-assessment in your subject(s)?

In physics, only the Knowledge and Understanding (KU) assessment standards have to be met in all units - the problem solving (PS) can be met at any point across any of the unit assessments.

The marking instructions allow no flexibility or partial credit (responses are either correct or incorrect) with the necessity for particular details often making it difficult for candidates to answer correctly, though the essence of their answer is sound. The issue is not the tasks, rather it is the manner in which they are judged.

The difficulty of meeting the requirements is further compounded by the insistence that candidates be given only two attempts. If they are unsuccessful on the second attempt they cannot be allow to continue and be given a third attempt unless in 'exceptional circumstances'.

In general, the assessments are less of a 'hoop to jump through' that they were in the old courses, and more of an 'obstacle to negotiate'. Nor are they are not easy obstacles for many candidates.

7. To what extent have you developed you own Unit assessments?

i) Why did you adopt this approach?

None - I have only corrected the many mistakes and reformatted them into a usable, write on paper. The process of preparing and presenting our own materials for prior-verification presented too great a work load for staff, especially when there was very little guidance given and no guarantee that multiple redrafts and resubmissions might be required. There was no telling what time scale this might involve, and assessments were needed by candidates during their progress through the courses.

8. Have you used digital evidence or e-assessment in the internal assessment of Units in your subject(s)?


9. Are there any other ways we could approach the internal assessment of Units in the future?


If yes, please give details:

Provide e-Assessment that meets your standards, gives credit for partially correct responses, automatically logs elements that are 'passed' to be logged against an SQA candidate number, and is dynamic enough to allow reassessment to be tailored to only the key areas that need to be reassessed for each candidate. Not 'writing-off' candidates after two attempts would be fairer, too. Basically an approach that allows teachers to do their job of teaching, whilst shifting the burden of assessment onto the assessment body.