Difficult words to be removed from exams for 'equality'
Exams should use simpler language, Ofqual has said.
Plans to boost ‘equality’ say GCSE and A-level papers must not disadvantage diverse groups such as migrants.
The regulator also wants exam papers to avoid mentioning ‘contexts’ some pupils may be unfamiliar with, such as travel or social experiences.
A consultation paper published yesterday warned: ‘Placing more demanding tasks at the beginning of the assessment might demotivate some learners.’
Chief regulator Dr Jo Saxton said exams should ‘enable every student to demonstrate what they know, understand and can do.
'It is crucial assessments are as accessible as possible for all students’.
Ofqual calls upon exam boards to avoid ‘abstract nouns’ such as ‘bravery’, sarcasm, and words with two meanings such as ‘present’.
The Campaign for Real Education’s Chris McGovern called it ‘drivel’ that will ‘lower the bar’ on academic standards.
In the consultation documents, Ofqual said it was concerned by the psychological impact of difficult questions.
This is relevant in papers designed to differentiate ability through setting both easy and hard problems.
It said: ‘Placing more demanding tasks at the beginning of the assessment might demotivate some learners.
‘It might prevent them from fully demonstrating the required knowledge, skills, understanding or behaviours in the remainder of the assessment.’
The documents also say questions should avoid ‘uncommon words’ and ‘complex language’ unless crucial to the assessment.
And they should not use source materials which are ‘longer than necessary’ or include ‘colloquialisms, idioms and metaphors’.
Ofqual said ‘irrelevant features’ can disadvantage students by distracting them or hampering their understanding.
In consultation documents, Ofqual said it was concerned by the psychological impact of difficult questions.
These include unnecessary illustrations or photographs, the regulator said.
In addition, source tests must not contain ‘negative, narrow or stereotypical representations’ of particular groups.
They must also avoid referring to a ‘particular socioeconomic context’ if not relevant to the topic.
The documents say: ‘Unless the assessment construct requires otherwise, an awarding organisation should be sensitive to contexts that will not be equally familiar to all learners...
‘Contexts such as those related to particular types of housing, family arrangements, or social, travel or cultural experiences may advantage or disadvantage particular groups of learners.’
The guidance will not apply to subjects where complex language and cultural knowledge is being specifically assessed - such as English and history.
But it will be relevant in maths and science, particularly in scenario-style questions.
The consultation on the proposed guidance, which opened yesterday [Mon], will close on January 24.
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