GCSE Business controlled assessment: Marking and after

Thu Aug 11 11:49:00 UTC 2011

This is the fourth of a four-part series on controlled assessment for GCSE Business Unit 2, Investigating a Small Business. Here, the focus is on marking the CA and what happens next.

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GCSE Business Studies, Unit 2: controlled assessment – FAQs 

Step 4: Marking and after


When marking the CA, you must remember that you are marking for your own benefit and for that of the moderator and not for the student. The Ofqual Code of Practice states that annotation is required on candidates' work. It is essential in helping you to justify the levels in the assessment criteria and the marks you arrive at in the levels. Good annotation therefore helps you to arrive at accurate and consistent marks and also helps the moderator to understand how you have interpreted the mark criteria and arrived at the marks you have submitted. Just submitting a mark is not acceptable and in order to comply with the Code of Practice the moderator will return the work to you for annotation.

How should we annotate?

The purpose of annotation is so that you, as the marker, are able to note where candidates have demonstrated the skills being assessed by the criteria. By annotating you are able to see when candidates are demonstrating these skills and so be more certain that you are determining the correct level of marking in the first instance and that you are being consistent in applying the criteria across all candidates.

The suggestions we have made below for how to annotate are merely that: suggestions. You can use whatever annotation you see fit provided you can determine the correct levels for the candidate in each criterion as a result. If you do this then it's easier for a moderator to see how you have interpreted the criteria.

It is much better to write comments rather than AO1, AO2 etc. The comments will help the moderator understand why you have awarded a certain level. Using simple notes such as 'J' in the margin where a judgement has been made, 'R' where a reason has been given, 'Supp' where support has been given for a judgement, etc. are all helpful in guiding you to the right level of the assessment skills and also help the moderator see how you have arrived at your mark. A series of ticks is not helpful for the moderator (or the marker). If work has not been annotated appropriately it will be returned to the centre to be annotated properly.

 R  reason
 Co  consequence
 Ca  cause
  I   issue
  F  factor
 Supp  support
 UoR  use of research
 PID  appropriate presentation of information and data
 Conc  simple conclusion offered
 SCon  supported conclusion

If you choose a different method of annotation it would be helpful to provide a key for your moderator. See an example of annotated work here.

How frequently should I be annotating?

There is no set regime for annotating. The suggested symbols are useful because the frequency of their use can act as an indication as to the level that the candidate is achieving.

Consider these two examples:

  1. If you see examples of judgements being made by a candidate and note them with a 'J' and the candidate continues to offer support for these judgements from their research, then it is likely that the candidate is operating at the higher levels of the mark range for analysis and evaluation.
  2. You may see a candidate give reasons, causes, consequences and so on and note them accordingly (R, Ca, Co). If these occur regularly throughout the piece of work then it is also likely that the candidate is operating at the higher levels of the mark range for analysis and evaluation.

You must look at all the criteria and show evidence in the work where it occurs. For example, in the research section we are looking for a range of sources to be used, but also for them to be focused and used selectively, so that appropriate evidence is used to support particular points and the research conducted is focused on the question at hand.

The key, therefore, is to remember that, provided your annotation helps you to mark consistently and that the moderator can see how you are marking, you may use whatever system suits. Detailed comments should not be needed at the end if the annotation has been appropriate; for example, if you have noted that the candidate makes regular judgements which are supported by reasons/causes/consequences and so on, and by appropriate use of the research, then the chances are that the work will be in the upper levels of the mark range. This simply helps you narrow down the appropriate level.

The 'research' criterion

Do the students have to have primary research?

Primary research is not obligatory for any of the questions. However, primary research should be used when appropriate.

Would all web sources be counted as one source? Or would 2 different websites be classed as 2 sources?

If a student gathers information from 5 different websites, then they would be classed as 5 different sources of information.

What do you mean by selectivity and focus?

The mark criterion for research focuses not only on the number of sources used but also on selectivity and focus. It may be, therefore, that a student did some research which they then realised was not very helpful, or has used only a part of some research that they have collected. This may be evidence of good selectivity. If the research helps the student to address the question and is used to support the analysis and evaluation, then this is the really important thing which helps candidates move to the higher levels of the mark criterion for research.

How do you define a 'wide range of resources'?

It will depend on the type of question the student is doing and the quality of the source. For example, the main source of research may be an interview with an entrepreneur which provides the student with a very rich source of data. We would expect students to also use at least one other source (maybe the website of the business, or a textbook) but the interview may be the main source of data. Note that the assessment criterion also mentions selectivity and focus and these are also factors that can be used to differentiate within this level.

What is crucial to awarding the marks is the selectivity and focus of the research - in other words, has the student done research that will help them answer the question (focus), and have they selected appropriate research?

If you look at the criterion levels, it is these areas that are crucial to accessing the higher level marks. The important point is that it is not how much research the student does but the quality of the research and how it enables them to answer the question.

What does 'high quality organisation' on the 10-12 descriptor for research mean?

'High quality organisation' relates to how the data has been used in helping to answer the question.

Does the research log at the back of the assignment have to be handwritten, or can it be typed up?

First of all, there is no explicit requirement for students to produce a research log. This is something we recommend as good practice. It is, however, a requirement that teachers keep a record of the time spent on both research and writing up, and that this record be made available to the moderator if requested.

The research log is simply a form suggested to help the student and teacher to keep the amount of research carried out under control. It could be handwritten or typed (a template has been provided in various media), and does not have to be submitted with the write-up to the moderator. It is there for the centre to use as a guide. The research log is not to be marked.

If candidates have not referred to research in their presentation, analysis and evaluation, can they still be awarded high marks?

We are not marking research on the basis of how much research candidates do, but on how appropriate the research is (selectivity and focus) and how it is used to help answer the question. To be able to provide any analysis and evaluation, therefore, would imply that candidates have to use their research to back up the points they are making, offer examples as part of analysis, use quotes/graphs/charts to support conclusions, and so on.

When students are doing the write-up they must have their research folder/materials with them at the time to be able to write their answer. When you come to mark the work, you will also have a copy of the research folder and can therefore see whether the candidate has carried out appropriate research which is focused on the question and which is used to help answer it. This allows you to be able to make a judgement about which level to award in relation to the mark criterion.

A student has completed research for their controlled assessment but has failed to do any of the write-up to address the task. Should any marks be awarded?

What you have to mark is the write-up, not the research folder. If the student has not written anything in the 3 hours allotted to them for the write-up, then they will not be able to access any marks.

Do remember that you are not marking the research per se - you are marking the write-up and what the student has done with the research to answer the question.

The 'present information/data' criterion (PID)

Will students who have conducted interviews and have only qualitative primary data be penalised if they have no graphs, just quotes and key findings?

PID marks will vary from task to task. PID is not about how many images/diagrams/graphs/charts the candidate includes in their write-up. PID is all about whether, having read the work, you as a marker can understand what the candidate is saying.

PID is also about the way the information and data has been presented to help answer the question. With qualitative data, the main method of presenting data may be through the selective use of quotes which are used to help analyse and then evaluate the points being made.

The thing to remember is that there are different ways of presenting data and information - some are more appropriate than others. What's crucial is to ensure that the data is presented in a way that aids understanding of the points being made and the answer to the question.

The mark scheme seems to suggest that students cannot gain more than 4 out of 8 marks for presentation if the investigation does not lend itself to using a variety of methods of presentation. How can students gain more marks in this criterion?

The criterion relating to Presenting Information and Data has to be interpreted beyond simply the presentation of graphs and charts. Data and information can be presented in a variety of ways - some more appropriate than others. Some questions will allow students to use lots of graphs, charts and tables; other questions will require students to use quotes, selections from articles or other texts (books, for example), images, maps, illustrations, mind-maps and so on.

The key thing to remember is the extent to which the presentation of information and data helps you, the reader (and marker), to understand the points the student is trying to make to answer the question. If you read through the piece and you can follow the argument and see how the student has addressed the question, then the chances are that the marks are going to be in the upper levels of the mark range. If the work is confused, lacks understanding, is difficult to follow and does not address the question, then the chances are that you are going to be looking at the lower levels of the mark range.

If you look at the criterion you will see the reference to 'appropriate', and this is key. In addition we refer to 'attention to detail', which helps you to differentiate. Students who use quotes from the entrepreneur with little real relevance to the question or the point being made may demonstrate only 'some attention to detail', whereas a student who uses quotes very selectively to really drive home and prove a point may be demonstrating 'high levels of attention to detail'.

In the exemplar work, there is a picture of a business location on Google maps in the write-up. How did the student get that picture into their work if they had no internet access?

In the exemplars, the student copied across maps, charts, diagrams and images into their research folder during research time and simply copied these across into their write-up from their research folder. This is acceptable. It is equally acceptable for the candidate to simply refer to the relevant item as 'see appendix X' - provided you as the marker can verify that what they say they have done they actually have done.

Should we be looking at the way the report is laid out - that is, how clear it is to follow? Or is it about how the information and data have been presented - the use of graphs and charts? Or is it both?

When considering PID, look at it from the perspective of how easy the answer is to follow. If it is easy to understand and follow, then the chances are that you will be looking at the top two levels of the criteria. In making the answer clear there is likely to be a combination of ways in which candidates have presented their data and information which may include graphs, charts, quotes, extracts from textbooks, and comments in newspapers and magazines.

You then have to decide on the detail of the presentation. Good attention to detail means that the way the candidate has used their research helps to inform the analysis (if you look at the analysis section it refers back to PID) and clarifies the points being made. For example, a pertinent use of a quote may be sufficient to really bring a point to the fore and to support the evaluation or judgement being made.

In terms of whether the data and information are appropriate, bear in mind that there are different ways of presenting information and data - some better than others. If it makes the information easier to understand and gets across the point being made, then it is a more appropriate way of presenting information and data.

The 'analysis' criterion

Some pupils have put a large part of their interview in the main body of the assignment, word for word. Can they be rewarded for this?

The interview is the research and is not analysis - merely copying the interview without doing anything with it is not what we are looking for. The candidate needs to use the information gathered from the interview to help them answer the question. If they have just copied across what the business owner says then it is not their work. Analysis is characterised by the inclusion of reasons/causes/consequences, and the noting of key points/features/issues in relation to the question. If specific questions have been asked that are relevant to the task, then that is evidence of selectivity and focus in the research element of the criteria. To be able to analyse, the student must use the research they have gathered to help answer the question.

How do we assess a student for language (spelling, grammar and so on)?

If you look at the assessment criteria for CA on which you should be basing your marking, you will see that quality of written communication (QWC), which includes spelling, punctuation and grammar, is assessed through analysis and evaluation. The way to do this is to first decide on the appropriate level for each. For example, you may have marked the work and shown that the candidate has reached the 7-9 level for analysis. Once you have done this, you can use QWC to decide where in the level the actual mark will sit; if you have noted that the QWC is generally good then you may be able to go to the top of the level (8 or 9 marks) but if the QWC is poor then you may be tempted to go to the bottom of the level (7 marks).

The 'evaluation' criterion

In the evaluation criterion, is the candidate limited to 1-2 marks if there is no suggestion for improvement?

Not having suggestions for improvement does not necessarily preclude students from accessing high level evaluation marks. The crucial point to note in this criterion is the remainder of the sentence which states that suggestions for improvement could be given 'where appropriate to task'. Many of the questions set will not require students to make suggestions for improvement. This might be appropriate if a student is investigating start-up options and he or she has been able to see an alternative approach that would have proved more appropriate for that business.

What we do not under any circumstances want to see is students evaluating process - that is, what they would have done to improve their work. Such comments are invariably weak and of no relevance to the student's understanding of business. They also do not answer the question and so do not merit marks.

What is meant by the term 'value judgement'?

Evaluation is all about the candidate placing values on things - saying what is important, what is more important and why, how significant an issue or event might be, what an outcome might depend upon.

A judgement is anything that cannot be proved definitively - in other words, it is the candidate's opinion. This can range from simple assertions…

"I think that x is the most important reason for repeat purchase…"

…to something more sophisticated, such as…

"The evidence in appendix X does seem to support the view that X is a key reason why customers repeat purchase but this seems at odds with the view of the owner which suggests a different reason why sales (see appendix Y) are not as high as the owner would like".

The higher levels of evaluation tend to be those where there is support given for the judgements made using the research gathered (as shown in the more sophisticated example above).

This is why having focused and selective research is so crucial to the success of the CA, because it can be used to back up the points/judgements made by the candidate.  

After the marking

Can the candidate re-do the work?

The rules regarding controlled assessment do not allow a candidate to re-submit work which has already been the subject of assessment. The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) states:

“Candidates who wish to re-do their submission of a controlled assessment before the marks have been sent to the awarding body may do so, at the discretion of the centre, under the following conditions:

  • Where the work presented for assessment has to be carried out under formal supervision, any candidate re-doing this work must undertake a different task, which must be undertaken in a new period of formal supervision. Candidates must not be allowed to make another attempt at the original task. However, candidates may re-use the research carried out for the original task. (Source: Instructions for conducting controlled assessments, 2010)."

Given the type of questions set, it is highly unlikely that research carried out for the purpose of addressing one specific question would also be relevant to another question in the series – centres need to be aware of this and use their discretion as noted above.

Can I send some work for you to check?

This is not possible. You're advised to check your assessment decisions against those in the exemplar material and accompanying commentaries.

The moderation process

In mid-April, details of your moderator and of those candidates selected for sampling will appear in Edexcel Online. You must also include the work of the highest and lowest scoring candidates in the sample even if these are not part of the sample requested.

You submit your marks electronically using Edexcel Online by 15 May.

Samples should be sent to the moderator to arrive by 15 May.

Each student’s work should be secured with a treasury tag. Polypockets and ring binders should not be used.

Do we need to send the research folder with the work?

No. It's sufficient to send a simple list of appendices. 

The research folders have to be kept secure and made available should the moderator request to see them.

The research log or file does not have to be sent with the sample. Having said this, it is useful for the moderator to have a list of the sources used as a means of cross-referencing. As the marker, you are the one who has to make a judgement about the range of sources used, the extent to which they have been used selectively and how focused the sources are. The moderator is not re-marking your work but checking to make sure that you have interpreted the criteria effectively and consistently in line with national standards.

What else should I send?

  • The write-up for each student in the selected sample
  • The write-up for the highest- and lowest-scoring student (if not in the pre-selected sample)
  • A completed Candidate Assessment Record Sheet for each student, ensuring that both student and teacher have signed the Declaration of Authentication
  • The yellow copy of the OPTEMS or a print-out from Edexcel Online.

Please note: You should ensure that your exams officer retains a copy of candidate marks.

Will I get feedback from the moderator?

The moderator will write a report called an E9 that is available, online, on Results Day in August. The marks will also be made available on the same day.



Colin Leith, Business and Economics subject advisor
Colin LeithBusiness and Economics
UK: 020 7010 2182
Intl: + 44 (0)20 7010 2182
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