GCSE Business controlled assessment: The write-up

26 July 2011

This is the third of a four-part series on controlled assessment for GCSE Business Unit 2, Investigating a Small Business. Here, the focus is on the write-up sessions.

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GCSE Business Studies, Unit 2: controlled assessment – FAQs

Step 3: The write-up

How to organise

How should the three-hour write-up be organised?

Here there is a high level of control. You should block access to the internet. There should be controlled access to the research folder and write-up folder.

Handwritten submissions are fine – it makes no difference to the presentation marks.

Can we break up the 3 hours?

Yes. We recommend that you log the timings of each controlled session and keep a written record that can be available for moderation, to ensure that completion of the tasks set does not exceed the permitted time.

The recent Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) document did note that visits would be made to schools to check on how CA was being implemented. Having such a record helps a centre document the processes in place and shows that time limits have been kept.

Can students mix research and write-up time?

No. The research time is done under 'light supervision' and the write-up time under 'strict supervision', so managing any mix would be difficult. If students were using their research time to start the write-up, then they would potentially have more than the three hours maximum allowed for the write-up, and the same would apply the other way round. If students were using the write-up time to do research then they would presumably be able to access all manner of outside sources including the internet, and this is not permitted during the write-up.

Can we suggest a structure?

The questions have been devised carefully to direct the student to addressing a particular issue. They are deliberately worded to lead students to a conclusion. For example, 'What is the most important reason why...?'.

A basic structure you might suggest for the practice session might be:

  • Introduction – briefly introduce the business for the marker and moderator.
  • Middle section – 3 or 4 sections: one for each of the key factors.
  • Conclusion – which of the factors is the most important and why? A final judgement in relation to the question.

In the live session you might remind students of the need for an introduction, middle section and conclusion.

Other structures could be used (a report format, for example) but whatever is used, the emphasis must be on answering the question set.

Can we give feedback to the students?

No - not in the live session. In the practice session, of course, feedback is allowed – it is the main point of doing a dry run and is where teachers can give formative feedback on the approach to CA and the skills required so that (as with an external examination) students approach the task as prepared as possible.

Can students submit a draft?

No. The QCDA guidelines are explicit that no drafting is allowed:

“When drafting is not one of the skills being assessed, awarding body guidance must make clear that teachers may review candidates’ work and may provide guidance at a general level. The guidance must also make clear that teachers must not provide detailed and specific advice on how the draft could be improved to meet the assessment criteria”.

Drafting is not a skill being assessed in Business Studies.

Access to the research folder

The only material allowed for the write-up phase is the research folder.

Could you please clarify exactly what research materials students can take into the (three-hour) write-up lessons?

Students can have both paper folders and electronic research folders; these must be kept secure during the write-up phase. If the write-up is carried out over two or three sessions, for example, the folder(s) must be retained by the centre under secure conditions in between sessions so that students do not have access to these materials outside the supervised write-up time.

The research file should consist of student research only. This may include a transcript of an interview, some graphs and charts they have produced, notes on observations they have made on their business - basically all their research. What they are not allowed to take in is anything that can be construed as an attempt to answer the question - writing frames, plans, model answers, analysis of the research they have carried out, and so on. Students use the write-up time to plan out their answer, do the analysis of the research and write it out.

Are students allowed to use an electronic version of their research folder in their write-up?

An electronic version of the research folder is fine - students can either copy across relevant data/charts/quotes etc. from the file as support for the points they are making in the write-up, or they can simply refer to the relevant piece of research by the use of appendices in their write-up.

In the actual write-up itself, the internet must be disabled so any screenshots etc. must be copied across into the research folder prior to the write-up.

Can the students take their research material into the write-up sessions on a memory stick?

One of the rules is that you, the teacher, are responsible for ensuring that the research folder only contains research and does not include inappropriate material such as writing frames, plans of answers, model answers, pre-written analysis and so on.

If students bring in memory sticks it would be difficult for you to check that what was on them was appropriate before the write-up (unless you took them all in beforehand and then checked them, which may not be ideal).

Can students bring in tables that they have already made using their research information?

Yes. The research folder can contain charts and tables prepared during the research phase provided they have not been analysed - that is, had written interpretations attached to them. Students should use the write-up time to do such analysis but can either pull across the chart from their research folder or simply refer to it as an appendix.

What else can students bring in?

Can a student bring in the assessment criteria for the write-up?

There is no reason why students should not have access to the criteria in their research folder (although the student should not use it as a sort of 'plan', which would miss the point - the answer to the question is what examiners are looking for).

Can the pupils have access to their textbooks during the write-up?

No. There may be some information in textbooks that would count as a research source, in which case this can be photocopied or scanned and put into the research folder for use in the write-up. However, we would not expect to see the whole textbook taken into the write-up. As the responsible supervisor you are expected to have some knowledge of what is in the research folders that students are using and that these do not contain material other than research.

Can a student bring in their notes on the task itself?

If these notes contain analysis of their research, plans for the answer and so on, then this is not allowed. The research folder must contain the research they are going to use for the write-up and nothing that would constitute an attempt to answer the question before the write-up. If you view the write-up like an examination it can help: students would not be allowed to take in plans and notes about the questions in an exam, and so the same applies to CA - this is the 'controlled' aspect of the assessment.

Can the students plan what they are going to write before the write-up?

Students must not do any planning work prior to the write-up phase. Students may not bring plans, writing frames and so on into the write-up session, and it is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that what is in the research folder is just research.

What to write

Is a contents list and front cover needed?

No – it does not answer the question and is of no value in terms of marks. This is not coursework!

Do students have to include charts and graphs actually in their write-up, or can they just be in the appendix?

Students can either refer to charts, tables and graphs as appendices or copy them across into their write-up - either way is fine. It does not matter whether a student refers to a graph, for example, by directing the reader to an appendix where the graph is or whether they refer to the actual graph in the text itself. What is important is how they use the graph to support the point they are trying to make and to help them answer the question.

Do students gain marks for 'Present information/data' only for techniques they use in the three-hour write up, or for work done in the research phase?

If students have carried out research that involves a small survey during the research time, it makes sense for them to create charts at that time rather than in the write-up itself. The student must then either copy the chart into the body of the write-up, or into an appendix.

What does the presentation of data and information criterion assess?

There are many ways of presenting data and information – some are much better than others in communicating the point or points the student is trying to make. A good rule of thumb for PDI is to ask yourself if the way the student has presented the data and information helps you to understand the points they are trying to make. If it does, then the chances are the work will be in the upper levels of the criteria.

Then the decision is how well organised it is and whether it shows attention to detail – in other words, how well it helps present a clear argument and answer to the question. If a pie chart (or any other data/information) is generated, it must be used to support a statement and help in the answer of the question. The pie chart in isolation should not be rewarded. Production of charts/tables for their own sake will not gain marks.

A candidate might organise information into a table either in the appendices or in the narrative. If this makes the information easier to grasp, then the candidate should be rewarded.

If a student has selected a task where they cannot present data in the form of a graph, can they still get the higher band marks?

There are many ways that students can present information and data - it could be in the form of charts, graphs and tables, but also through the use of quotes, the use of images, cartoons and web pages. The key to deciding on the levels is to ask whether, when reading through the answer, you are able to understand the point(s) the student is trying to make? If so, then the information/data has probably been presented appropriately.

Attention to detail might refer to the way they have used a quote to highlight a key point or how they have shown a contradiction to other research they have gathered; maybe they have simply inserted an image with no use made of it at all (not presenting information and data with attention to detail).

What are you looking for in analysis?

If the student consistently gives reasons, causes, consequences, key factors, key points and so on, then the chances are the analysis will be of relatively high quality.

Analysis also assesses how well a student explains his or her research, makes links and demonstrates how this helps answer the question he or she is investigating.

Note that to score more than three marks, analysis must be of the research data. Analysing a general point or issue will peg the response to 1-3 marks. For example, in the 2010-11 Task 5 (commodity prices), a student explained the reasons why a rise in demand will lead to higher oil prices. This was decent analysis in itself, but not based in any way on data which had been researched.

What are you looking for in evaluation?

Where a student makes a judgement there is limited evaluation.

Where a student makes a judgement supported by evidence from research, this is better evaluation.

Where a student makes a judgement and demonstrates an understanding that the judgement/outcome depends on circumstances using the 'it depends' rule, this is developed evaluation.

Evaluation can also be demonstrated by a student explaining why one factor is more important than another. This requires original, higher-order thinking.

Evaluation does not assess the process. Do not reward, “I feel I could have done better if I had used my time more effectively” and other such personal reflections. Neither do we want descriptions of what the student has done and why. The emphasis must be on answering the question.

What happens at the end of the write-up?

Once the write-up is completed, the student should submit their answer and their research log to the teacher for marking. Once notified of your moderator, you should submit the student answer and the student assessment cover sheet with the teacher comments/marks on it. It is also helpful if a list of relevant appendices are attached - it just helps the moderator to cross-check.

All materials must be held in the centre under secure conditions for at least a year in case of any appeal over marking and moderation. Edexcel can request to see research folders if there is a suspicion that research time has been exceeded.



Colin Leith, Business and Economics subject advisor
Colin LeithBusiness and Economics
UK: 0333 016 5450
Intl: + 44 (0)333 016 5450
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