Edexcel GCSE History Paper 1 Medicine in Britain and Paper 3 Germany: Pre-results update

15 August 2023

This is a pre-results update for centres teaching the Edexcel GCSE History Paper 1 Medicine in Britain and Paper 3 Weimar and Nazi Germany topics.

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This summer we have received feedback from teachers concerning the issues identified on these specific papers as well as on our GCSE History assessment more generally. We want to thank everyone who has taken the time to contact us directly and we really do value your input. We have had several conversations with teachers to ensure we fully understand your concerns and we have also gained useful insight via our Summer 2023 post-exam series teacher survey. If you have not yet completed our survey, there is still time:

Our key priority this summer has been to work with senior examiners to ensure that students are not impacted, and we are now in a position to provide more information on how these papers have performed ahead of the release of results to centres on 23 August.

GCSE History Paper 1 Medicine in Britain

Question 5 on this paper contained an incorrect date. One of the stimulus points for the question, ‘Sydenham’s Observationes Medicae’ was incorrectly stated as 1576 rather than 1676. This meant that in terms of turning points in the period c1500-c1700, the stimulus point placed Sydenham chronologically between Vesalius and Harvey, when the chronology should be Vesalius, Harvey, then Sydenham.

As a result of the error in the stimulus it was decided that both the correct chronology and the given chronology would be treated as valid when rewarding responses. Having now marked all responses on this paper, our senior examiners are able to confirm that, in the majority of cases, the error in the stimulus did not make a significant difference to candidates’ responses. The majority of students used the date error as a matter of fact (ie copied out the date) and were not affected by the incorrect date. They were still able to provide a relevant argument then come to a judgment based on valid criteria. The Principal Examiner report available on results day (via ResultsPlus) will exemplify the ways in which students approached this question in their responses.

Question 5 on this paper was an optional essay and 33 per cent of students answered it, compared to 67 per cent answering Question 6. The mean marks on Question 5 and 6 this summer were comparable to the mean marks on these questions in Summer 2019. At both grades 4 and 7 we can see that students performed at similar levels across both Question 5 and Question 6, with similar mean marks on each question. We found that higher attaining students were more likely to choose Question 5 than other students. Overall, the mean mark on this Summer’s Medicine paper was in line with Summer 2019. This supports the experiences of our senior examiners who found during marking that the majority of students were not significantly impacted by the incorrect date.

GCSE History Paper 3 Weimar and Nazi Germany

Some aspects of the package of sources and interpretations for Question 3 were found to be problematic. Source B refers to radio, sports and cinema, and whilst the provenance of Source B and its inclusion of cinema are clearly within the remit of the specification, radio and sport are not specifically mentioned in the key topic this question is drawn from. Interpretation 1 refers to Weimar culture in the 1920s, but it also refers to the 1930s which is outside of the date range included in the question. We explained in our previous update how examiners would respond to these issues in the marking of scripts:

Question 3 parts a-d are compulsory questions linked to the package of sources and interpretations. Overall, this question placed a slightly higher qualitative demand on students than in Summer 2019, however examiners were pleased to see that many students responded well to the package and they saw some excellent responses to the questions.

In Question 3a students were able to provide judgements on the utility of the sources applying an understanding of the provenance to assess the utility of the content, whilst also using a range of contextual knowledge from the specification (architecture, art, cinema, living standards and women) to analyse the content of the sources. At lower levels, candidates gave a simple judgement on utility based on content or generalised comments on provenance. The mean mark was in line with expectations and similar to Summer 2019.

In Question 3b and 3c most students were able to distinguish key differences between the views given in Interpretations 1 and 2, and most used the weight given to different sources and/or the use of different sources as a reason why they differ. The mean mark across both questions was comparable to Summer 2019.

In Question 3d students identified a variety of valid views in the interpretations and at higher levels they were able to provide an explained evaluation that precisely analysed the interpretations and used contextual knowledge to come to a judgment. The mean mark on this question was also in line with the mean mark in Summer 2019.

Overall, the performance on Weimar and Nazi Germany Paper 3 was comparable to Summer 2019 and the total mean marks in both series was similar. This supports the experiences of our senior examiners who found during marking that many students were able to answer the questions effectively, in spite of the issues identified.

Results Day support

On results day we will issue notional grade boundaries at paper level, as well as at qualification level. You will be able to find provisional grade statistics which show the percentage of students achieving each grade and in early September we will share with you detailed global data showing the mean marks on each question for each grade point. You will also be able to use ResultsPlus, alongside our free Access to Scripts service, to analyse your own students’ performance in detail. The Principal Examiner reports available on results day (via ResultsPlus) will exemplify the ways in which students approached these questions in their responses. You can also contact our History Subject Advisor, Mark Battye, if you have any questions or need further information by emailing teachinghistory@pearson.com

Post-series review

This summer saw a return to the full examination requirements for the first time since 2019 and we fully appreciate the hard work which students have put into their studies and revision. We apologise most sincerely for the issues experienced on these papers, and we are grateful to teachers for the invaluable feedback provided which meant we were able to monitor issues of demand from the earliest opportunity.

Please be reassured that we have a rigorous quality assurance process in place for question paper setting and we are fully committed to understanding why some questions on this summer’s papers did not give students the exam experience they expected from us. In light of the issues identified we will undertake a rigorous and comprehensive review to ensure that future question papers better meet teacher and student expectations. We will communicate with you at key points to ensure you have confidence ahead of the Summer 2024 exam series.

We are also listening to the wider feedback being given about the Paper 3 assessment, and GCSE History assessment more generally. Your observations on these issues will contribute to an ongoing Pearson five-year review of the qualification, and we are already talking to teachers to gather their thoughts on the current assessment model and exploring possible ways to make improvements. This is the first step in what will develop into a rigorous and comprehensive review of our GCSE History assessment, which will be overseen by our Vice President of Assessment, Standards and Services, Hayley White. We will share the outcome of this review with you in the Autumn.

We want to thank everyone in schools and colleges for your dedication in supporting students during this challenging summer exam series. We hope you and your students enjoyed a well-deserved break over the summer and we will continue to keep you updated over the coming weeks and months. If you have any questions, please email our History Subject Advisor, Mark Battye at teachinghistory@pearson.com

Subject advisor

Mark Battye


Phone :
+44 (0) 344 463 2535 (Teaching Services team | Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm GMT)
Mark Battye, History subject advisor

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