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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
A-level coursework change set out
Gordale Scar in the Yorkshire Dales
Geography students will still get out and about
Changes are being made to the amount of coursework in A-level exams, as part of a review of the qualifications.

Despite controversy about the extent of cheating, the regulatory authorities are increasing the coursework component in English and in history.

It is being axed altogether in geography, although field trips will still be part of the course.

In most subjects, the number of study units will be reduced from six to four, two at AS-level and two at A2.

New "subject criteria", for the 2008 exams, have been published by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) following a consultation which produced some 3,200 responses.

'Core'

"Coursework will be included in A-levels only where it is the soundest method of assessment, and provided that it makes clear how reliability and fairness are secured," the QCA said.

The guidance is clear that if and where internal assessment is used there need to be tough safeguards in place to guard against plagiarism
QCA spokesman

In English, there will be an increase from 30% to 40% of the total A-level in this sort of internal assessment - which is marked within schools and colleges, with samples checked or "moderated" by outside examiners.

But in geography all internal assessment will end. At present coursework can be up to 30% of the total.

Fieldwork - regarded by the Royal Geographical Society as "absolutely core" - is included, but must be externally assessed.

Copying

A QCA spokesman said: "Fieldwork is a very important part of learning in geography and there's no reason why that should change.

"The question is over how the learning acquired on a field trip should best be assessed.

"At the moment it tends to be through coursework. We think it could be done through external assessment instead."

Ministers ordered a review of coursework primarily in relation to reported cheating in GCSEs rather than A-levels.

The QCA said pupils had been copying each others' work and downloading essays from the internet.

Changes to GCSE coursework are expected to be announced next month.

Regarding A-levels, the QCA spokesman said: "The guidance is clear that if and where internal assessment is used there need to be tough safeguards in place to guard against plagiarism."

Meanwhile, the QCA is to try out several different ways of making A-levels harder, to stretch candidates more.

These will include optional harder questions and compulsory harder questions within A-levels, and a separate harder paper similar to the existing Advanced Extension Award.


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