Gcse Computer Studies Courseworks

Coursework is set to be removed from final GCSE computer science grades due to concerns about widespread cheating, it has been announced.

Tasks due to be completed by teenagers in schools and colleges as part of the new GCSE course have been posted online, as well as detailed solutions in many cases, according to England's exams watchdog - which said that some posts have been viewed thousands of times.

There are concerns that if action is not taken, there is a real risk that next summer's GCSE computer science results will not "fairly reflect" every student's abilities, Ofqual warned.

It has announced plans to deal with the issue, including proposing that students should be required to complete the work, but it will not contribute to their overall grade.

Coursework, known as non-exam assessment, is completed by GCSE Computer Science pupils during their studies, and is currently worth 20% of their final mark.

Students due to take their exams in the subject next summer - the first time that awards will be given for the qualification - were able to start their coursework from the beginning of September this year - but shortly after, Ofqual became aware that tasks and solutions were being discussed in online forums, the regulator said.

In one case, an individual asked for help with a task on designing a piece of software. The first response to this question included a full solution, Ofqual said, adding that the post currently has more than 2,500 views.

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In another example, Ofqual said that a simple search for a key requirement of a task on a popular online developer community returned over 40 pages of results.

"Students seeking solutions to the tasks are in clear breach of the rules set by the exam boards. It is obvious malpractice.

"If the malpractice is not detected and the student receives credit for work that is not their own, then they will receive a mark - and potentially a grade - that does not reflect their true ability. In turn, this means other students who have followed the rules may be unfairly disadvantaged."

It adds: "We have also seen examples of posts asking for more general advice on how to tackle a particular problem. Some of these posts appear to have been made by teachers, seeking advice on how they might prepare their students for the non-exam assessment task.

"We understand teachers' desire to ensure they are properly equipped to teach their students. However, discussing the non-exam assessment task outside the classroom is a breach of the exam boards' rules and, therefore, malpractice."

Ofqual said that dealing with potential malpractice is not straightforward, for example because it is not always clear that a post has been made by a student or teacher, or whether any students have gained an unfair advantage from a resource.

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The regulator is consulting on its plans to remove coursework from final grades.

"Despite the exam boards' efforts, we think this year's non-exam assessment in GCSE computer science will be compromised," Ofqual said.

"We think there is a real - and significant - risk that, left unchecked, results in next summer's computer science GCSEs will not provide a fair reflection of every student's knowledge, skills and understanding.

"We also think that the likely extent of malpractice may well compromise exam boards' ability to set grade boundaries and issue results on time. Similar problems are likely to arise in future years."

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "It is an enormously frustrating situation for all concerned, but we recognise that Ofqual has no option other than to consult on alternative arrangements.

"We agree that this assessment cannot and should not now contribute to final GCSE grades, not least because it would be extremely unfair to students who undertake the task in a proper manner without recourse to online forums.

"It is also clear that other options will be needed in the longer term in an era when the ubiquity of online information makes this form of assessment extremely vulnerable."

Ofqual's consultation document also notes that there have been investigations into potential malpractice in this summer's old-style computing GCSE. Further details will be published next month.

GCSE coursework for Computer Science will not count for any marks amid fears about widespread cheating, the exam watchdog has said.

The move follows concern that thousands of students were given undue assistance, with Ofqual finding dozens of examples where students were able to obtain answers posted on online forums and websites.

Examples of malpractice included students posting the tasks on forums asking for help, with other members responding with detailed solutions and code which they could simply copy and past.

The watchdog has now ruled that coursework - which is meant to make up 20 per cent of a student’s overall grade - will not count towards the final grade for all Computer Science students sitting their exams in 2018 and 2019.  

“The speed with which the tasks appeared on-line and the number of times the discussions and solutions were viewed threatened the integrity of this aspect of the qualification,” Ofqual’s report said.

In November, the exams watchdog launched a consultation on changes to computer science.

Yesterday, their report said that responses to the consultation confirmed their view that the “current situation is untenable”.

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