How to successfully transition to a new exam board

Two business professionals having a discussion in a meeting

Switching exam boards needn’t be the hassle you assume.

Rather than starting from scratch, there is a lot you can do to smooth the transition. Jamie Kirkaldy, Head of Teaching and Learning Support for OxfordAQA, gives some top tips on how to successfully make the change.

Nobody would say that switching exam boards involves no work. You’ll need to familiarise yourself with a new course, some of your resources will need updating and you’ll need to prepare your students for a new assessment structure. However, if you view the change as an evolution rather than an overhaul, you’ll find that it may not be the overwhelming challenge you were fearing.

Here is my guide to switching with confidence…

Be very clear in your own mind the reasons you’re moving to a new board, what advantages you see for your students and your teachers. Not only will this give you the necessary motivation, it will give you a compelling set of arguments when convincing colleagues, students, and parents.

When making any kind of change, there are certain people you need on board: other teachers in your team, school leadership, students and parents. Do everything you can to lay out the advantages to these stakeholders as early as possible and engage their commitment. Information evenings, clear communications, and being available to answer questions will all help people understand why you have switched and the benefits of doing so.

There is a lot of groundwork you can do before you start teaching a new qualification. Firstly, do an audit of the new curriculum against the previous one: what content is completely new, what is similar, and what is more or less the same? Going through the course outline with red, amber, and green highlighters can help you track this breakdown in an easy, visual way. From this, you can work out which resources you already have and can continue using as they are, which will need some minor adjustments and what you’ll need to devise from scratch. You’ll almost certainly find it is far less work than you originally assumed.

Where you do need to create new content, you may find your new exam board provides a lot of this for you. If you’re moving to OxfordAQA, you’ll find switching guides, schemes of work, teaching resources, past papers, and marked exemplars in the Resources section of our website. Textbooks can also be incredibly useful, providing a potential teaching structure and sample assessments.

As you start rolling out the new course, build in ways of monitoring its progress. This can include data from student assessments and surveys of key stakeholders, but can also be as simple as a quick chat with colleagues and students to find out how it’s going.

The ultimate acid test of a new curriculum is how the exams go for your students. With this in mind, you should start preparing students for the new assessment structure as early as you can. Use past paper questions for key assessments (e.g. mock exams) and mark student work with the exam board mark scheme wherever possible. This way, everyone gets used to thinking about the skills students need to demonstrate to be successful in the real exams.

Teaching is a career when you are continually looking to tweak and improve. Once your first cohort has sat their exams, really interrogate their data to see what has gone well and where improvements could be made. OxfordAQA’s Enhanced Results Analysis tool will be incredibly useful for this, allowing you to drill down into the data of your students’ outcomes to see what aspects of the assessment went well and less well for them (different Assessment Objectives, elements of the course content, question types, etc). You can then use this information to make any minor adjustments to your teaching and learning for the next cohort.

So there you go, my top tips for a smooth transition. If OxfordAQA is the exam you are looking to switch to, please visit the relevant subject page of our website to see how we can help. And if you want more information or support, either contact your local Qualifications Consultant or email us at [email protected].

Happy switching!

Teaching is a career where you are continually looking to tweak and improve.
Jamie Kirkaldy, Head of Teaching and Learning Support for OxfordAQA