I received an email today from Suzann Wells (from Samuel Whitbread Academy) about one of the June 2013 worksheets – the Box Plots one to be specific. Following this I have spent the last couple of hours trying to get my head around what defines context in terms of an exam answer, and how it is sometimes open to interpretation. Bear with me as I describe what its all about:

Question 17 on the June calculator paper was this:


Fairly straight forward I hear most of you saying … and that is exactly what I thought too. Part (a) is ok, but its part (b) that is causing me an issue. Again, I can almost hear some of you groaning as I suspect I am missing something – in fact I’m sat here feeling as though I must be a bit dim!  This is the mark-scheme extract:


How would you answer the question? The below image shows my worked solution –  it includes a measure of spread and also the median, and in my view is in context as its in terms of money and mentions the boys, yet I am told that this would have gained only 1 of the marks:


I know that you can’t just list the IQR and the median , I’ve never advocated or taught it that way – in fact the examiners report for this question says that listing the measures is not comparative:

Examiners report

Looking back at previous papers/mark-schemes in relation to comparing box plots, they have all been similar to the one show below and make no mention of context:

Mar 2013 - Q 18 - no context

This change in focus to include context in relation to box plots, will be news for a lot of teachers, but now you know … so maybe you can now tell me what defines context?

I suspect that I will be updating this post when I get a decent definition …. in the meantime I’m off to change my worksheet to something more explicit.


I have changed the worksheet to explicitly reference the context of the question (I’ve also changed the file on dropbox and on my blog post here .. Thank you twitter world for your feedback …