The level 4 narrative tasks

My daughters both love horses and spend increasing numbers of hours a week at their local stable riding, grooming and mucking out their new best friends. Figuring that “if you can’t beat them, join them” I enrolled for some lessons of my own (the riding rather than the mucking out). The first time I got in the saddle it all seemed rather scary…I felt very high on a big animal that seemed intent on kicking me to death at its first opportunity. But a matter of weeks later I am happily cantering and jumping and loving my new-found sport. The difference? Just a bit of practice and familiarity!

The level 4 narrative tasks

My daughters both love horses and spend increasing numbers of hours a week at their local stable riding, grooming and mucking out their new best friends. Figuring that “if you can’t beat them, join them” I enrolled for some lessons of my own (the riding rather than the mucking out). The first time I got in the saddle it all seemed rather scary…I felt very high on a big animal that seemed intent on kicking me to death at its first opportunity. But a matter of weeks later I am happily cantering and jumping and loving my new-found sport. The difference? Just a bit of practice and familiarity!

When students get to level 4 of their AAT studies they encounter for the first time “narrative tasks” which require them to type coherent discursive answers to tasks rather than just filling in boxes or using drop-down menus. Students often have an initial fear of these tasks and I think that’s generally because they are new, unfamiliar and require some slightly different skills.

The most important thing is to “face the fear” and to practice as many example tasks as you can (and don’t be afraid to repeat tasks you have already done). The more you do this the more you will appreciate that there is little to be afraid of.

Tips for narrative tasks

Probably the two biggest weaknesses in these tasks are:

  • Students who fail to even attempt them (not a good strategy and best avoided)
  • Students who attempt them but do not produce answers of sufficient volume

The first of these weaknesses is easily addressed; just make sure you allocate adequate time to attempting each task in the assessment. Level 4 assessments are more time-pressured than those at levels 2 and 3 so you will need to keep a closer eye on the clock to make sure that you don’t over-run on some tasks and leave yourself too little time for others. You can even work out how long each task should take you by dividing the number of minutes that the assessment lasts by the total number of marks available and multiplying by the marks for the task you are dealing with.

The second weakness is a harder one for some students to address so here are a few thoughts that should help you:

Under the AQ2013 syllabus we know how many marks each task is worth. It is important to get enough individual points in your answer to score good credit and to do this you should aim for one point for each available mark. If 20 marks are available you should aim for at least 20 separate points in your answer.

Most narrative tasks will have 3 or 4 separate parts in the requirement so break your answer down to ensure that you address each area in turn. If a 20 mark task has 4 parts then you are aiming for 5 marks, or 5 points, in each part.

  • Make sure you write in full sentences in a way that explains each your points properly. You need to get into the habit of doing this, so don’t cheat yourself at home with short “notes”; write “proper” answers for every task you practice.
  • Use figures from the scenario to make simple calculations that can give credibility to your points. If the budget for sales for next year is 80,000 units compared to actual sales this year of 100,000 then we are anticipating a 20% fall in sales volume.
  • Use background information given to you in the scenario to help build your explanations. If the scenario tells you that a new competitor has opened this would be a good reason for a fall in budgeted sales for next year.
  • Add some value to your answer by suggesting responses that you think are appropriate to any problems arising, If sales are going to fall perhaps the business could consider

From the points above see if you can decide which of the following is more likely to earn solid credit:

1)  “Sales are going to fall. This is bad”

2)  “Sales are going to fall by 20% to a budgeted figure of only 80,000 units next year. This is likely to be the result of a new competitor opening and taking some of our market. It is suggested that we review our pricing and invest in some additional marketing.”

  •  It is particularly useful to go through the AAT’s PC-based sample assessments and read through the model answers in detail as these will give you a good feel for the volume and the sorts of points they are looking for.

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