GCSE Exemplar Exam Project

Wondering what an A* Art project actually looks like? Below is a complete project by Oscar Mellors.  This is his final exam unit which is equal to 40% of his overall GCSE grade.

It is important to understand that the exam board expects you to fulfill four specific assessment requirements. The exam board call these Assessment Objectives. We call these AO’s just to make it easier!

Our exam board is AQA you can look more closely at the specifications on their web site.

The four AO’s (assesment objectives) are:

AO 1 Develop ideas through investigations (having more than one idea) informed by contextual or other sources. Record your ideas through thumbnail sketches, notes, even if they are not going to be fulfilled, it helps the cretive process to think broadly! You need to demonstrate analytical and cultural understanding (looking at the work of other artists or cultures and explaining how it links to your idea and showing you understand what made the artist tick!).  Artists nick ideas, this is fine, they are influenced, no one works in a vacuum!

AO 2 Refine.  You need to refine your ideas through experimentation (with different materials). You should select appropriate resources, media, materials techniques and processes this means experimenting with a variety of art materials (even if  you do not go onto use them in your final piece).  Through experimenting, discoveries are made sometimes bad-but you don’t lose marks for this just show you learned from it!  Sometimes the BEST discoveries come after the “mistakes”.  Persevere and master your chosen technique so you go into the exam knowing what to do.

AO3 Record your intentions in visual and or other forms. (Recording does not just have to be drawing, photography is an excellent way of recording or maquettes or sketches or notes…) We expect you to source your OWN images, take your own photos, set up your own still life or get your friends to pose with props to work from, be inventive!  Don’t overlook drawing DRAWING IS IMPORTANT but drawing is not just a pencil! You can monoprint draw, paint draw, photoshop draw, ink and stick draw, timed drawings etc etc Use your course guide it is FULL of ideas and explainations.

A04 Present a personal informed and meaningful response demonstrating analytical and critical understanding, realising intentions, making connections between your written, visual, oral or other elements…your final piece in other words! But not JUST your final piece! The AO’s are interconnected.  This is the whole presentation of your project culminating with your final piece.  Your final piece should be PLANNED and connections to your original sources, the artists or cultures, your experiments and the progression to final piece will be visible.

Each of these assessment objectives is work 20 marks and the whole unit is marked out of 80.  Last year you had to get 74/80 to gain an A* but this can change from year to year and your teachers can only use this as a guideline.

Here it Oscar’s complete unit of work, this is an excellent example of how to approach and present a whole exam project.  “Similarities and Differences” was the exam theme but as you can see the responses to exam themes are BROAD!

‘Places’ was the subheading of the exam theme.  In a nutshell, places-under the sea-fishes-lots of variety, similar but different…get it?! Oscar began by exploring under the sea as a theme. This page shows a range of ideas which he could further develop and a selection of recording through found images and drawing

Oscar did not just have one idea for ‘Places’  His other idea was to use a local church as a starting point. He did not develop this idea but it shows that he has explored more than one idea, which is what the examiners wants to see! Look at how Oscar has used photography to record his ideas! He has also added annotation to help explain his ideas further.

Studies of a Degas sculpture, drawn at Birmingham Art Gallery

This double page shows that Oscar did some first had recording whilst on a school trip to Birmingham Art Gallery. This may well have given him more ideas for his final piece even though they are not immediately obvious. If you go on a trip remember to record ideas/objects which might inspire you later in the classroom.  It is unlikely you will find an artist who is doing EXACTLY what you are planning to do…please do not say “There is nothing here that is to do with what I’m doing” to your teacher!  The gallery visit is to gain inspiration, an artist may have used pastels or ink on canvas but of an entirely subject matter, nick the pastel or ink technique and apply it to your idea!

Oscar went on to collect lots of imagery which might inspire him later, this is a good double page and is visually powerful but, top tip! do not rely too much upon Internet imagery!  At this point we said “Go to an Aquarium! Take your family out for the day, get photos! or failing that go to a fishmongers and get a fish to photograph, take pictures of his display…” Oscar I believe did both.

On this double page Oscar has investigated his subject matter through the use of a range of media, pen and paint exploring colour and line.  He has also annotated this page to further explain his thinking and to remind himself what he did.  These were experimental drawings to get a quick feel for the images.

This page shows lots of recording. Try drawing in different ways ie; using negative space contiuous line drawing, pen and wash. Be experimental! Produce good quality recording.

 Despite the fact Oscar did not use this diving helmet in his final composition it shows how good he is at recording and how he is still exploring and looking at different ideas! The drawing is very bold and impressive! Think about the impact of your pages on a casual observer. Is it up to this standard?  If not sort it out and work into your drawings!

First hand resources are essential. Oscar actually went out and bought a fish to photograph and draw from.  It was named Andreas and lived in the Art Office fridge until it went off- reminding us that we must all suffer sometimes in the pursuit of creative achievement!  These photographs are going to be very useful later in his project, how can you gather first had resources to develop your idea?

lino print

Experiment with different materials Oscar produced this lino cut as part of his development.  This became a separate A2 sheet of printmaking studies.

It is important to show that you have looked at the work of other artists. And not just look and not record but look and make a copy of a detail, work out their technique, get a feel for the artist and the reasons why they created a piece.  How does it affect the viewer?  what inspired it? Oscar looked at Marc Chagall who creates dreamy narratives of flying people and fish, symbolism is key to his work and Oscar liked the colours and how the artist applied the paint. You must add annotation to your artists page/sheet. Do not write gibberish, do not write the obvious, do not just say ‘I like it it has nice colours’!! Say what you see/feel/know (because you researched it and read about it) all the time linking it to your own work and ideas, how does it inspire you?! Again use your art GCSE handbook to help you write well…

On this double page Oscar is developing his composition and exploring his use of media. Look at how he has used his photographs to help develop this layout.  See how he has stylised the fish scales, this idea came from his lino prints but he knew he wanted to create a large painting but he wouldn’t have done this had he not experimented with prints.

This double page shows a sketch for a final composition, Oscar has also added annotation to further explain his plan.  The drawing is unfinished the colours only suggested but his intentions are clear and he has pulled all his research together.

Then it was time for Oscar to produce his final piece. This painting took 10 hours to produce.  It probably took 8.5 in all honesty but the exam time can be used on any aspect of the preparatory work if you finish before the ten hours is up. This final painting is a culmination of  Oscars research development and experimentation.

Final piece

You can see clearly from this project how much research, development and experimentation  was needed in order  for Oscar to produce a meaningful and personal response to the theme.  This is what a successful project should look like!







































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