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Does anyone still believe exam standards haven’t dropped?

Home Forums Lounge Does anyone still believe exam standards haven’t dropped?

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  • #20476
    insomniac
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    • Total Posts 1453

    We’ve had year-on-year increases in the number of passes at A and A* grades at GCSE and A2 level for many years now. There has been a continual cry that these exams were becoming easier to pass. Now, with the recent exposure of Exam Boards admitting they’ve made exams easier and having forewarned teachers about what questions to expecte, can there be anyone left who seriously thinks 3 A level grade A’s in 2011 is the equivalent of 3 A’s say, 30 years ago?
    So much for education, education, education.

    #382135
    Eclipse First
    Member
    • Total Posts 1571

    While agreeing that the level of questions has become progressively easier, I think the exposure of exam boards telling schools what will be in the final papers is hardly new. In the early 80’s when I was doing my Chemistry O Level, we learned the Haber Process by heart because it was one of the "guaranteed" questions in the 2 from 5 section. If it happened in one subject then I am sure it wasn’t isolated.

    #382159
    paulostermeyerpaulostermeyer
    Participant
    • Total Posts 4601

    While agreeing that the level of questions has become progressively easier, I think the exposure of exam boards telling schools what will be in the final papers is hardly new. In the early 80’s when I was doing my Chemistry O Level, we learned the Haber Process by heart because it was one of the "guaranteed" questions in the 2 from 5 section. If it happened in one subject then I am sure it wasn’t isolated.

    As you say it has always been the case my exams pre-date yours, – when I did my Zoology A’ Level we knew a month in advance what the dissection was going to be and we had a chance for several practices beforehand.

    Similarly with Chemistry we knew which of the four "special" topics would be covered in the exam.

    I have not seen a recent paper so cannot say if they are any easier but, I recall, a couple of years ago I was trawling through the loft I found my A’ level Physics paper – I have to say (many years on)I couldn’t even understand most of the questions and that includes the ones I actually answered.

    #382160
    Eclipse First
    Member
    • Total Posts 1571

    The biggest problem with the exam system now is that it paints a wholly unrealistic picture. In life, people fail as well as succeed. The old system created probably too much pressure on developing teenagers but those that coped with the pressure of that showed they were better armed to cope with the pressures of adulthood.
    I known that people mature at different rates so there will be some that slip through the net anyway.

    #382162
    CrustyPatch
    Participant
    • Total Posts 916

    It’s virtually impossible to fail exams these days.
    Standards have dropped appallingly. Everyone knows it but nobody dares to admit it because so many jobs and votes depend on it.
    Standards of literacy are so poor among many teachers that they themselves don’t know enough about spelling, grammar and punctuation to be able to correct the work of pupils (sorry, students).
    I know because my sister-in-law, who is a teacher, can’t spell.
    They’re not even, in many cases, allowed to correct work these days because it’s considered "judgemental" and upsets the poor lambs. Can’t do anything to dent their "self-esteem" or "confidence". As long as the basic ideas are sound, it doesn’t seem to matter how the sentences are constructed or whether they are spelled correctly.
    The young people I see don’t suffer from any lack of confidence, perhaps because they have not been taught any boundaries.
    The biggest disaster to hit schoolwork and exams is the inexorable rise of textspeak. Students are using it in essays, exams and coursework and are being allowed to get away with it without being penalised. No wonder standards of spelling and general English have plummeted.
    Schools go along with the myth that standards are rising because the number of exam passes keeps going up. It’s in their interests because they can claim that teaching standards have never been higher. It’s nonsense, of course. The Government can claim that it is "investing" more than any Government has ever done in education and the rising results show that the billions spent must be proof that its drive to increase standards is working.
    Parents want to believe that dear little Kyle, Nathan, Connor, Leanne, Chardonnay and Tracy really are achieving more than any child has ever done before.
    The proof that we are all being conned by this inexorable so-called annual rise in standards comes from the employers. Many of them are appalled by the lack of literacy, numeracy and social skills of many young people. Not to mention their poor work ethic and the belief that the world owes them a living and that they don’t have to work hard to achieve any success.
    No wonder foreign workers, with a strong work ethic, are having a field day at the expense of workshy British people.
    I see a lot of young people in my workplace and, believe me, the appalling standard of literacy of even English graduates is truly depressing. Many of them no doubt think that a split infinitive is a nasty skin condition.
    The number of English graduates who use the phrase "would of" instead of "would have" is truly astonishing. Richard Whiteley used to lampoon that particular faux pas on Countdown years ago but the situation is now far worse. Just read a young person’s job application form if you don’t believe me. I’m not exaggerating the scale of the problem.
    But as long as the myth is peddled that standards are rising "year on year", as the awful saying goes, nothing will ever get any better. There’s a vast conspiracy among people with vested interests that standards have never been higher.

    #382198
    dusty919dusty919
    Member
    • Total Posts 57

    Do any of you do GCSE or A-level? I doubt it, and if you did, you’d know it isn’t a walk in the park. I had to do a tremendous amount of work to ge the grades i got at GCSE, and the amount of work to do at A-level is at least double GCSE.

    I feel I did well at GCSE, and to hear people constantly say how easy it is to get an A* is more than a little undermining and very annoying.

    Now, I do not know how hard it was ‘back in the day’, all I know is that it is a lot of work to do now, and for people to say it is easy is ignorant and frustrating for those of us that have done well.

    http://www.ocr.org.uk/download/pp_09_ju … 724_01.pdf

    see how well you do with that.

    #382222
    Eclipse First
    Member
    • Total Posts 1571

    I for one would not wish to dismiss or denigrate anyone’s academic achievements. However I do recall seeing an O level Chemistry question from the late 70’s alongside an A level Chemistry question from the early noughties, and the questions were remarkably similar. The old GCE system meant that only the top x% got an A grade, the next y% got a B and the next tier a C. The bottom 45% at O level in any year failed.
    The fundamental difference is that O levels were designed for pupils to fail, whereas the GCSE exams are designed for pupils to pass. I think there is something to be said for some of the changes but, the statistics just do not ring true.

    #382226
    CrustyPatch
    Participant
    • Total Posts 916

    I guarantee that anyone who got Cs and Ds in their GCEs or O Levels all those years ago would get straight As or A*s now, with the same amount of knowledge.
    It’s impossible to fail exams these days. They have been dumbed down so much that they are meaningless bits of paper.
    The students might be kidded into thinking their exams are just as rigorous but they’re impossible to fail. If you can’t fail something and you automatically get an A, as young people seem to expect these days, what is the point of the charade?
    It’s not their fault that they are the pawns in this charade but trying to pretend that the exams haven’t been dumbed down and the grades artificially inflated for political and social reasons is just crazy. Not only that, it’s plain dishonest. Nobody thanks you for pointing that out but employers and universities (sorry, unis) know. They have to do the remedial work with the products of the grade inflation.
    There are vast numbers of students going to universities who should never be there because they just haven’t got the academic ability. The "all must have prizes" culture is to blame.

    #382227
    paulostermeyerpaulostermeyer
    Participant
    • Total Posts 4601

    Do any of you do GCSE or A-level? I doubt it, and if you did, you’d know it isn’t a walk in the park. I had to do a tremendous amount of work to ge the grades i got at GCSE, and the amount of work to do at A-level is at least double GCSE.

    In ‘my day GCSE’s did not exist there were two exams CSE or GCE O’ Level, with O’ Level being the "higher"of the two.

    GCSE’s are a combination of the two, introduced when some idiot decided the poor children should not be allowed to fail and it was terribly wrong to have two different levels of examination.

    O’ Levels were not easy and the norm was to do just five or six subjects or, if you were really good seven – it was impossible to do more. Whereas with GCSE’s it seems, if my nephews and nieces are anything to go by, nine or more seems the norm.

    Also if I am not mistaken doesn’t GCSE also include course work as part of the assessment, I believe it counts for 60% – whereas with O’ Level (apart for a handful of specialist subjects) the exam counted for 100% of the grade.

    When I took my A’ Levels only 18% of students went on to that level of education, now it is 72%.

    Also it is impossible to compare grades now with grades which were awarded in my time. When I took my A’ Levels the top 10% were awarded an A grade, regardless of their marks, the next 15% received a B, the next 10% C, the next 15% E which meant 70% always passed. The next 20% were given an O’ Level at the subject and the lowest 10% failed, no matter how high the score.

    The current system was introduced in September 2000

    In 2007 independent analysis of marking and grading of A’ Level papers, comparing between 1988 and 2006. It found that students of similar ability were achieving on average about 2 grades higher in 2006 than they were in 1988. In the case of maths it was nearer to 3.5 grades higher.

    Use of the AS system (in my day AS was actually a higher qualification than a straight A grade A’ Level) ensures students drop weak subjects, thus inflating final grades. Also unlimited re-sits are now allowed, whereas only one re-sit was allowed previously.

    I think the decline in standards is also exemplified by more and more Universities setting entrance exams to back up the A’ Level results.

    Finally there are far more "soft" subjects at A’ Level than there used to be. For example there are now nine different "Art and Design" A’ Level subjects, as well as, to name a few, "Critical Thinking" ,"Film Studies", "Dance", "Drama" and not forgetting the ubiquitous "Media Studies" – yet surprisingly there are only two Mathematics, A’ Levels whereas there were at least five when I took my A’ Levels.

    #382229
    dusty919dusty919
    Member
    • Total Posts 57

    Do any of you do GCSE or A-level? I doubt it, and if you did, you’d know it isn’t a walk in the park. I had to do a tremendous amount of work to ge the grades i got at GCSE, and the amount of work to do at A-level is at least double GCSE.

    In ‘my day GCSE’s did not exist there were two exams CSE or GCE O’ Level, with O’ Level being the "higher"of the two.

    GCSE’s are a combination of the two, introduced when some idiot decided the poor children should not be allowed to fail and it was terribly wrong to have two different levels of examination.

    O’ Levels were not easy and the norm was to do just five or six subjects or, if you were really good seven – it was impossible to do more. Whereas with GCSE’s it seems, if my nephews and nieces are anything to go by, nine or more seems the norm.

    Also if I am not mistaken doesn’t GCSE also include course work as part of the assessment, I believe it counts for 60% – whereas with O’ Level (apart for a handful of specialist subjects) the exam counted for 100% of the grade.

    When I took my A’ Levels only 18% of students went on to that level of education, now it is 72%.

    Also it is impossible to compare grades now with grades which were awarded in my time. When I took my A’ Levels the top 10% were awarded an A grade, regardless of their marks, the next 15% received a B, the next 10% C, the next 15% E which meant 70% always passed. The next 20% were given an O’ Level at the subject and the lowest 10% failed, no matter how high the score.

    The current system was introduced in September 2000

    In 2007 independent analysis of marking and grading of A’ Level papers, comparing between 1988 and 2006. It found that students of similar ability were achieving on average about 2 grades higher in 2006 than they were in 1988. In the case of maths it was nearer to 3.5 grades higher.

    Use of the AS system (in my day AS was actually a higher qualification than a straight A grade A’ Level) ensures students drop weak subjects, thus inflating final grades. Also unlimited re-sits are now allowed, whereas only one re-sit was allowed previously.

    I think the decline in standards is also exemplified by more and more Universities setting entrance exams to back up the A’ Level results.

    Finally there are far more "soft" subjects at A’ Level than there used to be. For example there are now nine different "Art and Design" A’ Level subjects, as well as, to name a few, "Critical Thinking" ,"Film Studies", "Dance", "Drama" and not forgetting the ubiquitous "Media Studies" – yet surprisingly there are only two Mathematics, A’ Levels whereas there were at least five when I took my A’ Levels.

    There are still two different types of qualification, I don’t know if you have ever heard of the BTEC? it is the lower qualification of the two, so those who the GCSE’s do not appeal to can take that.

    As I have said before, I don’t think (most) GCSE’s are easy, maybe I’m just an idiot, but I think coursework, especially under the system now used, where it cannot be re done until next year, and must be done under controlled, timed circumstances, is much more pressurised than a straight exam, and the amount coursework counts for, or whether it is done at all, varies greatly from subject to subject.

    More people taking education further than required can only be a good thing in my eyes, and maybe grades are inflating, but I believe that students are not necessarily working harder, but working smarter. What i mean by this is that there is now a wealth of revision material on the internet and in books, so students can revise from that, then test their knowledge on past papers that can be found easily on the internet, so for a motivated student, revision is easier.

    No one with any ambition (at least at my school) takes the soft subjects you mentioned. To be honest, they are soft, and the top Universities almost spell out that if you take them, you will most likely not be given a place.

    #382230
    dusty919dusty919
    Member
    • Total Posts 57

    I guarantee that anyone who got Cs and Ds in their GCEs or O Levels all those years ago would get straight As or A*s now, with the same amount of knowledge.
    It’s impossible to fail exams these days. They have been dumbed down so much that they are meaningless bits of paper.
    The students might be kidded into thinking their exams are just as rigorous but they’re impossible to fail. If you can’t fail something and you automatically get an A, as young people seem to expect these days, what is the point of the charade?
    It’s not their fault that they are the pawns in this charade but trying to pretend that the exams haven’t been dumbed down and the grades artificially inflated for political and social reasons is just crazy. Not only that, it’s plain dishonest. Nobody thanks you for pointing that out but employers and universities (sorry, unis) know. They have to do the remedial work with the products of the grade inflation.
    There are vast numbers of students going to universities who should never be there because they just haven’t got the academic ability. The "all must have prizes" culture is to blame.

    You ‘guarantee’ this do you? What evidence are you basing this opinion on? Trust me, exams are not a ‘charade’, and they do not give out A’s, rather you are forced to work hard, and those that don’t are shown up on results day. Regurgitating what you hear on the news isn’t the best way to form an argument, and I think you should take a step back and maybe assess some of the evidence, take a look at the past paper I linked to in my previous post, and tell me they are giving away A’s. Feel free to look at other past papers, they are all available on the internet.

    To call these exams ‘worthless bits of paper’ is insulting to myself, and everyone who works hard to achieve the best grades possible. You really ought to think before you write things, because if you knew anyone who did the exams and actually worked hard for them, you would not be saying this.

    #382231
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17722

    Fear not, Dusty, for in 40 years time you’ll probably be berating prevailing standards, too.
    It’s that long since I first conducted job interviews, and I well recall being appalled at the standard of English and Maths, even then.
    With today’s technology, students are bound to be better informed than we ever were, as there’s more information at their fingertips now than in the largest Uni library then, so small wonder exam marks have improved commensurately.

    #382238
    CrustyPatch
    Participant
    • Total Posts 916

    maybe grades are inflating, but I believe that students are not necessarily working harder, but working smarter. What i mean by this is that there is now a wealth of revision material on the internet and in books, so students can revise from that, then test their knowledge on past papers that can be found easily on the internet, so for a motivated student, revision is easier.

    There’s no "maybe" about it. Grades ARE inflating and it’s an absolute racket.
    It sounds like I did my exams at a similar sort of stage to Paul Ostemeyer. I certainly didn’t have the luxury of doing soft coursework to count towards a large part of my grades. I certainly didn’t have the option of plagiarising my essays from the internet, having parents or teachers knock them into shape and then having the luxury of keeping resubmitting the work or retaking any exams until I finally got it right.
    I sat an exam based on revision and all I could cram in and regurgitate in an exam situation to a strict timetable, without the knowledge in advance that it was impossible for me to fail, no matter how appalling my grammar, spelling or punctuation.
    If I didn’t come up to scratch on the day, I failed. That’s the point of an exam.
    If you seriously believe that a pass rate of 97 per cent and rising, or whatever it is these days, is a realistic reflection of the abilities of young people, you are being sadly deluded. As I say, it is in everybody’s interests for people to continue to be deluded. There are votes and public sector jobs in it.
    As I say, nobody wants to admit that they are being conned. Young people may be working hard but they have a virtually cast iron guarantee that they cannot fail. That was not the case in the days of the old GCE, O Level and CSE. It’s like backing horses with huge bets, knowing that you can only ever win and can only ever keep getting bigger returns.
    I was hopeless at maths at school. I wasn’t deemed up to O Level so I did a CSE. Despite working hard and being given one-to-one extra tuition after school by the teacher, the best I managed was a CSE Grade 2. Needless to say, because it wasn’t an O Level, employers wouldn’t be interested in it. It’s a fact of life.
    I don’t think giving me a guaranteed much higher mark, as I would no doubt get today, is fooling anyone. I didn’t make the grade in maths and I had to accept I wasn’t good enough at it. Why fool people? I would have passed with flying colours today. My grade would be two or three grades higher than the lowly E that I at first managed in O Level maths.
    It’s very sad that young people are being conditioned to believe that "working hard" for something you are guaranteed to pass, along with the rest of the 97 per cent, is somehow acceptable.
    As I say, nobody these days wants even to accept that it is happening. Social engineering is producing a generation of illiterate, barely numerate, A grade students who have been made the victims of a huge con that the exams they are taking are somehow taxing, mentally stretching and valuable.
    Never mind challenging me to look at exam papers that I could crib the answers for on the internet and retake until I got the "correct" grade. Come and look at the barely literate graduates I work with and see the appalling standards of their written work. Come and see whether an English graduate of today can even spell or knows what a gerund or adjectival phrase is. What I see is the norm these days. These are supposed to be the better educated ones. Goodness knows what the textspeak-writing others who are not graduates are like. You, of course, won’t be able to see that there is even a problem, though.
    Anyone can work "smarter" if it’s impossible to fail and the work can be cribbed from the internet. Schools connive in this, again because inflated grades are in their interests for league table purposes and, ultimately, funding.

    #382258
    dusty919dusty919
    Member
    • Total Posts 57

    maybe grades are inflating, but I believe that students are not necessarily working harder, but working smarter. What i mean by this is that there is now a wealth of revision material on the internet and in books, so students can revise from that, then test their knowledge on past papers that can be found easily on the internet, so for a motivated student, revision is easier.

    There’s no "maybe" about it. Grades ARE inflating and it’s an absolute racket.
    It sounds like I did my exams at a similar sort of stage to Paul Ostemeyer. I certainly didn’t have the luxury of doing soft coursework to count towards a large part of my grades. I certainly didn’t have the option of plagiarising my essays from the internet, having parents or teachers knock them into shape and then having the luxury of keeping resubmitting the work or retaking any exams until I finally got it right.
    I sat an exam based on revision and all I could cram in and regurgitate in an exam situation to a strict timetable, without the knowledge in advance that it was impossible for me to fail, no matter how appalling my grammar, spelling or punctuation.
    If I didn’t come up to scratch on the day, I failed. That’s the point of an exam.
    If you seriously believe that a pass rate of 97 per cent and rising, or whatever it is these days, is a realistic reflection of the abilities of young people, you are being sadly deluded. As I say, it is in everybody’s interests for people to continue to be deluded. There are votes and public sector jobs in it.
    As I say, nobody wants to admit that they are being conned. Young people may be working hard but they have a virtually cast iron guarantee that they cannot fail. That was not the case in the days of the old GCE, O Level and CSE. It’s like backing horses with huge bets, knowing that you can only ever win and can only ever keep getting bigger returns.
    I was hopeless at maths at school. I wasn’t deemed up to O Level so I did a CSE. Despite working hard and being given one-to-one extra tuition after school by the teacher, the best I managed was a CSE Grade 2. Needless to say, because it wasn’t an O Level, employers wouldn’t be interested in it. It’s a fact of life.
    I don’t think giving me a guaranteed much higher mark, as I would no doubt get today, is fooling anyone. I didn’t make the grade in maths and I had to accept I wasn’t good enough at it. Why fool people? I would have passed with flying colours today. My grade would be two or three grades higher than the lowly E that I at first managed in O Level maths.
    It’s very sad that young people are being conditioned to believe that "working hard" for something you are guaranteed to pass, along with the rest of the 97 per cent, is somehow acceptable.
    As I say, nobody these days wants even to accept that it is happening. Social engineering is producing a generation of illiterate, barely numerate, A grade students who have been made the victims of a huge con that the exams they are taking are somehow taxing, mentally stretching and valuable.
    Never mind challenging me to look at exam papers that I could crib the answers for on the internet and retake until I got the "correct" grade. Come and look at the barely literate graduates I work with and see the appalling standards of their written work. Come and see whether an English graduate of today can even spell or knows what a gerund or adjectival phrase is. What I see is the norm these days. These are supposed to be the better educated ones. Goodness knows what the textspeak-writing others who are not graduates are like. You, of course, won’t be able to see that there is even a problem, though.
    Anyone can work "smarter" if it’s impossible to fail and the work can be cribbed from the internet. Schools connive in this, again because inflated grades are in their interests for league table purposes and, ultimately, funding.

    Are you just ignoring everything I say? Because if you had read what I’d written before, you would know that coursework is not ‘soft’. It may have been soft in the past, and open to abuse, but they have tightened up massively now, with old style coursework being replaced with the new controlled assessments, that are done under timed, controlled circumstances with no access to the internet. Get your facts right.

    I also sat an exam based on revision, what else am I going to base it on? I also sat it with the knowledge that if I didn’t get good enough grades, I wouldn’t be able to go to a good sixth form college or university. Pass rates are obviously increasing, but everyone knows what a good set of grades is nowadays, they have just gone up from ‘back in the day’, so to bring down everyone’s grades is a huge overstatement as well as demoralising.

    How am I going to ‘crib’ answers from the internet? As I have said before, coursework is now done under controlled conditions, specifically to avoid students plagiarising from the internet.

    Just because you want to make yourself feel better about your grades doesn’t mean you have to bring down everyone who has worked hard and got GOOD grades at GCSES, not just PASSED. That’s the difference nowadays, you don’t need to simply pass, you need to get good grades, and I think you need to understand that.

    #382259
    dusty919dusty919
    Member
    • Total Posts 57

    Fear not, Dusty, for in 40 years time you’ll probably be berating prevailing standards, too.
    It’s that long since I first conducted job interviews, and I well recall being appalled at the standard of English and Maths, even then.
    With today’s technology, students are bound to be better informed than we ever were, as there’s more information at their fingertips now than in the largest Uni library then, so small wonder exam marks have improved commensurately.

    You know, I probably will, and I hope there is some young whippersnapper to argue with me :lol:

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