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A levels - are they getting too easy?

inky pete

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I've just seen an item on the news where 3 of todays crop of A-level students also sat an A-level maths paper from 1993.


All three achieved A grades in the 2008 paper, but the grades for the 1993 paper were an E, an F and an ungraded.


Sure, the maths syllabus has changed - I've had a look at a current one, here http://www.ocr.org.uk/Data/publications/key_documents/AS_A_Level86696.pdf - but maths is maths and at that level hasn't changed all that much since Pythagoras! Certainly not enough to take an "A" student down to an "F".


What strikes me most looking at the current syllabus is that there's a fair amount of the current A-level stuff which was covered in the O-level when I sat mine in 1985 (solution of quadratic equations, basic calculus, trigonometry, polynomials, indices and surds). This little lot forms virtually all of Core Modules 1 & 2 and parts of Core Module 3 - and there are only 4 Core Modules.


Nowadays there also seem to be multiple alternative routes to attaining the qualification, so a candidate can achieve a high grade by only studying the modules they are strongest in and never having to tackle the stuff they find hard. When I sat A-levels in 1987 the candidate had to choose a certain number of questions from all those on the paper, so it was possible to avoid your weakest areas, but those areas had still been studied in class. I also remember that some of the questions on the paper used to be a little easier than others but involved the use of multiple different areas of the syllabus, this rewarded the broader based candidates with a good understanding of the whole subject.


Apparently, they also get a book of formulea in the exam these days. I only got one of those at degree level, coz Navier-Stokes equations are a bugger to remember:-



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Very interesting point.


Bit shocked to see that in only 15 years the levels seem to have changed so much. Wonder how employers rate the levels of achievement for example two candidates apply for a job....


One is age 33 and has an E in maths

one is age 18 and has an A in maths


Obviously the younger candidate is a far better mathematician :shock::? But not necessarily eh ?


As for the equation/formula you posted...... just patterns on a screen to me and I wouldn't have a clue what all that was about, hence the fact that only managed 2 weeks of A Level maths (a very long time ago :? )


Must be nice to be clever... but are things like that really useful :?::D

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I also heard an interview with a sixth form college head who was moaning that universities are starting to set their own entrance exams for some subjects, and how this was putting more stress on the little darlings.


Well, if A-levels were any good they wouldn't have to, would they?


but are things like that really useful


Depends on what sort of level of civilisation you like. The Navier-Stokes equations concern fluid dynamics and so are used in the design of everything from your car fuel injection system to the wings of the aircraft you go on holiday on.

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I think it's fairly obvious that Exams have been dumbed down over the years, and made even easier by being broken into modules - so these kids can enjoy the delusion of qualifying for Uni, take some Mickey Mouse Degree, and end up stacking shelves in the Super Market! :roll: Meanwhile, serious subjects like Maths, Science, Medicine, Engineering and Languages, are suffering and making our Country less competitive in the global economic rat-race. :shock::wink:

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Very few kids even do Physics, Chemistry and Biology as 3 separate subjects at GCSE now. Since 2006 most of them have done a "Combined Science" double GCSE which tries to cover all 3 subjects but in less depth, or even worse a GCSE in "scientific literacy for the 21st Century" - covering issues including global warming and mobile phone technology.


Take a look at this from 2 years ago:-




These are the same kids who have just posted record A-level results in, amongst other things, the sciences and we're supposed to believe the exams haven't been dumbed down?????

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Inky Pete

You are quite right, of course. But if you are only harking back to 1985 you are only scratching the surface. The rot had set in by then! If you really want to make comparisons to show up the "dumbing down" trend, go back to the fifties and sixties.

And it's not just maths - it's every other subject too. Not to many standards of behaviour, social graces, etc. etc.

These days parents boast about how their kids are so clever because they can use mobile phones, TVs, computers, etc. What they don't seem to realise is that their kids would probably be a lot better educated if they didn't have all these things!

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I don't think they are geting easier, I actualy think they are getting harder...for us!


I think the method of teaching that the government forces is getting poorer.


Kids are'nt taught to think and reason a result anymore, but more to memorise preconcieved answers.


the result is that harder questions are asked but ones that the kids have memorised, resulting in higher pass levels.


I think we were taught to reason an answer, so that we could overcome any obstacles using that logic or thought process.


one method is great for passing exams, the other is great for living a productive life.

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Legion has a point, but I would suggest the "coach to pass an exam culture" is in addition to the dumbing down; which makes the overall situation even more pathetic. :roll: This bunch of middle-class liberal clowns that are running the Country have pursued a dogma of equalisation irrespective of ability and have engineered a veneer of equality without thought to the consequences to the future competitivness of the Nation. :roll: People are not equal, they are different; the point and purpose of education is to allow folk to realise their full potential in areas where there natural talents and aptitudes lead them. :? Whilst they've been concentrating on artificially boosting University intakes and adding every Mickey Mouse subject under the sun to do it; they've neglected basic vocational preparation like trade apprenticships etc. :shock: We also have now an X-Factor culture, where every kid thinks (and expects) to get to the top of the greasy pole by fair means or foul, or die in the trying (irrespective of their inherent abilities). :shock::wink:

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Coaching to pass exams, rather than old style teaching to understand a subject, is certainly part of the problem. This, of course, is the inevitable result of the combination of league tables and increased parental choice of schools.


Kids are no longer taught to think for themselves either in schools or by their experiences outside them, so any challenge which comes in a slightly unfamiliar format (such as the 1993 maths paper) completely throws them. All they know how to do is Google and re-gurgitate.


My driving instructor put it well when she said, "I can teach you to pass a driving test, or I can teach you to drive a car. The latter is harder but you'll thank me for it later."

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supprisingly easy.


My 14year old son can make my car move, I gave him a play in it on a feild once.


but he cant drive.


in the IT world I work in we have a group of people who get high paid jobs, which we call "Paper MCSE's"


these are people who don't know the first thing about IT, but read several books and crammed for the MCSE series exams.


and passed


despite them having more chance of getting the kind of job I do, they cannot do it....far from it.

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Its about time that we said to the young teenagers out there well done instead of `o the exams are getting easy` not well done you have worked hard so well done ? Its not been a good year for teenagers. Its all been bad press for the teenagers from this town. Any one would think we lived in Afghanistan the way the press and publicity seekers go on about this town on how bad its is. but how the tone soon changes when one wins a show and its then our teenagers . But all I have to say its get over it. I feel sick on how young teenagers have been killed fighting for their country and but get little press do we remember them and get the press day in day out NOPE this is why I have no time for the recent head lines and never have I may be cold hearted but I think a teenager getting killed doing a job none of us would do is where I have respect for so they can party as much as they like we all did and enjoy life

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