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# Is it harder to get the grades at Oxbridge?

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H&E
Don't tell me you've never guessed anything in your AS exams.

There's a difference though, if I guessed I'd have to conjure up an answer myself, totally, whereas on the SAT exam, the answer is actually there, infront of you - There is a 1 in 4/5 chance of getting it right even if you didn't have a clue - And you can even use the process of elimination etc. to narrow down to the correct answer.

In a normal exam, you aren't given that opportunity.
Invisible
There's a difference though, if I guessed I'd have to conjure up an answer myself, totally, whereas on the SAT exam, the answer is actually there, infront of you - There is a 1 in 4/5 chance of getting it right even if you didn't have a clue - And you can even use the process of elimination etc. to narrow down to the correct answer.

In a normal exam, you aren't given that opportunity.

Which is why there's negative marking.
Also, if you do Further Maths (and probably single Maths too, I can't remember as I took it last year) you'll find lots of questions where you are asked to show that a certain equation/integral etc produces a certain solution/value etc. So they actually tell you the answer, which is surely worse than giving you a choice.
H&E
Which is why there's negative marking.
Also, if you do Further Maths (and probably single Maths too, I can't remember as I took it last year) you'll find lots of questions where you are asked to show that a certain equation/integral etc produces a certain solution/value etc. So they actually tell you the answer, which is surely worse than giving you a choice.

"Which is why there's negative marking." - I'm not sure how it works or the extent of it, but I still think multi-choice is good; maybe there's a section where there isn't negative marking; but even if there is, if you're fairly confident of an answer and there's many points to be gained, most would go for it, get it, and get points. The risk taking can even out, or go in your favour. As I said, I'm not sure about how it works exactly.

"you'll find lots of questions where you are asked to show that a certain equation/integral etc produces a certain solution/value etc. So they actually tell you the answer, which is surely worse than giving you a choice." - Irrelevant example there, they are testing your ability at manipulation etc., not "knowing the answer". Bad example, because the "answer" to that question is the actual method to pick up the marks, not stating the answer they give infront of you.
Invisible
"you'll find lots of questions where you are asked to show that a certain equation/integral etc produces a certain solution/value etc. So they actually tell you the answer, which is surely worse than giving you a choice." - Irrelevant example there, they are testing your ability at manipulation etc., not "knowing the answer". Bad example, because the "answer" to that question is the actual method to pick up the marks, not stating the answer they give infront of you.

Not true - half the skill of manipulation is going through the procedure accurately, not losing any variables or signs etc. Having the answer in front of you makes that much, much easier. In addition, in FM one of the toughest skills is identifying suitable substitue variables which make an insoluble integral soluble; having the answer there can allow you to identify this by working backwards. Thus the answer allows you to "guess" the substitution.
H&E
Academically I speaking, I really don't know what they were looking for. Half the successful UK applicants I met had applied to read Maths at Tabsville, hardly the course for those possessing broad mindedness and a range of skills. Then, of course, there are the customary athletes who Oxbridge would probably think twice before granting interviews to.

Don't forget the alumni factor, I find that particularly misguided.
H&E
Not true - half the skill of manipulation is going through the procedure accurately, not losing any variables or signs etc. Having the answer in front of you makes that much, much easier. In addition, in FM one of the toughest skills is identifying suitable substitue variables which make an insoluble integral soluble; having the answer there can allow you to identify this by working backwards. Thus the answer allows you to "guess" the substitution.

mm, I'm not convinced; it acts as an aid but it's not as if "here are 4 possible methods to take; pick the correct one that will correctly lead to the answer, and you'll get the marks." - That's the equivalent on the SAT, as its multi-choice.

Anyway, thats 1 question from the whole paper. The majority of exam papers (normal ones) make you answer questions yourself, with no choices to gain cheap marks. e.g) Usually solving equations etc.

The SAT allows you to gain cheap marks.
BazTheMoney
Don't forget the alumni factor, I find that particularly misguided.

I remember walking around Harvard Yard, seeing all these uber-preppies walking round, just fuming at the knowledge of how hard I'd worked to get in and understand Harvard and how easy it had come to them.
Invisible
mm, I'm not convinced; it acts as an aid but it's not as if "here are 4 possible methods to take; pick the correct one that will correctly lead to the answer, and you'll get the marks." - That's the equivalent on the SAT, as its multi-choice.

Often it is - usually there are a few ways to do an integral, but only one will work (or work sufficiently quickly). Hence this shows you which method to take, which is the most subtle part of the process

Invisible
Anyway, thats 1 question from the whole paper. The majority of exam papers (normal ones) make you answer questions yourself, with no choices to gain cheap marks. e.g) Usually solving equations etc.

The SAT allows you to gain cheap marks.

Fair enough. At any rate, having taken SAT's, I can tell you that if you turn up to SAT II's thinking you'll cruise it because you can guess, you will find yourself in a very deep hole. I know this because a friend of mine did just that, and failed fairly spectacularly. I agree SAT I's are fairly flawed, in that practicing the technique makes a bigger difference than being intelligent; but this is why top universities worry about SAT II's much more than I's.
H&E
I remember walking around Harvard Yard, seeing all these uber-preppies walking round, just fuming at the knowledge of how hard I'd worked to get in and understand Harvard and how easy it had come to them.

People over here complain that Oxbridge admission is stuck in the dark ages, no British university would be able to employ the same admissions policy as Harvard, the media tear them apart, and rightfully so.
BazTheMoney
People over here complain that Oxbridge admission is stuck in the dark ages, no British university would be able to employ the same admissions policy as Harvard, the media tear them apart, and rightfully so.

Sod tear them apart, they'd burn the place down.
H&E
Often it is - usually there are a few ways to do an integral, but only one will work (or work sufficiently quickly). Hence this shows you which method to take, which is the most subtle part of the process

Fair enough. At any rate, having taken SAT's, I can tell you that if you turn up to SAT II's thinking you'll cruise it because you can guess, you will find yourself in a very deep hole. I know this because a friend of mine did just that, and failed fairly spectacularly. I agree SAT I's are fairly flawed, in that practicing the technique makes a bigger difference than being intelligent; but this is why top universities worry about SAT II's much more than I's.

I never implied they were easy, I was just saying that the method of testing isn't great because you can stupidly pick up cheap marks, if you take risks wheren appropriate, or when you don't get marks knocked off etc. Of course it isn't pot luck, the majority of your marks will be earned, but it could be increased due to guesswork, rather than knowing the answers by working it out yourself; in an exam, you earn every mark, by knowing the answer or working it out by whatever method used.

"Often it is - usually there are a few ways to do an integral, but only one will work (or work sufficiently quickly). Hence this shows you which method to take, which is the most subtle part of the process." - There are no hints to which method to use, only the ending. No choices. It's down to you, what you do, and there are numerous ways to do it, but also a vast number of ways that lead to nowhere. There are no choices with method.

"Hence this shows you which method to take" - What? It doesn't show you which method to take, it's up to you. That was my point.

Anyway, as i said, this is 1 question, or even, part of 1 question, out of 9 questions on a paper.

The SATs may be hard, but I'm criticizing the method of assessment, not the actual questions that appear on the day of taking the exam.

Why not just let candidates take difficult exams that aren't multi-choice or have any element of picking up cheap/lucky marks?

Complicating matters, I say.
Invisible
Why not just let candidates take difficult exams that aren't multi-choice or have any element of picking up cheap/lucky marks?

Complicating matters, I say.

Well, the SAT is under fairly fierce criticism at present in the US, though precisely why I can't remember. However, I think it does its job well. SAT I, which is much more guessable, is an idiot test: if you can't get 1400, you're probably not a top candidate unless you're fabulous in some other way. Then you have the SAT II, which is a more precise selector - it has more UK style questions, and also has questions which are more difficult to guess if you don't know youre stuff.
H&E
SAT I, which is much more guessable, is an idiot test: if you can't get 1400, you're probably not a top candidate unless you're fabulous in some other way. Then you have the SAT II, which is a more precise selector - it has more UK style questions, and also has questions which are more difficult to guess if you don't know youre stuff.

Yes, ok so with the SAT 2 there's less of it involved, but it still doesn't mean to say that there isn't a better alternative that eradicates any element of "you were lucky on question so and so where you guessed right after you eliminated 2 of the 4 answers." etc.

All you said in the above is that the SAT 2 is harder - Same method of assessment though, which is the problem IMO.

Unless you're agreeing with me that the normal exam assessment, but to a high level, is the better option?
Invisible
Yes, ok so with the SAT 2 there's less of it involved, but it still doesn't mean to say that there isn't a better alternative that eradicates any element of "you were lucky on question so and so where you guessed right after you eliminated 2 of the 4 answers." etc.

All you said in the above is that the SAT 2 is harder - Same method of assessment though, which is the problem IMO.

Unless you're agreeing with me that the normal exam assessment, but to a high level, is the better option?

I think I'm arguing with you more becaue I believe the SAT's are under appreciated than because I really think you are wrong. Basically, I agree the testing method is not ideal; however there's no real alternative given that it is administered in dozens of countries (utilising dozens of languages) at a time, 6 times a year, and that results are produced in well under a month. It's also arguable that it's better to leave the elemet of chance to the candidate than introduce it at the marking stage where so much can depend on the competence and, in arts subejcts, the opinions of the examiner. So yeah, I agree with you that it is flawed, and like I said above it seems most Americans agree with you; however, I think it does its job well, and is not a bad assessment of ability at all.
H&E
I think I'm arguing with you more becaue I believe the SAT's are under appreciated than because I really think you are wrong. Basically, I agree the testing method is not ideal; however there's no real alternative given that it is administered in dozens of countries (utilising dozens of languages) at a time, 6 times a year, and that results are produced in well under a month. It's also arguable that it's better to leave the elemet of chance to the candidate than introduce it at the marking stage where so much can depend on the competence and, in arts subejcts, the opinions of the examiner. So yeah, I agree with you that it is flawed, and like I said above it seems most Americans agree with you.

"however there's no real alternative given that it is administered in dozens of countries (utilising dozens of languages) at a time, 6 times a year, and that results are produced in well under a month. It's also arguable that it's better to leave the elemet of chance to the candidate than introduce it at the marking stage where so much can depend on the competence and, in arts subejcts, the opinions of the examiner." - But the test would surely favour American candidates anyway, naturally? If it's written by Americans, I'd expect a certain sense of style to these questions that US students may be familiar to, to an extent. Even if the papers are translated, I think those from foreign nations are still slightly disadvantaged relative to US candidates.

"however there's no real alternative" - Why is the normal method of assessment inferior? And if they rush to get printed scores out, thats their problem; it does not make their method of assessment anymore worthy, just because they want to rush and get results out.

That's what you said - So there's another fault, using this method of assessment for reducing administration, marking, time, money etc. rather than gaining the most reflective results possible - I thought this mattered the most, but clearly not, from your above reply.
Invisible
"however there's no real alternative given that it is administered in dozens of countries (utilising dozens of languages) at a time, 6 times a year, and that results are produced in well under a month. It's also arguable that it's better to leave the elemet of chance to the candidate than introduce it at the marking stage where so much can depend on the competence and, in arts subejcts, the opinions of the examiner." - But the test would surely favour American candidates anyway, naturally? If it's written by Americans, I'd expect a certain sense of style to these questions that US students may be familiar to, to an extent. Even if the papers are translated or whatever, I think those from foreign nations are still slightly disadvantaged relative to US candidates.

"however there's no real alternative" - Why is the normal method of assessment inferior? And if they rush to get printed scores out, thats their problem; it does not make their method of assessment anymore worthy, just because they want to rush and get results out.

That's what you said - So there's another fault, using this method of assessment for reducing administration, marking, time, money etc. rather than gaining the most reflective results possible - I thought this mattered the most, but clearly not, from your above reply.

I agree the method is flawed. However, on their scale at which it operates, it's the only option. You only have to look at the difficulties of the UK system with the load placed upon it to see that. I also think that despite its flaws, it isn't a bad test at all.

btw, not sure how it's relevant, but yes, there is a strong disadvantage to foreign candidates, and universities consider this.
H&E
btw, not sure how it's relevant, but yes, there is a strong disadvantage to foreign candidates, and universities consider this.

It was said above that SAT does suit western educated students more than international students. But the admission staff are very much aware of that.

I feel that for the diversity of the students, the surrent system is probable the best way to examine, though I agree that the system is flawed.
H&E
I agree the method is flawed. However, on their scale at which it operates, it's the only option. You only have to look at the difficulties of the UK system with the load placed upon it to see that. I also think that despite its flaws, it isn't a bad test at all.

btw, not sure how it's relevant, but yes, there is a strong disadvantage to foreign candidates, and universities consider this.

I don't understand your logic in saying that it's the best method present when:

1.) It's a disadvantage to foreign candidates anyway as you stated above, which makes your reasoning about the normal method of assessment being a disadvantage to non-US candidates (earlier on), void.
2.) "Universities consider this" - So, more ambiguity with these tests results.
3.) "However, on their scale at which it operates" - This method is only to save hassle, administration, money etc. It doesn't produce the most accurately reflecting results possbile; so there is an alternative, it just isn't "as convenient" to those involved.

With the 3 above points in mind, how can you argue that there is no alternative that is better?

When I said "better", I meant better for the sake of gaining the fairest and most useful results possible.
Invisible
I don't understand your logic in saying that it's the best method present when:

1.) It's a disadvantage to foreign candidates anyway as you stated above, which makes your reasoning about the normal method of assessment being a disadvantage to non-US candidates (earlier on), void.
2.) "Universities consider this" - So, more ambiguity with these tests results.
3.) "However, on their scale at which it operates" - This method is only to save hassle, administration, money etc. It doesn't produce the most accurately reflecting results possbile; so there is an alternative, it just isn't "as convenient" to those involved.

With the 3 above points in mind, how can you argue that there is no alternative that is better?

When I said "better", I meant better for the sake of gaining the fairest and most useful results possible.

My point is that given that you want everyone to have a chance of being tested, you've got to make sure it's cheap and accessible; it's no use having an immensely precise test only a minority can take. Every admissions test is a trade off of precision versus cost and accessibility: that's why the Oxbridge exam was abolished; it's why you only get one or two interivews, why the practice of 3 day long open book exams has been abolished etc. The SAT is incredibly successful regarding cost and accessibility, so much so that I feel this compensates for its imperfect precision.
H&E
My point is that given that you want everyone to have a chance of being tested, you've got to make sure it's cheap and accessible; it's no use having an immensely precise test only a minority can take. Every admissions test is a trade off of precision versus cost and accessibility: that's why the Oxbridge exam was abolished; it's why you only get one or two interivews, why the practice of 3 day long open book exams has been abolished etc. The SAT is incredibly successful regarding cost and accessibility, so much so that I feel this compensates for its imperfect precision.

Cost to who? And what has exam structure/style got to do with accessibility?