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    Of course they are easier; the facts speak for themselves.
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    (Original post by samba)
    Of course they are easier; the facts speak for themselves.
    The concept of exams getting 'easier' probably isn't a helpful one. Exams are certainly different now, however, to 20 years ago. What has happened is that school education has moved from being a broad education about a wide range of topics, to a deeper education about fewer topics.

    You can argue all day about what the right balance between breadth and depth of education is, but the fact remains that if you study fewer topics in more detail, it's going to allow lots more people to engage with the subject, become more informed about it, and answer the exam questions better. But what we're finding now is that students have realised that as long as you learn all the great detail that your teacher has gone into, you are pretty much guaranteed an A.

    "Working hard" for your A just means learning everything in your classnotes; "teaching better" just means honing the classnotes into more digestible chunks of regurgitatable information. Those are the reasons for grade devaluation, and frankly it neither indicates grade inflation nor pupils working harder, which are the arguments put forward on both sides of the debate.

    Teach broader and you will test the brighter students; teach deeper and you will test the more diligent students. Virtually anyone can be diligent, and this is what students are realising in their vicious scramble for university places.

    The cause of grade devaluation, therefore, is the structure of the examination system itself: the modules, the narrow syllabus, the predictable examination questions. This is highlighted further when I hear people at University expressing their outrage when there is a question on the exam about something which has not been explicitly covered in the lectures!

    I propose that A-level syllabuses should be broaded, and pupils encouraged to do more independent learning. It's ridiculous to hear the stories of people getting 8 or 10 A's at A-level - there shouldn't be enough time in the day to do this.

    I fear, however, that this would make the subjects less accessible to people who aren't interested in them, and is thus not a favourable option for the Government who have set themselves a ridiculous target of packing everyone off to University, so that a percentage figure can be paraded in the Commons.

    But at least it will stop people taking A-levels just so they have an excuse to get pissed for 3 years.
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    In comparison to GCSE exams I reckon A levels are easier. Just because at GCSE the questions that come up are less predictable. For Maths and French the real thing didn't feel any different to any past paper I'd done. They're also easier because they are not a memory test, with only one years worth of knowledge to remember. At GCSE I remember re-learning the whole science syllabus of two years in two days before the exam.
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    Worzo: Such a deep knowledge of few subjects shouldn't cause illiteracy or the inability to think for yourself. It should still require adequate communication and presentation skills.

    An ability to do well in them without such skills surely means they are 'easier'?
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    (Original post by samba)
    Worzo: Such a deep knowledge of few subjects shouldn't cause illiteracy or the inability to think for yourself. It should still require adequate communication and presentation skills.
    The loss of basic skills, I believe, is an unfortunate side effect of another shift in education away from basics toward more complex analytical ideas. Most people are expected to be able to spell competently by the age of 14, but for those that don't the lack of intensive spelling/grammar and core language skills at GCSE (as was the case in O-levels) does not help them, and it is unsurprising that as schools have shifted their Year 7-9 syllabuses in order to prepare for these more ambitious GCSEs, accuracy has suffered.

    I for one am glad, however, that I did not spend an hour a week doing comprehension as my parents did in O-level English.

    An ability to do well in them without such skills surely means they are 'easier'?
    'Easy' is a relative term. Sure, people 30 years ago might have had better spelling, but perhaps they would not have been as good at discussing the use of dramatic irony in Macbeth, for example. You have to consider what is being taught, and whether the effort required to learn now is any less than it was 30 years ago.

    My parents tell me that children in fact work far harder at school these days, simply because there's so more pressure on them to perform.
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    (Original post by Worzo)
    The concept of exams getting 'easier' probably isn't a helpful one. Exams are certainly different now, however, to 20 years ago. What has happened is that school education has moved from being a broad education about a wide range of topics, to a deeper education about fewer topics.

    You can argue all day about what the right balance between breadth and depth of education is, but the fact remains that if you study fewer topics in more detail, it's going to allow lots more people to engage with the subject, become more informed about it, and answer the exam questions better. But what we're finding now is that students have realised that as long as you learn all the great detail that your teacher has gone into, you are pretty much guaranteed an A.

    "Working hard" for your A just means learning everything in your classnotes; "teaching better" just means honing the classnotes into more digestible chunks of regurgitatable information. Those are the reasons for grade devaluation, and frankly it neither indicates grade inflation nor pupils working harder, which are the arguments put forward on both sides of the debate.

    Teach broader and you will test the brighter students; teach deeper and you will test the more diligent students. Virtually anyone can be diligent, and this is what students are realising in their vicious scramble for university places.

    The cause of grade devaluation, therefore, is the structure of the examination system itself: the modules, the narrow syllabus, the predictable examination questions. This is highlighted further when I hear people at University expressing their outrage when there is a question on the exam about something which has not been explicitly covered in the lectures!

    I propose that A-level syllabuses should be broaded, and pupils encouraged to do more independent learning. It's ridiculous to hear the stories of people getting 8 or 10 A's at A-level - there shouldn't be enough time in the day to do this.

    I fear, however, that this would make the subjects less accessible to people who aren't interested in them, and is thus not a favourable option for the Government who have set themselves a ridiculous target of packing everyone off to University, so that a percentage figure can be paraded in the Commons.

    But at least it will stop people taking A-levels just so they have an excuse to get pissed for 3 years.
    Your analysis of breadth and depth on which your argument rests is slightly flawed. In some subjects the converse is true, and students are in fact being exposed to a more broad course. The sciences are good examples, especially Biology. In the past you would have needed to know the processes involved in photosynthesis and respiration in a great deal of detail, for example, but today it has been simplified, and more topics included in the syllabus overall.

    History, on the other hand, does fit into your argument, but I do not think the reason why grades are being devalued has anything to do with this. You mentioned a new focus being put on diligence over intelligence, and I would actually agree with you on that point, but it isn't because the courses are getting narrower. The reason is that pupils are getting a lot of access to mark schemes and coaching, and therefore go into the exams knowing exactly what the examiners are looking for. Naturally this produces better results.
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    (Original post by kizer)
    I think you are missing the point. Cambridge want the most intelligent students, no matter what they study at Cambridge. They believe the subjects in that list of theirs do not provide effective preparation for studying their courses.
    Non-euphemistically, they are easier.
    Well, quite bluntly, they're wrong. History A level is a pile of pish these days, and yet because of its traditional status, Cambridge like it. Sport Science is way more rigorous in comparison, but because it isn't traditional, they don't. It makes no sense, though as a social scientist, I'm not really complaining...
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    (Original post by Soc)
    Well, quite bluntly, they're wrong. History A level is a pile of pish these days, and yet because of its traditional status, Cambridge like it. Sport Science is way more rigorous in comparison, but because it isn't traditional, they don't. It makes no sense, though as a social scientist, I'm not really complaining...

    Fair enough, however I disagree that A Level history is 'pish'. Out of my A Levels I thought it was the least.. pishy.

    You often get interesting questions, and the coursework is not easy.

    At A2 at least anyway.
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    In science, I think there is at least some evidence for 'dumbing down' - both breadth and depth of knowledge required has been reduced.

    I can only speak for Biology and Chemistry (as I took them) but older textbooks at my school library not only cover various topics in much greater depth (so the various intermediates in the Kreb's cycle, C4 and CAM mechanisms in plants, to take Will's examples) but also entire topics seem to be missing or vastly reduced (like biosystematics in Biology.) This may be unfair as the textbooks I was exposed to were meant both for A-level and early university, but I feel a clearer case can be made in the sciences for 'dumbing down' - I mean, if enough people moan about it, it has to be true, right?
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    (Original post by kizer)
    Fair enough, however I disagree that A Level history is 'pish'. Out of my A Levels I thought it was the least.. pishy.

    You often get interesting questions, and the coursework is not easy.

    At A2 at least anyway.
    Out of my A levels (English, History, Politics, Urdu and RS) - I found History to be the easiest. Make of that what you will.
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    (Original post by Soc)
    Out of my A levels (English, History, Politics, Urdu and RS) - I found History to be the easiest. Make of that what you will.

    You speak Urdu, but you found history harder?
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    (Original post by kizer)
    You speak Urdu, but you found history harder?
    Easier you mean. Yeah Urdu A2 was much more challenging in comparison to History A2, imo.
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    (Original post by Soc)
    Easier you mean. Yeah Urdu A2 was much more challenging in comparison to History A2, imo.

    Sorry about the typo, fair enough.
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    (Original post by Soc)
    Easier you mean. Yeah Urdu A2 was much more challenging in comparison to History A2, imo.
    Just because you found it easier doesn't make it easy - I did further maths aswell, which is quite respected as a hard subject, but found it so much easier than history. I think in general however, the top universities know their stuff, and if they regard traditional subjects such as history more highly, then surely they're right?
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    (Original post by GregoryJL)
    In science, I think there is at least some evidence for 'dumbing down' - both breadth and depth of knowledge required has been reduced.

    I can only speak for Biology and Chemistry (as I took them) but older textbooks at my school library not only cover various topics in much greater depth (so the various intermediates in the Kreb's cycle, C4 and CAM mechanisms in plants, to take Will's examples) but also entire topics seem to be missing or vastly reduced (like biosystematics in Biology.) This may be unfair as the textbooks I was exposed to were meant both for A-level and early university, but I feel a clearer case can be made in the sciences for 'dumbing down' - I mean, if enough people moan about it, it has to be true, right?
    This is true for science, but you can't take it beyond that generally. Why? Because this 'dumbind down' and 'trendifying' of science is the government's attempt to keep kids interests in the subjects and is a specific ploy for the sciences (which is absolutely ridiculous) and I've only see real evidence of it at GCSE, not A-level (which makes A-levels in sciences even harder in relativistic terms). There are odd omissions in the current chemistry A-level syllabus, but they are complimented with the addition of material that is as intellectually challenging if not as fundamental as the stuff omitted.
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    My Chemistry teacher told me that her A levels were harder than ours currently. She actually showed us one of her A level papers and I have to say it looked harder than ours too. Not just the content, but the layout. There was no clear cut answer box's, the format was harder, giving less away in terms of what it wanted.
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    (Original post by StudentBusiness12)
    My Chemistry teacher told me that her A levels were harder than ours currently. She actually showed us one of her A level papers and I have to say it looked harder than ours too. Not just the content, but the layout. There was no clear cut answer box's, the format was harder, giving less away in terms of what it wanted.
    Perhaps the exams are more leading, but to be honest at that stage it is the knowledge gained that is important for progression, the examination is just a means of categorisation and it isn't doing its job.

    Btw, how old is your chemistry teacher?
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    Hmm, Not really sure. Sorry.
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    When questions from O levels (old gsces) are found in todays A Levels it does make you wonder
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    Hahahaha, does that really happen?
 
 
 
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