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    Why are there so many exam boards?

    Is there any reason for there being so many versions of each subject?

    Should there not be a state exam board, so that everyone takes the same exam, it would be easier to administer, less paperwork (yeah save the rain forest ) and people couldn't say " ah but my exam board is harder and my A is worth more" and other things like that.

    Also with more than one exam board there is going to be competition between them (not that i do economics, but it seems logical), so they each want to be chosen by the schools, so may offer easier papers. If i was a school i would choose the exam board that was most likely to give the students an A, who woundn't?


    So basically I was trying to think of the reason for multiple boards, there must be one surely! But am yet to think of one other than it may employ more people in admin.

    Please enlighten me.
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    Perhaps its for the sake of competition. Not sure to be honest.

    I'm not very bothered with there being more than one exam board. Anyone who says that their grade is 'worth more' than the same grade achieved in the same subject but a different exam board is chatting ****. One shouldn't take them seriously.
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    Maybe because the administrative difficulties in getting millions of papers marked and sending out results would be too great for one exam board to comfortably handle.
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    (Original post by 1.9.8.4.)
    Perhaps its for the sake of competition. Not sure to be honest.

    I'm not very bothered with there being more than one exam board. Anyone who says that their grade is 'worth more' than the same grade achieved in the same subject but a different exam board is chatting ****. One shouldn't take them seriously.
    I wouldn't be so sure - with my old school, i sat GCSE maths with Edexcel, and GCSE double science with AQA. When i asked why the school used different exam boards for different subjects, the answer given to me was that the school chooses the easiest exam board for each subject. Now, that was the head of maths, so he could have been talking out his arse for all i know.

    I do believe that the reason numerous independent exam boards were set up is that they may compete for schools and colleges either through being more cost competitive (passing efficiency savings on through lower exam fees), or by innovating and offering new courses relevant to a changing world, or by improving the format of examination (coursework/ paper exams/ e-exams etc). The QCA would monitor and enforce standards across all exam boards to prevent them competing by lowering standards. Thus, the large number of exam boards could only lead to more efficient administration, dynamic adaptation of courses to deliver subject matter that appeals to school pupils, and rapid improvements to the means of assessment as new technologies come on stream.

    Unfortunately, (i think) there is little price competition for schools between exam boards, because attempts at setting up "internal markets" for schools in the past have been far too half hearted. Therefore, inefficient administration, bureaucracy and waste is every bit as bad as one would expect under a single, entirely nationalised body.

    There is however another kind of competition that may or may not be taking place. It probably is. How can innovations in the means of assessment, or in course content, not affect how easy the examination is for pupils to pass? If there are differences in content or means of examination between boards, how can the AQA enforce uniform constant standards? Innovation does allow for boards to change standards incrementally; AQA cannot prevent the gradual lowering of standards and their varying between boards, as there is no objective measure.

    I expect that such competition probably does take place, and that falling standards are probably less led by government, and more the systematic failure arising from a race to the bottom between exam boards, as schools select the easiest in their desperate lurching for higher positions in the league tables.
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    Out of interest does anyone know if a number of different exam boards setting papers across the country has always been the norm, or is this a more recent change?
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    Because the Tory's privatised them in the name of free-market competition. The result? A huge drop in quality, an inability to genuinely and fairly compare students throughout the UK education system and grade inflation caused by the exam boards' need to appeal to schools through easier and easier exams.
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    (Original post by BJ-Dubois)
    Because the Tory's privatised them in the name of free-market competition. The result? A huge drop in quality, an inability to genuinely and fairly compare students throughout the UK education system and grade inflation caused by the exam boards' need to appeal to schools through easier and easier exams.
    Heh, this is exactly what I was wondering. When exactly were state examinations (or at least a single provider's papers, scrutinised by the state) ended, to be replaced by a number of businesses?
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    (Original post by BJ-Dubois)
    Because the Tory's privatised them in the name of free-market competition. The result? A huge drop in quality, an inability to genuinely and fairly compare students throughout the UK education system and grade inflation caused by the exam boards' need to appeal to schools through easier and easier exams.
    Coming from a part of the UK with a state-owned exam board (the SQA) I can say they're not any better. Perhaps worse.
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    (Original post by Libertin du Nord)
    Coming from a part of the UK with a state-owned exam board (the SQA) I can say they're not any better. Perhaps worse.
    But the greatest benefit of a single state-run board would be a more uniform programme of study and examination - something you'd currently miss out on in your area because it's only regional.
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    (Original post by Libertin du Nord)
    Coming from a part of the UK with a state-owned exam board (the SQA) I can say they're not any better. Perhaps worse.
    What's wrong with the SQA?

    Having switched between the Scottish and English systems i can confidently say that the decline in examination standards has been less severe in Scotland (at least, it has been in mathematics and the sciences).

    So on what grounds would you criticize the SQA?

    I really do think the system that the rest of the UK has, whereby multiple exam boards issue a generic qualification, is fundamentally flawed. Instead, the ideal system would probably be a small number of independent boards, each issuing not only their own assessment, but their own qualifications (so you might have four or five different qualification brands like the IB). The difference here is that boards would suddenly be in competition to uphlod the standards of their qualifications, in order that they be recognised. Assuming the government did not force some rigid qualification exchange rate in order to compare schools sitting different qualifications, then league tables would no longer pressure schools to opt for less rigorous examination boards.

    On top of that, you gain a more objective measure of government educational performance over time (for as long as it continues to operate state schools).
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    (Original post by 1.9.8.4.)
    Perhaps its for the sake of competition. Not sure to be honest.

    I'm not very bothered with there being more than one exam board. Anyone who says that their grade is 'worth more' than the same grade achieved in the same subject but a different exam board is chatting ****. One shouldn't take them seriously.
    I disagree. Take Edexcel Physics and Edexcel Salters Horners Physics for example. The exam questions are written differently. SH has more 'problem solving' questions and are more 'realistic'. You also cover different topics. SH Physics covers more on electronic/electrical topics.

    However, this could be the only anomaly.
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    (Original post by wesetters)
    Ach no, that'd be a nightmare...
    I expected some response along those lines. Where would the nightmare arise?

    You probably dislike the added complexity that this would bring when it comes to employers and universities comparing students from different backgrounds? I'm sure there would be unnofficial comparison rates (perhaps differing from subject to subject and over time), and that these would facilitate fairly easy comparison as far as academic aptitude or basic skills is concerned.

    Indeed the complexity is a real price to be paid, but there are massive benefits: only the above system can allow flexible and dynamic curricula and means of delivery, competition to cut costs and exam result waiting times, and maintaining of rigorous standards.

    I would argue that the current examination system fails moderately in all of these (even curriculum content is dictated to exam boards to far too great an extent by the government). And whilst standards might not be in systematic decline from the pressure of league table competition and official comparison rates (i.e. an A from one exam board equals an A from another), there is no reason to expect a single public exam board to maintain consistent standards. You'd be having a laugh if you said that direct government control could ever deliver anything like optimal levels of organisational efficiency, or the kind of curriculum changes wanted by employers, universities and pupils.

    So, surely a small number of independent exam boards offering their own qualifications, without an official comparison rate or school league tables, is a preferable system to the alternatives? Despite the additional complexity this might entail?

    Or do you come at this from a totally different angle, and see school assessment systems as somehow a way of providing more uniformity/ greater equality?
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    If the government controlled the exams then they could control the results. Independent Boards were meant to try and keep the value of the qualifications. How succesful that's been is up for debate though.
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    (Original post by 1.9.8.4.)
    I'm not very bothered with there being more than one exam board. Anyone who says that their grade is 'worth more' than the same grade achieved in the same subject but a different exam board is chatting ****. One shouldn't take them seriously.
    Rubbish IMHO. When I sat my GCSE Maths, we did NEAB (now part of AQA). My mtes b/f at the time had sat Edexcel maths the year before, so gave her his old, syllabus specific, revision guide. It contained most of the things we had to know, but there were still quite a few things that weren't, or that didn't go that far. It didn't work the other way round, he would have had everything he needed to know in our revision guide. Surely that makes the NEAB one harder/the grade worth more?
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    (Original post by BexTait)
    Rubbish IMHO. When I sat my GCSE Maths, we did NEAB (now part of AQA). My mtes b/f at the time had sat Edexcel maths the year before, so gave her his old, syllabus specific, revision guide. It contained most of the things we had to know, but there were still quite a few things that weren't, or that didn't go that far. It didn't work the other way round, he would have had everything he needed to know in our revision guide. Surely that makes the NEAB one harder/the grade worth more?
    Certainly. Where different candidates are taking different examinations, that assess differing syllabi with varying rigorousness, there ought to be different qualifications awarded. Only that can allow institutions and employers to compare candidates studying under different boards on a more equitable basis.

    I was not aware that the AQA failed so tremendously in keeping standards of different boards roughly in line with one another. Perhaps the cases occasionally referred to are anomalous or exaggerated. If the situation is as bad as it seems, then perhaps assessment reform is indeed urgently needed just as the government is perpetually telling us - the reform required will be far more fundamental than anything that the major political parties are planning. Disparities, arbitrary inequities and grade inflation, look like integral features of our education system that just aren't going to be dealt with any time soon then.
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    (Original post by wesetters)
    Well yes, frankly. Only with every pupil sitting identical exams can a truly valid comparison be drawn between them where quaalifications are concerned.
    Only with every pupil sitting identical exams on an identical syllabus, can it be guaranteed that there is no complexity in comparing the results of school pupils from a single year. Yet, perhaps not all pupils wish to submit to the same set of assessment methods. Perhaps all pupils do not desire to study the same syllabus. Perhaps some are more interested in the mechanical side of physics, while others are more fascinated by optics - should the two groups be forced to study the same curriculum in the same depth, with the same exam at the end? Perhaps some seek to be doctors and others electricians - should they be forced to study the same curriculum focussed on the same set of skills and knowledge, simply so you can have your "truly valid comparison"?

    A single state operated behemoth could not deliver the diversity of curriculum or assessment that pupils and employers desire. Your uniformity comes at a tremendous cost, and would be at best incomplete - exams would have to change from year to year.

    And what gives you the impression that universities or employers cannot validly compare the aptitudes of potential students/employees, where they have sat different exams, with different curricula and grading systems? The task is admittedly more complex than comparing a few letters; then again, it would still be far more straightforward than much needed comparisons regarding how motivated, sociable or punctual the prospective student or employee is.
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    It could all be urban legend but I've seen jokes about the privatised nature of education in the States where exam questions look something like:

    1) If you had three cans of Pepsi-Lite and added these to a further five cans of Pepsi Regular, how many Pepsis would you have in total? (5 marks).

    2) If you had three dozen Snickers bars and ate two of them, how many Snickers bars would you have left? (5 marks).

    3) Discuss the principle of sharing and friendship by using Pepsi and Snickers as examples. (10 marks).
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    (Original post by Rob 106)
    Why are there so many exam boards?
    They were originally regional due to logistics involved back in the day, and then when the system went national, there were differences in what the former regional boards wanted to roll out across the country, so now we have a whole country with several boards.

    Is there any reason for there being so many versions of each subject?
    There are many subjects that do this eg "Physics A" or "Physics B" on the same board. Having different specifications allows a greater choice in what schools can teach. They have broadly the same core curriculum, but variations in other topics. It is important that we have these differences, which allow - to some extent - a variety of material to be taught to the population.

    Should there not be a state exam board, so that everyone takes the same exam, it would be easier to administer, less paperwork
    No. It would be dangerous (and boring) if everyone learnt exactly the same things. This applies more to arts subjects than sciences at GCSE, but as you get to a higher level it applies all round.

    If i was a school i would choose the exam board that was most likely to give the students an A, who woundn't?
    Yes, but top universities know the differences.

    (Original post by Blue!)
    If the government controlled the exams then they could control the results. Independent Boards were meant to try and keep the value of the qualifications. How succesful that's been is up for debate though.
    The government do control the exams to some extent through the QCA. Those are the people who lay down the rules for the standards of the boards' examinations. It's supposed to stop what Rob 106 was suggesting might happen with multiple exam boards competing by offering easier exams in order to get more business. Of course, this will only maintain overall standards if the QCA don't lower theirs, which they have an unfortunate history of doing.
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    (Original post by Rob 106)
    Should there not be a state exam board, so that everyone takes the same exam
    There basically already is. It is called the QCA and allows the exam boards very little deviation from a common curriculum.

    Whether or not this is a good thing is dubious. I tend to think that nationalising things does not make them better. It is ultimately not in the interests for a collection of private exam boards to devalue their exams until they are worthless, because no school will take them. A government-owned exam board authority that applies its exams to government-controlled schools, however, does have an incentive to do this, as it allows the government to pretend its schools have improved when in fact they may not have done.
 
 
 
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