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back to article Easy-peasy science GCSEs binned

Science GCSEs set to replace the pack of dumbed down current exams have been rejected for being too easy. Exam regulator Ofqual has said the proposed GCSEs don't go far enough to addressing the “serious concerns” it has for science assessment. It says they are not demanding enough, especially for the brightest students. The 36 …

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Anonymous Coward

The science isn't settled.

"GCSE science subjects are: science; additional science; additional applied science; biology; chemistry and physics."

There's still time to include climatology.

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Anonymous Coward

The science isn't settled

Science is NEVER settled dumbass.

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Flame

That isn't science...

... it is religious education.

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Grenade

How to fix it?

In the end there are only two groups who properly care about the results - Universities and Employers - so in the interest of the new Government initiative to step out of doing things - lets all propose the Examination boards get put under joint control of a Universities and commerce driven board.

The current system is like motor manufacturesrs controlling driving licenses -they would give one to anybody who wanted to buy a car.

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WTF?

Never understood...

..why we have regional examing boards where, in theory, it can be easier to pass an exam in one area than another.

Scrap them all, have one central one.

There another few quangos killed.

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Kind of...

(Historically at least) it's not that one board is more or less difficult than another, it's that they have differing focus on different elements of the subject examined. That's the theory, at least.

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Unhappy

No surprise here

I took my Physics GCSE last year. It was VERY easy. I never even opened the textbook to learn anything until the last of the 4 exams, and I got over 90% of the marks altogether.

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WTF?

One of the "harder" questions

According to the Today programme on R4 this morning, this was one of the questions on the new-improved "harder" GCSE Science paper...

What is used to observe the stars?

a) a telescope

b) a microscope

c) an X-ray tube

d) a synthesizer

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We were taught how the bloody thing worked

When I took O-level physics in the late 1970s, we were expected to be able to draw an optical diagram of a telescope with light rays passing through it, to show that we understood how it actually *worked*!

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Pint

Re:We were taught how the bloody thing worked

When I took it in the 1960s we had to draw the eyeball as well, and show that the image was inverted...

In the snow, uphill, both ways.

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Happy

Re.Re: We Were......

You were lucky!

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Anonymous Coward

"What is used to observe the stars?"

The answer is D, synthesizer surely? I'm a straight A GCSE student, so I must be right.

Of course what parents don't understand is that in today's world, everyone is a straight A student. Teachers know exactly what the exam paper is going to ask, and waste months prepping kids on that basis. That's when they're not dictating the kids' coursework out to them. An easy 60% of the grade and all they have to do is compare fonts so that no one in the class uses the same one. Even that's too much work for the kids who have their friends MSN over a copy.

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The 60s

My mum took her O Levels in the 60s, I asked her about this (she is a retired teacher, my father is also a retired 2ndary head teacher) she pointed out to me that exams in the 60s had four or five really complicated questions, at least hers did. If you didn't revise those areas of the subject you failed. Modern exams have lots of less in depth questions, so the examine a lot of low level knowledge of a subject, rather than a few specific areas in high detail.

I'm not saying that this is good or bad, it's just the current way things are done.

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Coat

Know nothing ...

Who is Higgs Boson and why is everyone looking for him ?

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Higgs

'Cos the ship can't sail without him.

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Anonymous Coward

Spartacus syndrome alert

I'm HIGGS BOSUN!

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Anonymous Coward

And so's my wife.

Always look on the bright side...........

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Pint

Just imagine

Oh come on, surely some samples are in order?

I can just imagine the state of modern science questions for the young.

* cue wiggly lines *

"If Tom has broken his PC, how may times will he have to argue with tech support before he gets someone who a) speaks clear English b) actually cares enough to help him?"

"Jenny cannot access Facebook. Name three sensible things she could now being making better use of her time with?"

"Dave's bought an iPad and his friends are 'dissing' him about 'oversized iPhone','Trigger Happy TV'. Without the use of any foul language, discuss what Dave's so-called friend's problems are?"

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Problem?

As Dave has bought yet another iDevice as soon as it came out he has no money to pay for his share of weed. He now sits alone at home unable to get porn on his iPad and only able to see tits in the Sun.

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FAIL

Genuine Y2000 Science GCSE question

On the diagram below, write in the five boxes provided the senses which are associated with the parts of the body. Diagram of a person with lines to the mouth, nose, ears, eyes, and hands, and a list of the five senses.

This was on my g/f's GCSE Science double-award paper. I could *not* believe it. (I was a 1999 leaver). I suppose a decade too late is better than never at all...

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FAIL

Ofqual failed obviously

So we have this statement:

"Ofqual’s job is to make sure that standards are maintained. If qualifications do not meet our standards, we cannot accept them into the regulated system."

...and this one:

“serious causes for concern when monitoring the version of the qualifications used in 2007 and 2008, and still in use today”.

Does this mean that anyone who took a science GCSE in 2007, 2008, 2009 don't get a qualification? How is it that 3 years AFTER the problems with 2007's paper, the problem isn't fixed? If their job is to ensure that standards are maintained, how were students able to study for and sit an exam that didn't meet the standards? Surely the checking should be done BEFORE students are awarded non-qualifications?

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Stop

Oh God, I must be getting old

I haven't seen a GCSE science paper, but I have been giving my nephew extra tutoring for his maths and I've had a good look at the GCSE maths curriculum, and if there is any equivalance then I'm worried. Compared to syllabus that I studied for O Level (yes, that old) there were huge yawning gaps where the calculus and set theory used to be. There was good coverage elsewhere, but if calculus isn't done until after GCSE level then I worry about what else has been shifted to make room for it at A level. I might find out next year when Hooper Jr. comes back for more maths from the doddery old lady. Meanwhile, if they've done that to the maths curriculum what has happened to the sciences?

I'll stop now before I feel the need to reach for a Werther's and the Daily Heil.

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Happy

I'm sure you'll be overjoyed at this

But the first time I encountered Set Theory was this year... in the first year of my undergrad degree.

That's right. It wasn't even at A-Level. Parts of calculus however, were at A-Level

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Sir

"Do I want a word with Sir Reginald?"

The above was a response from my wife when I asked her if she wanted a Werthers original whilst driving to Wales last year :)

Sorry, a bit off topic - just thought I'd share as I was in the last year to have to sit O levels. In fact I got both O level and CSE qualifications for the same exams - what was that all about?

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FAIL

It's definitely got worse

When I went to university in 1988 my engineering degree course accepted pupils with ABB with the A in either Maths or Physics and the Bs in Maths, Further Maths, Physics or Chemistry (I just scraped in with As in Physics and Chemistry and B in Maths). The same course now will only take an A or A* in maths, and all students sit a 40 hour "remedial maths" course in the first term to teach them the areas of Maths that we were taught at A level that are no longer in the A level syllabus, including some calculus, some mechanics and some trigonometry.

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WTF?

RE: I'm sure you'll be overjoyed at this

I did Edexcel maths 2000-2002 and at least the basics of set theory were the first thing covered in the Pure Maths 1 module.

Have things really changed that much?

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Re: I did Edexcel Maths....

I'm afraid so.

Pure Maths 1 (Or Core 1) currently consists of

ax^2 + bx + c - the equations for solution + discriminant

basic equational geometry (eqn of a circle / lines)

basic differentiation (no integration)

indicies + surds

and other trivial things (most of which you knew from GCSE maths).

NOTE: This is based on OCR's syllabus. Though the Pure modules are very similar usually.

See (Warning PDF):

http://www.ocr.org.uk/download/kd/ocr_10096_kd_l_gce_spec.pdf

Page 31 is when you get to what each module contains.

That is the CURRENT maths spec, valid until Sept 2012 when it is due to be changed (Incidentally, this is the same spec I took)

I agree it is a sad state of affairs - my first year at Bath University has introduced me to at least 2 new areas of Maths that i'd only heard of in passing before.

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Thumb Down

It's bad

I am a 24 year old, so I did my GCSEs for science 8 years ago.

Recently, I've been tutoring physics and mathematics. While the mathematics isn't too bad, the physics is shocking. It's gotten significantly worse in just 8 years. For example, the "Electricity and Energy" exam, is 90% climate change bullshit. There are virtually no equations. The vast majority is multiple choice and requires either no maths or chimp level maths.

It is really pathetic. I fear for our youth, not just from the inane level of difficulty, but also from the blatant State propaganda in those syllabi.

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'Science'

"GCSE science subjects are: science; additional science; additional applied science; biology; chemistry and physics"

Says it all, really! If someone told me they had a GCSE in science, I would ask, "which one?".

Still, I suppose if you're halfway good at the sciences, you can get 6 GCSE's for it!

The standard of questioning above reminds me of Peter Ustinov's exam experience . When asked to name a Russian composer, he put Rimsky-Korsakov, but was marked down, as the correct answer was Tchaikovsky...

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WTF?

Well

What on earth is "science" as a subject anyway?

Surely it is too broad a term to do justice to anything that you would take an exam in at GSCE level?

Physics, chemistry and biology was what was available when I went to school.

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Headmaster

Surprise but no surprise

Last year 45% of maths students sitting the A-level attained an A grade. If there's a similar problem at GCSE then it's about time standards were upheld. The kids are as bright as ever, but we need to give them more and more at University to help them cope.

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Re:

That's the problem right there - and it's political.

The lass is a secondary science teacher. She does KS4 and 5. I see loads of the kids work that she marks, and my God a *lot* of it is awful. I don't mean 30-40%, I mean 70%+. There are some extremely bright kids, and a lot of really thick ones. How do you balance the following two requirements:

1. Everyone gets A-C in English, Maths, Science; and

2. The brightest kids stand out from the crowd?

You can't (without a logarithmic scale). They're trying to squeeze everyone into the 70-100% bracket and still have the brightest and best stand out. Can't happen. Unless and until they accept that a minority should get A-C and a tiny minority get A then GCSEs will be good for nothing other than spotting the *really* thick kids.

Science *is* a lot easier than it was. I haven't done Bio since my GCSE 16 years ago. I did the A2 paper she was checking the other week and got a B (I had no idea on the few technical bits, but thankfully the vast majority was just common sense ergo an easy mark). Science qualifications need more science in 'em. End of. If that A2 paper was actual science I would have been screwed. As it was you get questions asking why white snow geese like to live where it snows more and grey snow geese prefer to live where it snows less. How the hell is that on an A2 paper?! Any muppet (me included) can figure that one!

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WTF?

Stuck In The Past

"It's unclear if enough messing around with frogs, Van de Graaff generators, radioactive bits and bobs, and Bunsen burner fights are included in the syllabuses."

It's bad enough that they mess around so much in class, but why oh why do they have to involve old prog rock bands? Is this relevant to the modern music scene and what has it got to do with science?

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FAIL

Probably still too easy

I recently interviewed a 16 year old with an A in physics and chemistry GCSEs who didn't know that heating things up causes chemical reactions to go more quickly.

The kids may well be working hard to learn what's put in front of them, but giving an A to someone who hasn't even a basic knowledge of everyday thermodynamics tells me that the exams are far too easy.

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China ...

Compare and contrast the equivalent Chinese qualifications papers and you'll see why Generation Y have no chance. Current Chinese maths exams papers would take a Uk degree level student form my time (the dark ages).

UK exams could be done by Chinese 5 year olds.

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Timewarp

Dust off those old O-level papers, reprint the accompanying syllabus texts. Job done. Any teacher that can't cope with it gets the boot.

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Headmaster

Of course..

..all of today's exams are piss easy. They are driven by the last government's obsession with giving every child the `opportunity` to get into university. Lower the pass rates or make the exams easier = more qualifying for uni.

What's so important about getting to university to study `meeja` and other non-subjects which are totally useless in the real word? Keeps the unemployment figures down doesn't it?

@Admiral Hopper - Have to agree. We were taught set theory, binary and hexadecimal with a casual glance at octal, when we first went to secondary school in 1966 then flirted with calculus at aged 15 a year or so before we were chucked out of school with O levels. This at a secondary modern too (I was one of those who failed the eleven plus). As well as maths and physics, we were also taught technical drawing, metalwork and woodwork - all the requirements for getting a job.

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Anonymous Coward

So I wrote to the department of Ed...

You're all wasting your breath, send your kids private, like Mesdames Abbott, and Harman, et al.

You may all be good at exams and have high IQs, but they have something you're all seriously lacking, which is total nepotistic selfishness for your offspring. They don't give a feck about your kids, and are intentionally screwing them so their kids do better. The game is politics. Politics is about power. It's a business like any other. It is not helping people.

They've been putting out propoganda to mothers for years, but they're educating their kids and screwing yours.

How else could Haberdashers have only a 6% greater "value added score" compared to my local Mossside primary?

My wife and I have had this argument for years. "We did a levels, they do a levels."

My response is always the same. "The government set the marks, the syllabus, the exams, and the reporting."

I've of course written to Michael Gove with three main requests.

1. Return to percentile based grading.

2. Allow schools to choose pupils not the other way round.

3. Stream everybody and restore Grammar schools.

Result? No idea. I expect he's praying somewhere.

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I refer the examiners....

I refer the examiners to Richard Feynman's account of his sabbatical in Rio de Janeiro in the book "Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman?" and ask them to look closely at whether or not they are actually teaching any science....

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Anonymous Coward

There have always been differences

Back when I was taking O-level maths, we got to see a CSE paper (that was for the "thicko" end of the scale). It included some very basic Boolean Algebra. If I hadn't been reading an electronics magazine in those days, I would have been baffled: it wasn't in the O-level Syllabus we took.

Then there were the syllabus differences between examining boards: no calculus for me until A-level.

Does that make my O-level better or worse than yours? Or just different?

GCSE has to cover the whole range of ability that was covered by CSE and O-level. Never mind the political problems there might be over getting good results for a school, you're always going to find a few really obvious questions on a multiple choice paper. And i remember a few which seemed obvious, but had some subtlety.

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Silver badge

Say what?

"science; additional science; additional applied science; biology; chemistry and physics"

What the hell is in [additional [applied]] science that isn't covered by the traditional threesome?

I'm very much a lover of the old style sciences: physics for making the impossible work, chemistry for blowing up stuff, and biology so the gorn is as accurate as it can be. :-) The general science seems like a "meh" to me, like those who took "IT" as a lesson 'cos they couldn't hack "CS".

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FAIL

This may come as a shock

But some Engineering degrees did not require Maths A level back in the day.

The included makeup modules, which helped make it have the highest number of class hours outside of Applied Physics.

Some students learn their calculus (and complex numbers) out of a programmed study text, which increased their appreciation of such things quite a lot. As a side note children are taught that "What is the gradient of a point" is a trick question, because as any fule no you can't have a gradient of a point.

Until they get to differential calculus. It would seem that had Newton gone through a modern curriculum this never would have been invented.

What is this subject called "Science" anyway? By A level should they have not differentiated into Chemistry, Physics, Biology etc?

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Happy

Oooo, I've come over all nostalgic....

Standing on a plastic box with my left hand placed on the top of a running Van der Graaf generator and wielding the FINGER OF ELECTRIC DEATH!!!111!!!!!!!

Those were the days.

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Anonymous Coward

pelesh

I am a sixteen year old student who has just taken my Biology, Chemistry, and Physics GCSEs.

Firstly the different sciences ARE differentiated, "additional science" is just the name given to the more difficult modules. In the end, however, three (not six as someone claimed) distinct science GCSEs are received.

The claim that thermodynamics is not on the Chemistry GCSE is a complete falsehood, it is integral to the syllabus, and there were questions on it in the 2010 GCSE.

The claim that Science GCSEs have been dumbed down in the past ten years is also innacurate. If anybody on this forum bothered to look at past papers - I have tried to spot a trend in the past ten years of papers - then they would realise that whilst some tpics may have been removed from the syllabus, the difficulty of the exams remains fairly steady.

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Grenade

hmm, Pelesh you talk (write) well for a young'un..

But you will notice the old'uns have mentioned a number of teachers that deal with GCSE level science, and a number of old 'uns mentioning differential equations and calculus. the truth of the matter may seem subjective for a comparative analysis, but in 1982 the school took away our log books and gave us calculators. Now using logs is 'old hat' but can perform maths with large numbers easily, without having to use any tools other that old favourite combo, the brain and book.

Think about how many bored checkout people you see now, and when I was your age, I saw checkout people working out the total before the till had done its job quite often.

Science? don't talk to me about science.

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Mental arithmetic

"bored checkout people"

You do a see a few wrestling with the translation of change into actual cash, though!

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