back to article GCSE computer science should be exam only, says Ofqual

Students starting GCSE computer science in 2020 may be assessed by exams only, amid concerns about schools' IT kit, burdens on teachers and malpractice in non-exam tests. The education watchdog Ofqual made the proposals in a consultation published yesterday. It said that all assessments – including programming skills – for …

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  1. RyokuMas Silver badge
    FAIL

    Oh, please...

    "...and using the same code repositories that were facilitating student malpractice," Ofqual said."

    So basically Ofqual, you want the means of gaining a certification in the subject of Computer Science to be completely at odds with how said subject is used out in the real world.

    What he f*** planet are you on???

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: Oh, please...

      They kind of have a point, though. The basics you need to know. For all the rest, there's StackExchange.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Oh, please...

      Yeah, it's like asking someone to do a Geography exam in a hall on paper instead of, say, climbing Mount Everest.

      Or a Media Studies exam in a school hall rather than, say, live on the BBC.

      Or a French exam in France.

      Examinations DO NOT TEST your real-world ability level. That's not what they are supposed to do, are designed to do, or have ever done. They test your foundation knowledge in the subject you've chosen, in a controlled environment.

      If you want to know if a guy can program in a team, you put him in a team of programmers. You don't expect him to have GCSE Collaborative IT Coding. GCSEs are literally baby qualifications. They assess your ability to learn and retain information, and eligibility for A-Levels, which themselves do the same and test your eligibility for a degree course, which themselves don't qualify you to walk into Microsoft and tell them they're doing it all wrong or that they should give you a job developing code for life support systems.

      You sadly misunderstand such qualifications (and even MCSA, Cisco and A+ etc.) if you think otherwise.

      There is literally no point having the people paid by the success of their students to assess their students. There is literally no sensible way to have an external unrelated agency test the capabilities of a student within a handful of hours on an exam they can Google the answers to without individually assessing each student by a qualified person for that time (and longer). Both are an absolute waste of time and money and cheating the younger generations.

      So what you have are exams which test base-knowledge in a written exam - even practicals are a waste if the science teacher has scope to literally just make up any grade they like and say they didn't help you when they did. The same way you have written exams for Food Technology, Customer Service and... yes... IT.

      You think they're assessing your capability to perform the job. They're not. Even job interviews don't/can't do that. You certainly can't do it en masse for an entire cohort of students nationwide within a 2 hour window for that subject. What you do is test base knowledge retained in their head, and then let that lead them to ever-more difficult-and-expensive base-knowledge tests until you get to the point where only someone well-versed in the subject stands a chance of tackling the problem (e.g. university / college degree). Then you unleash them on the workplace to see if they sink or swim in "real life".

      I'm a mathematician and a computer scientist, by degree. That was ALL done on paper with one minimal programming course in my degree. I actually used more maths in my CS side, and more CS in my maths side! Literally! That didn't get me a job - it couldn't. But it proves I can learn and continue to learn, and learn difficult and boring things, and that I enjoy learning. Then the workplace takes a chance on me and ends up finding out if I can do the job for real.

      You desperately misunderstand the whole academic system if you don't get that. Every kid out there now has a hairdressing or bricklaying GCSE. Trust me that you only want maybe 1% - if that - of them to do those things for you. A GCSE is almost a certificate of participation more than anything.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh, please...

        Wow you literally overuse literally, like literally all the time ;-P

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Oh, please...

        @Lee D

        I'm hearing a lot of "cant" "wont work" etc etc, but i didnt see any suggestions

        Also you call all stages of education "just to prove you can learn"

        Why do we have further and higher ed then? surely you can work out if a kid can learn at GCSE stage, or earlier!

      3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Oh, please...

        Examinations DO NOT TEST your real-world ability level.

        As my dad (a professor of Math in Differential Equations and Optimal Control) used to say:

        "Your university degree certificate does not signify that you have learned anything. It signifies that you are _CAPABLE_ of learning".

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: Oh, please...

          "Your university degree certificate does not signify that you have learned anything. It signifies that you are _CAPABLE_ of learning".

          Your dad may have been right for his students, more broadly there's a degree of empirical evidence strutting around (particularly in management consultancies) that suggests that many degrees do not signify any learning capability beyond rote. And for me, there's a big difference between rote learning, and understanding, applying, evolving.

          All examinations have a fundamental problem that they overly reward those who have good memories and can write quickly. In the real world those aren't completely useless, but there's far more useful attributes. Most organisations use exam results to filter, and as a filtering tool they are very poor other than as a pretend "objective screen".

          IT has (hitherto) been a curious profession, occupied by people who drifted into it because they wanted in, or because they were good at it. Few got in on exam results. I'd argue that's a good thing.

          1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

            Re: Oh, please...

            "that suggests that many degrees do not signify any learning capability beyond rote. And for me, there's a big difference between rote learning, and understanding, applying, evolving."

            The current attitude of some people was brought home to me a few days ago when I mentioned (in a post on Ars T) that my first exercise in topology was to describe what happens when a hollow torus is inverted through a hole in its skin. The immediate response from someone was to ask what does happen, and when I suggested they work it out for themselves I was heavily downvoted.

            I realise that not everybody, possibly not even a majority, think like that, but internet search has a lot to answer for.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Oh, please...

          "Your university degree certificate does not signify that you have learned anything. It signifies that you are _CAPABLE_ of learning".

          That may have been the case when you, I and your Dad went to uni, but today it simply proves you've managed to stay alive for three years.

      4. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Oh, please...

        Lee D - I just filled in the Ofqual survey, I hope you do the same. Injection of some real world experience may help.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh, please...

          I just filled in the Ofqual survey, I hope you do the same. Injection of some real world experience may help.

          There's sadly misplaced optimism.

          The purpose of a public sector "consultation" is merely to tick a procedural box before rubber stamping whatever the invertebrates had decided in the first place.

          1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

            Re: Oh, please...

            "The purpose of a public sector "consultation" is merely to tick a procedural box before rubber stamping whatever the invertebrates had decided in the first place."

            But in this case I agree with their proposal. I am very sure that many schools, especially grammar and private, will want to revert to the coursework component because it's so easy for them to get very high scores in it. Eliminating it should level the playing field a bit. I think if people working in the industry who also have some knowledge of education support Ofqual, it may help resist this pressure.

      5. Glen 1 Bronze badge

        Re: Oh, please...

        "GCSEs are literally baby qualifications"

        Between compound interest, and basic trigonometry.

        A good grade in GCSE maths is all the maths many (most?) people will ever need.

        How much they remember of it 20 years later is another matter.

        We often forget that us techies are in the minority,

        I honestly can't think of anything that a 'muggle' needs that wasn't covered in school

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Oh, please...

      I came to comment exactly on the same thing: "developing solutions with input from others and using the same code repositories that were facilitating student malpractice"... but it's not just Computer Science / programming.

      Pretty much every single real-world job that requires higher education also requires collaboration between people in a team and across different teams / departments. Being able to communicate and work effectively in teams is an important part of the real-life world. BUT any type of collaborative behaviour in a school (and to a lesser extent, university) setting is considered 'cheating', so collaborative skills need to be taught to new joiners straight out of school. Our school system is still stuck with using basic systems that were developed over a hundred years ago.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Oh, please...

        why not flip it on it's head and use the task to simulate the real world

        Believe it or not, they tried that in my Elec Eng. degree back in the late 1980s both with Elec Eng. type stuff (designing a product to a specification) and with a programming task we were to undertake in pairs.

        I think the idea was that we would work together to produce three separate "programs" as per the specification, but they paired us up at random so instead of working with someone I already knew well and could co-ordinate with, I ended up with a lazy so-and-so who didn't want to make an effort to co-ordinate his schedule around the limited slots in the programming lab. A lab which consisted, it has to be said, of a dozen BBC Micros with home-designed 6809 second processors all hanging on an Econet network that caused everything to freeze if anybody dared reboot a second processor by flipping the switch on its rudimentary power supply.

        The tasks were in (IIRC) 6809 assembler, C (or BCPL?) and Modula-2 (on some '286 machines elsewhere). I ended up completing two of the tasks pretty much solo and having to submit an incomplete project as if it had come from both of us.

        I like the idea of teaching collaboration (and the hardware task worked a lot better) but you do run the risk of the examiner not seeing the whole picture and one examinee being penalised due to the actions or inactions of another.

        M.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, please...

      You misunderstand. They are clearly aware that the use of code repositories is an essential part of programming practice these days, but point out that these same repositories can have entire answers in them, which makes assessment impossible. Even if you did have 10,000 programmers all trying to solve the same problem it wouldn't matter if they used the same solution.

      I have great sympathy with Ofqual here. When, as an HEI plagiarism investigation person, I found that detailed answers to some of our assessment was being hosted on StackExchange, the people there were unhelpful to the point of actively obstructive about it. There is a lot of "Fuck you, teachers" libertarianism in the coding world. In the end we had to get the university's lawyers to lean on them. Breach of copyright.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh, please...

        ". In the end we had to get the university's lawyers to lean on them. Breach of copyright."

        _Whose copyright_ to be spesific? Copyright for code is owned by the person who wrote it. Or employer if it's written in salaried job.

        Hard to see how university would have copyright on some piece of code just because it answers to one of their problems.

        If I write an answer to a problem and put it into StackExchange it is my code and there's not a thing university can do to that.

        Smells misuse of lawyer power, i.e. extorsion.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Ryoku Mas Re: Oh, please...

      I agree that this is a FAIL however I don't think we agree on the reason why...

      Its not a question about what happens in the real world, but whether or not the individual has enough theory to cope beyond being a monkey who can only pound on keys in the hopes of doing something right.

      Or for those who rely on Google to find examples, understand what the examples do and how and why they do what they do...

      I think the issue is that I can tell you the answer, but you may be unable to understand why its the answer because either you never studied Software Engineering at Uni or you lacked the practical hands on experience.

      By making the exam all questions/answers with no practical exam, it allows someone who can regurgitate what they memorized but not comprehend it... to score higher than those who can actually do the work and think.

      You need both.

      But then again... we live in a world where code is disposable and we often re-invent the wheel rather than evolve to the next level of transportation.

    6. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Oh, please...

      In the real world in any STEM field you will various reference sources to solve a problem but that does not prove you understand the reference material. The idea behind testing students is to assess their understanding of the material not how would solve the problem on the job. So any testing strategy will be artificial in the sense that a competent professional will ask for help from others when needed. But to assess an individual competence requires no outside sources; otherwise you are testing a group's competence.

    7. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Oh, please...

      "So basically Ofqual, you want the means of gaining a certification in the subject of Computer Science to be completely at odds with how said subject is used out in the real world."

      To be fair, every other subject is like that. Does anyone anywhere do work in conditions similar to exam conditions?

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Oh, please...

        up until 2 years ago the igcse was 2 practical exams and 1 theory exam. It worked well, then it changed to theory only which was a shame. The practical element took some setting up but worked well. We used python and mysql though the exam was supposed to be open ended.

    8. Topperfalkon

      Re: Oh, please...

      Did you read the whole article, or did you just tilt after reading that line?

      Because they mention that the conditions imposed weren't a realistic way of assessing real-world ability in a field that is typically collaborative.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, that's another qualification to ignore.

    (not that I take much notice of GCSEs anyway)

  3. bigtimehustler

    To be honest, I don't agree with the point that it's OK to look up resources because people do in the real world. If you examining a basic skillset, which a gcse is, then you want them to know all of that ideally without consulting other resources. Experienced programmers look up resources for complicated things, for day to day basics, they know it. I can't believe a GCSE is even covering all the basics, let along going beyond them.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      I can't believe a GCSE is even covering all the basics, let along going beyond them

      Define "basics".

      One of my offspring has this year started GCSE Computer Science and is currently plodding through a module using Python. He appears not to have been taught the "basics" of what variables are and their scopes, how different kinds of loops work, what a "function" is nor why it's useful to put code into functions.

      They did some rudimentary Scratch in Y7 or Y8, went straight into hand-coding HTML at the start of Y10 (GCSE first year) and then jumped into Python via a very, very brief excursion into number bases and binary maths. I'm not sure he's even covered simple logic, though he did draw a diagram of a computer with "input", "processing", "storage" and "output".

      Instead he is working his way through exercise after exercise with some very basic guidance and seems to be expected to pick up these key ideas by osmosis or something*. In many ways it reminds me of me in the 1980s, teaching myself the basics of programming via the Sinclair and then the BBC Welcome manuals because a: there was no internet and b: I couldn't often afford to buy magazines or books and c: I needed to write the software I couldn't afford to buy.

      It has to be said that at the open evening where the pupils were given the chance to talk with teachers about their optional subjects (at this school, top stream only has three options) a huge emphasis was put on "Comp Sci is hard and you'd really be better off taking ICT because it's still a GCSE and counts exactly the same", all of which had the effect of giving me the impression that it was really the teacher who was finding it difficult. As a result, only five started Comp. Sci in Y10 this year and two have already swapped for ICT.

      M.

      *My eldest is doing maths A-level and has three teachers. Two of them are fine, but the third seems to have a similar attitude; here's some basic info (often in the form of a self-made video), here are some exercises, now get on with it, no we won't have a feedback session next week. I struggled with my own A-level maths, and am struggling to help at home 30 years later.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        A tip for your young one doing Python: stick something in that is beyond the stuff taught in the course.

        I taught my son lambda function, he used them in a couple of places and A* for that section was the result.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          stick something in that is beyond the stuff taught in the course

          Not sure about lambda functions, but simply making the thing look "pretty" is always a winner. If the question asks "print the contents of a list", it'll always be better to do (very crudely)

          for item in list:

          . print(item)

          Than

          print(list)

          (sorry for the formatting!)

          M.

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        He appears not to have been taught the "basics"

        Same here. I tried to direct mine to at least read the fundamentals (*). Total loss because the utterly idiotic GCSE curriculum skips on the surface of the water like a skipping stone and never goes into any depth. So by the time I managed to convince him to read at least 20+ pages on algorithms and data structures they were doing sh*tty HTML instead. It is the best way to make a student a complete future failure at CS.

        Pretty much the same way my dad directed me and left me to learn to swim by throwing me straight into the deep water of Niklaus Wirth books.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It is the best way to make a student a complete future failure at CS.

          With Brexit, we may not be able to hire Bulgarian hit men quite as readily as we can now. Maybe that's an alternative career with growth potential, and no exam entry requirements?

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          they were doing sh*tty HTML instead. It is the best way to make a student a complete future failure at CS.

          Coached my son through GCSE CS and I don't remember that.

      3. Ucalegon

        Define "basics".

        One of my offspring has this year started GCSE Computer Science and is currently plodding through a module using Python. He appears not to have been taught the "basics" of what variables are and their scopes, how different kinds of loops work, what a "function" is nor why it's useful to put code into functions.

        Before you get that far it might be useful to point out that a Computer Science GCSE will typically get half the timetabled lessons as Mathematics or English (~5 hours per week). For this reason alone I tell my students it's a difficult subject.. a bit like mathematics but with half the time available in lessons.

        Btw I'm still not sure I can teach it to students who can't solve the simplest of problems on paper never mind coding a solution despite having 20 years software development behind me.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          it might be useful to point out that a Computer Science GCSE will typically get half the timetabled lessons as Mathematics or English (~5 hours per week)

          That may be the case (I'll have to check) but whatever it gets in relation to Maths and English (and Welsh in this school where Welsh and English are on an equal footing), it will be getting the same number of hours as Art and History and Physics and all the other "non-3R" subjects he's doing. These courses are supposed to be roughly equivalent in content and complexity (that's the whole point of having standardised tests at standardised ages), so if 5 hours (if that is what it is) is sufficient for Physics, it jolly well ought to be for Computer Science too.

          If so, why does it seem as if he's being asked to teach himself a large part of the curriculum under his own steam and in his own time? Other subjects manage well enough.

          M.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Computer Science GCSE will typically get half the timetabled lessons as Mathematics or English (~5 hours per week)

            I'll have to check

            I checked.

            My GCSE student currently gets 4 hours a week of English and Welsh, 3 hours a week of maths and 2 hours a week of mostly everything else. There are some complications with the Welsh Bacc (a mandatory subject that seems pretty pointless to almost everyone) and the fact that his set is squeezing in French by "stealing" hours from other subjects.

            In all he's studying (if I've counted it correctly) thirteen subjects in a school week which has (again, if I've counted correctly) the same number of teaching hours as my O level week, albeit by cutting the lunch break down to 45 minutes in order to allow school to end at 3pm, yet he is studying three subjects more than I did, and in my day we thought we were being pushed because our friends in English-medium schools normally took eight O levels (or CSEs).

            There's a whole other argument about the length of the school day and the way it is arranged, but as I'm not (and am never likely to be) in a position to challenge "received wisdom" I'll not rant about it just now :-)

            M.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " If you examining a basic skillset, which a gcse is, "

      No it's not. It's what some management person somewhere high in bureucracy thinks 'basic skillset' is, usually created by people knowing nothing at all about the whole sector themselves.

      And if in rare case they happen to know something, it's at least 30 years old.

      GCSE is bad and expensive joke, a failure. Knowing which way to turn a knob isn't essential in IT, that's in the manual, what you should know is why to turn a knob and which knob.

      Simple, basically yes/no-question totally ruin whole thing: None of them is about 'why', but 'what'.

      Wrong level in questions to start with.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        "No it's not. It's what some management person somewhere high in bureucracy thinks 'basic skillset' is, usually created by people knowing nothing at all about the whole sector themselves."

        I have been doing a bit of maths and physics tuition since retirement. I actually think the maths GCSE is pretty good.

        But the physics A level and the A level mechanics, in my view, stink. They look like something thought up by shaking a load of elderly physicists in a bag and then trying to dumb down the result to A level standards. The mechanics paper, in particular, consists of variations on a few very artificial situations for which the method of solution can simply be drummed in. The physics paper treats particle physics as a form of accountancy and manages to make it at once opaque and boring.

        There are numerous reasons for this, one of which is poor school funding, but I think another is that the exam boards have to rely on the available talent pool, and try and make sense of what it tells them. If physicists had a better overall grasp of their subject and its history rather than knowing an awful lot about their own speciality, things might be better (they were in the 1960s, for instance). But the day of the generalist is pretty dead. For instance, a few years ago (and I am not making this up) I came across a retired professor of semiconductor physics who did not realise that a positron is not a hole, because he had never done any nuclear physics.

  4. Giovani Tapini

    In my experience

    Good coders have a good approach that is far more important than knowing syntax for an arbitrary programming language used in an exam.

    Seeing code does not necessarily demonstrate a good approach, only that you managed to get something to work (or compile).

    I am of two minds on this, but I am disappointed that the only reason this is a debate is that the schools teaching computing don't have enough to run the exams and therefore same probably applies to the underlying teaching also.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: In my experience

      "the schools teaching computing don't have enough to run the exams"

      In my experience, the problem is that a significant fraction of the programming universe lives in a world of constant "progress" where computers are shiny new multicore pentiums (pentia?) connected by IPv6, using gigabit ethernet from a reliable supplier and running the latest version of their favorite programming language on the latest version of their favorite OS. (This is obviously a world with standards that are actually followed, no security issues and few or no budget constraints).

      But another fraction lives in a world of hand me down computer equipment, no budget for much of anything and, 10 Mb ethernet connected, if they are lucky, to slow DSL lines. In that world, folks figure that just about any version of C or Python or Perl or HTML is good enough to learn the basics. Which is good because that's all they can realistically provide.

      I can imagine that concocting a single test process that can work across that full range is very difficult. Maybe impossible.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: In my experience

        But another fraction

        Maybe that's an argument for not teaching (the basics of) programming on a "normal" computer. Perhaps have some kind of "educational computer" which is specifically designed for the task and which it is more difficult simply to copy-and-paste stuff from da interwebs. These days you could quite easily make something based around a £10 Arduino, noting that some clones (e.g. from Adafruit) come with Circuit Python installed as standard, as well as being usable with the normal Arduino IDE.

        Didn't we try this before?

        M.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: In my experience

          running python and using IDLE is hardly a massive undertaking. Core2duos with 2gb ram (albeit with an SSD) on windows 10 works well enough. 7 year old refurbished optiplex 760s do the job just fine.

          mysqlworkbench isnt resource hungry either and you only need a small server to handle mysql for students.

          The issue is the teachers who are willing to learn python. Maybe even start off with a bit of small basic to learn concepts.

  5. David Harper 1

    Practical programming exams? I was doing that 25 years ago.

    Back in the early 1990s, I was teaching a graduate-level programming course at one of the colleges of the University of London. The end-of-course assessment was a set of programming exercises that the students completed under exam conditions on PCs running MS-DOS. They copied their work onto a 3.5-inch floppy that I gave them at the end of the exam. I allowed them to consult their printed course notes during the exam, so it wasn't purely a test of memory, and this was before the Interwebs, so they couldn't google the answers.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Practical programming exams? I was doing that 25 years ago.

      up until a few years ago I used to invigilate a practical GCSE exam where students were required to make a database to spec, integrate into a simple website using language of choice.

      second practical would have a spreadsheet with formulae and a document write up and presentation.

      all offline with no internet or email.

      1. Is It Me
        Headmaster

        Re: Practical programming exams? I was doing that 25 years ago.

        Up until a couple of years ago I was doing IT support for schools and I had set up some log ons that were limited to just the required software and no internet access for GCSE assessment

        This was all done through application white listing and group policy.

        It is a shame that what I observed of the teacher was so bad, to the point where there were posters on the wall with Mb and MB confused on them. On pointing out the poster error I was told "I paid for them so they are staying up".

        The teacher had no trouble shooting skills, couldn't even check if the keyboard/mouse/network cables were plugged in and would wait several days until my next visit (3 days a week support for this Secondary school).

  6. Anonymous Bullard

    At GCSE age, I'd expect anyone who would be a good programmer later on, to already be beyond GCSE level.

    Also, beyond moving to a higher qualification, GCSEs are next to useless. GCSEs == I managed to finish high school without belting the teacher.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Also, beyond moving to a higher qualification, GCSEs are next to useless. GCSEs == I managed to finish high school without belting the teacher.

      And still the pass rate is below 70%, with the grade 4 pass mark at 21% in Maths with one exam board (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-45282518).

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        And still the pass rate is below 70%, with the grade 4 pass mark at 21% in Maths with one exam board

        just wow

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        And still the pass rate is below 70%

        I'm not sure that's the main problem. Reading tables such as this PDF from WJEC (remember in Wales they still use A* - G grades) what strikes me is the huge range in pass rates which I'm not sure can be completely explained by some courses being - in effect - selective, while others are mandatory. From the above, how come English Language A* - C is 40.7% while English Literature A* - C is 77.3%? How is Geography 72.2% while Physics is 89.4%?

        And if Computer Science is supposed to be much more difficult than ICT, how come the A* - C pass rates are 62.1% and 67.6% respectively?

        M.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Careful to understand how these pass grades work. They are not simply a fixed boundary.

      3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        The 9-1 GCSE grade boundaries are basically percentiles. The top and bottom grades are explicitly percentiles and at least one of the intermediate boundaries is fixed by an algorithm that constrains the rest of the boundaries to be almost certainly in the same places from one year to the next unless the actually distribution of results goes waaay off a bell curve.

        It is disguised, presumably because it was dreamt up by a committee with a significant minority who didn't want percentiles and so those who did simply obfuscated until everyone agreed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >At GCSE age, I'd expect anyone who would be a good programmer later on, to already be beyond GCSE level.

      I don't know why you have been downvoted, I think you have a fair point. I was doing computer studies O-Level and I'd already taught myself machine code by 14, dropped it by Christmas as the teachers had blank faces when I asked them some machine code questions. Did Chemistry instead as I felt it was just a waste of time and never looked back.

      The best coders are like gifted maths students, way ahead when they are still wearing a nappy.

      1. MrBanana

        "the teachers had blank faces when I asked them some machine code questions"

        I had the same problem. At O level I was expected to write a simple BASIC program on a Commodore PET that showed I knew how to use GOTO and GOSUB commands. Instead I wrote a picture editor and printer driver in machine code - my teacher had no idea of the complexity of the task and I got a bare pass.

        At A level I wrote a machine code version of Conway's game of life, instead of a BASIC program that did stock control. The teacher had no idea what I was doing. I got lower marks than all the people on the course that I helped to implement the merge sort that was required to get a top grade.

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