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GCSE exams

Discussion in 'Education news' started by lantan, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. lantan

    lantan New commenter

    I asked one of my form the other day how she was coping with thebexam season, and she said: "Miss, I have to sit 27 exams in total". Is it just me who finds the sheer number of the exams absolutely appalling? The students are also wondering what the purpose is: https://www.tes.com/news/gcses-are-stepping-stone-so-why-pressure
    agathamorse likes this.
  2. JessicaRabbit1

    JessicaRabbit1 Senior commenter

    No, I agree. My son has had 23. He is on his last week now. It feels as though he has been revising non-stop since last October when he started for his mocks in January.

    I remember my own experience - less subjects and mostly just one paper for each one. Son has had at least 2 for all subjects, and for some 3. Just seems excessive.
    agathamorse likes this.
  3. lantan

    lantan New commenter

    Our students are not going to have 10, 11 subjects to study at A-level, they are not going to want be experts in these subjects in their lifetime, why the multiple papers? This does not make sense anymore.
    agathamorse likes this.
  4. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    I think I had fewer exams overall when I was 16, but I have a feeling they were longer papers. Now they tend to split the papers so they are shorter, but more of them.
    Catgirl1964 and border_walker like this.
  5. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    On the number of exams papers I would have to agree. When I were a lad, and we did real O-levels, getting ten of them would have been very respectable, and one would have expected no more than two papers per subject. So, yes, over 20 papers certainly seems too many. Surely a couple of 1.5 or 2 hour papers, per subject, should be quite adequate to test students at GCSE level. And there are probably several noddy subjects that shouldn't be taught, let alone dignified with a formal exam.
  6. install

    install Star commenter

    Having most GCSEs in May and June for Yr11s does not help.
    agathamorse likes this.
  7. Catgirl1964

    Catgirl1964 Occasional commenter

    This is true. In the early eighties exams were 2 or 2 and a half hours and less of them.
    agathamorse likes this.
  8. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Back in the early '90s I was appalled by short GCSE papers where a few topics only were assessed and the higher grades were assessed via an extension paper of significant difficulty. One year, nothing I taught after Christmas of year 11 (in a sensible systematic following the text book syllabus coverage) was deemed necessary for assessment.
    There do seem to be a lot of papers, but you do know that most topics are going to be assessed so if you struggle with one part of the course, it won't scupper your chances. In some ways I prefer this to the random nature of earlier assessments.
    Having said that, I'm aware that I'm thinking inside a fairly rigid assessment box. I'm not convinced that the current GCSEs actually tell as much about a youngster as the compilers of assessments and league tables would have us believe.
    The challenge is "how do we do it better?"
    Telvis likes this.
  9. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Occasional commenter

    Part of the reason for so many exams is that we specialise much earlier than most countries (one country makes its 18 year olds study 16 distinct subjects). We therefore have exams which a) show the level of attainment achieved in the subject (particularly useful in Maths and English where competence is desired in the majority of jobs) and b) indicate if a student is ready for more advanced study.

    Another reason why the number of exams has increased is the removal of coursework in a number of subjects, something which sadly was necessary due to the increasing amount of malpractice in a number of subjects. Those skills still need to be assessed in some way which leads to an increase either in the length of exams, or in the number of exams.

    One way to reduce the number of exams would be to restrict the number of GCSEs. In my school, most students take 10 GCSEs with less able doing 9 and Triple Scientists taking 11. Reducing the number of GCSEs would restrict the choices of students - all students have to take English, Maths and Double Science with one of the four remaining coming from Modern languages, Humanities or Computing and one of them being English Literature (to allow English to be double weighted in Attainment 8). If the school insists on entering all students for the EBACC then that would leave only one optional subject.
    phlogiston likes this.
  10. lantan

    lantan New commenter

    .... And again it sounds like EBACC is the death of creative subjects, even though i don't want to be quick to jump to conclusions! And you guessed it right, i teach a creative subject.
    agathamorse likes this.
  11. Drdad

    Drdad New commenter

    The oft-mentioned comparison with O-levels is an interesting one because O-levels and GCSEs do subtly different things. O-levels were qualifications designed to assess pupils and your result was considered to be a measurement of your attainment only.

    Since then, we have had league tables introduced so that GCSEs are now supposed to work as both a measure of the candidate and of the school (and, by extension, of individual teachers). These two things are not really compatible.

    Additionally, meddling with the grading has created another level of confusion. The original GCSEs had grades going down to G, which were all considered to be meaningful. This evaporated when it was decided that anything below a C was essentially worthless. The new system will go the same way with 4/5 (once they have finally decided which). Then we will end up, as before, with a skewed 'average' grade as schools are expected to push a greater and greater percentage of candidates through the agreed minimum grade.

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