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National 5 specimen papers

Discussion in 'Scotland - curriculum' started by gl650dude, Mar 5, 2013.

  1. gl650dude

    gl650dude New commenter

    I had a look at the recently published specimen external assessment for National 5 (maths) today and I have this to say. To begin on a positive note, I like the clarity of the wording of the questions which leaves the student in no doubt about what is being asked. This is a much welcomed move away from the style of questions at Credit level which were often dressed up in a farcical manner to give the appearance of being set in a real-life context.
    I was already aware that some topics previously left until Higher had been moved into National 5. The depth of knowledge required by students to answer questions on these new topics is alarming judging from this specimen paper. For example, the paper sites a question about conditions for "no real roots" of a quadratic equation which was previously reserved for Higher level of study. Looking to the support notes for the course the only reference to this topic is a single word - discriminant - and does not give away any clues for the reader about the depth of understanding actually required which, in my opinion, is too difficult for National 5.
    And for those who remember the O-Grade, vectors are back in but with a twist - this time knowledge of 3D vectors is required which again was the previous reserve of the Higher. Working in 3D is, again in my opinion, a step too far for National 5 and working in 2D would have been more than sufficient at this level. National 5 also demands that pupils should be able to calculate the magnitude of a vector in 3D. This is not a difficult calculation but it is based on the distance formula, a formula which is not mentioned at all in the support notes.
    It is pitiful that the original support notes published last year did not give a clear enough indication as to the depth of knowledge required yet many of our pupils will be facing this exam next year, probably ill prepared.
    There still does not appear to be a clear emerging road map for students to follow towards these new qualifications and many schools are adopting very different models from each other. The notion of a Broad General Curriculum in S1 to S3 has been interpreted in a variety of ways leaving no consistency from one secondary to the next. The National 5 standard in maths now appears to be much higher than previously expected and I am unable to see how it fits in. Will students be expected to reach this standard before embarking on a Higher course? At the moment it seems that it all depends on the school. I know of one school who will be asking students to choose a level of study (Nat4, Nat5 or Higher) at the end of S3 with the expectation that they reach their chosen level by the end of S5 when the assessment will take place. This brings even more questions to mind - like, where's the safety net for those who fail? Will some students now be leaving at Christmas of S5 without the opportunity of sitting any qualifications?
    In my view it's a horrible mess. National 4, being internally assessed, will be without much credibility. National 5 looks unachievable for most and those who can pass the assessment are likely to go on and achieve a Higher anyway (or will only be doing a Higher depending on the road map the school chooses). I am, of course, only considering this from a maths point of view but I suspect it will be a similar story across many other subjects.
    On one final note, I have not yet been given any training opportunities at all for the new assessments. I did ask to be released on an in-service day to attend a SQA seminar at last years Learning Festival but was denied this by senior management in my school - the schools own agenda being apparently to vital to miss.
    I have been teaching from 30 years and thought I had seen it all, how wrong was I?!
     
  2. gl650dude

    gl650dude New commenter

    I had a look at the recently published specimen external assessment for National 5 (maths) today and I have this to say. To begin on a positive note, I like the clarity of the wording of the questions which leaves the student in no doubt about what is being asked. This is a much welcomed move away from the style of questions at Credit level which were often dressed up in a farcical manner to give the appearance of being set in a real-life context.
    I was already aware that some topics previously left until Higher had been moved into National 5. The depth of knowledge required by students to answer questions on these new topics is alarming judging from this specimen paper. For example, the paper sites a question about conditions for "no real roots" of a quadratic equation which was previously reserved for Higher level of study. Looking to the support notes for the course the only reference to this topic is a single word - discriminant - and does not give away any clues for the reader about the depth of understanding actually required which, in my opinion, is too difficult for National 5.
    And for those who remember the O-Grade, vectors are back in but with a twist - this time knowledge of 3D vectors is required which again was the previous reserve of the Higher. Working in 3D is, again in my opinion, a step too far for National 5 and working in 2D would have been more than sufficient at this level. National 5 also demands that pupils should be able to calculate the magnitude of a vector in 3D. This is not a difficult calculation but it is based on the distance formula, a formula which is not mentioned at all in the support notes.
    It is pitiful that the original support notes published last year did not give a clear enough indication as to the depth of knowledge required yet many of our pupils will be facing this exam next year, probably ill prepared.
    There still does not appear to be a clear emerging road map for students to follow towards these new qualifications and many schools are adopting very different models from each other. The notion of a Broad General Curriculum in S1 to S3 has been interpreted in a variety of ways leaving no consistency from one secondary to the next. The National 5 standard in maths now appears to be much higher than previously expected and I am unable to see how it fits in. Will students be expected to reach this standard before embarking on a Higher course? At the moment it seems that it all depends on the school. I know of one school who will be asking students to choose a level of study (Nat4, Nat5 or Higher) at the end of S3 with the expectation that they reach their chosen level by the end of S5 when the assessment will take place. This brings even more questions to mind - like, where's the safety net for those who fail? Will some students now be leaving at Christmas of S5 without the opportunity of sitting any qualifications?
    In my view it's a horrible mess. National 4, being internally assessed, will be without much credibility. National 5 looks unachievable for most and those who can pass the assessment are likely to go on and achieve a Higher anyway (or will only be doing a Higher depending on the road map the school chooses). I am, of course, only considering this from a maths point of view but I suspect it will be a similar story across many other subjects.
    On one final note, I have not yet been given any training opportunities at all for the new assessments. I did ask to be released on an in-service day to attend a SQA seminar at last years Learning Festival but was denied this by senior management in my school - the schools own agenda being apparently to vital to miss.
    I have been teaching from 30 years and thought I had seen it all, how wrong was I?!
     
  3. cochrane1964

    cochrane1964 New commenter

    Nat 5 Chemistry shocked us too. We started teaching it last August and thought we were covering the EOs. Tried a wee experiment by putting a selection of the course specimen questions to my two classes.......ooops! Either we will have to up our game, throw more into N4 or extend it to a 3 year course for some. Only about 3 kids across 2 classes could handle most of it! Good example was the Leinig question on the halogens. Once explained, the most pertinent question from a kid was, 'Why not just ask the question?'
     
  4. brothermunro

    brothermunro Occasional commenter

    N5 Physics is essentially Int 2 padded with some content from higher (Pressure stuff mainly). I think it would make a challenging two year course but with Science continuing into S3 this is going to have to be shoehorned into a single year. Only spotted one question that is totally ridiculous on the Physics paper "Why in extreme temperatures do electricity pylons sometimes collapse?"

    'Errr, they melt at approx. 1500C?' Was my brain's immediate answer [​IMG]
     
  5. gnulinux

    gnulinux Occasional commenter



    Not a physicist, but don't they mean cold??? Hint: weight of ice accumulated + brittle steel + high winds
     
  6. gl650dude, I have to disagree with you about the level of expectation presented in the National 5 Mathematics Specimen Paper. The format and style of the questions are very similar to Intermediate 2 Mathematics, a course never designed as an effective bridge to Higher. They are mostly procedural, formulaic and predictable. The pipe question is one of the higher order thinking questions but has been seen a dozen times in past papers and is doable by most Intermediate 2 candidates, primarily because of its familiarity. Bringing content down from Higher does not in itself increase the demand of the course. Discriminant, more quadratic theory, the point gradient formula and basic vector knowledge and understanding are not particularly challenging content areas and would probably be touched on or covered fully by teachers teaching reasonably able Intermediate 2 pupils. I know I routinely extend into these topics with most of the Intermediate 2 sets I've taught. I think the SQA shoud have been much more creative and less predictable in their design of this Specimen Question Paper. There appears to be a real fear of bringing too much context and challenge into this paper, something you say is a positive. I disagree fundamentally on this point with you. One of the key philosophical points of CfE has been to promote learning through context. What indeed is learning without context? I would argue that if we as teachers are to encourage our pupils to think in a higher order way then we need to prepare them to tackle unfamiliar, contextualised, non-routine problems, more so than this paper is promoting. We will not produce the synergistic, problem-solving adults for the 21st century with this paper as a guiding light. Most accept that the Standard Grade Credit Mathematics course was a much better preparation for Higher than Intermediate 2 so I would have expected the Specimen Paper to have looked more similar in philosophy to it. We must remember that this is our national standard and will cement the level of expectation in our own heads and then passed on to our pupils. One positive note for me is the fact that the National 5 Mathemtics course documentation does talk a good game with regard to the level of expectation but this has sadly not been followed through in the Specimem Paper, a very strange and confusing contradiction in my opinion? However, I've heard some argue that these changes aren't about raising the level of expectation for our pupils! If that is the case then can someone please tell me what these changes are about? And no, this isn't an April Fools joke!
     
  7. More likely to be the contraction of the cables due to extreme cold putting forces on pylons which lead to their failure. Extreme heat not so sure....
     
  8. it is time that n5/Credit seperated the wheat from the chaff. Credit maths should stretch the more able. Have you considered that perhaps more should be doing N4 as a rule.
     
  9. Your analysis omits National 5 Lifeskills Mathematics
     

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