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Posted on 28th February 2012

When the going gets tough…

For many years now more and more pupils have been getting better and better A Level results. This has prompted a lot of people to say that A Levels are getting easier and not long ago the controversial new A* grade was introduced to help distinguish the most academic students, as so many school leavers were attaining straight As across their subjects. But do things need to get even tougher?

The examinations watchdog Ofqual has recently ordered the British examination boards to make the English literature, history, maths and geography exams tougher as a result of concerns that students are able to get good grades in GCSE subjects without actually knowing very much at all. Education Secretary Michael Gove has been particularly vocal recently about his opinion that too many students pass exams with only a very narrow understanding of a particular subject.

The Daily Telegraph recently launched an investigation into exam boards and found evidence that examiners were giving advice to teachers on how to make their pupils achieve higher grades. This scandalous discovery has prompted a serious tightening up of regulations and hopefully things will become fairer and more transparent.

As well as foul play between examiners and teachers, the GCSE curriculum has come under attack for only asking pupils to know a few topics before sitting the exams. For example, 90% of GCSE English literature exam questions are on only three novels: Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies. I took my GCSEs really quite a while ago now and indeed studied two out of the three of these novels which shows how stagnant the curriculum has become.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said to the BBC “It is vital confidence is restored in the exams system. We are committed to raising standards for all pupils.” And indeed Ofqual appear to be trying hard to improve examination standards. The Chief Executive of Ofqual, Glenys Stacey, has said, “We are tightening GCSEs in these key subjects to make sure students cover the whole curriculum. We want our young people to have the best possible educational experience, with qualifications that prepare them for the future. The exam boards have welcomed this steer from the regulator and are to look again at these qualifications and how the rules are interpreted to make sure that young people taking them have to study an appropriate range and depth of the subject.”

First on the ‘to do’ list for improvements is geography GCSE, quickly followed by maths and then history and English literature will be given their spruce-ups by September 2013. Let’s hope the changes make the courses more exciting, challenging and enriching for students and the exams fairer and more stringent.

Dates for the diary

July 2014
11+ Kickstart Summer

14 July 2014
11+ Practice Exam

Every Monday in August
Summer Fizz Course

27-28 August 2014
11+ Back to School Booster

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