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Issue 9 - June 2002

Maths exams getting harder

Maths exams getting harder A GCSE in mathematics is more difficult now than it was in 1989, according to a Qualifications and Curriculum Authority report published recently.

The report responds to comments made by Jeffrey Robinson, a former principal examiner at one of the main examination boards, OCR. A few months ago he claimed GCSE maths was getting easier.

He said GCSE students now required no knowledge of algebra to get a C grade and needed to answer 20% fewer questions correctly than in 1989.

During the public debate about examination standards that followed, the Department for Education and Skills accepted headteachers' demands to institute a full enquiry.

That resulting report states the "QCA has concluded that there is nothing of substance in Mr Robinson's allegations to indicate that grade standards in GCSE mathematics have declined over time."

It argues Mr Robinson was not comparing like with like, because exams have changed massively over the past 12 years. When changes, particularly the introduction of an A* grade with tougher questions, are taken into account, the exams have actually become more difficult.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "It's good news. Too often people criticise examinations for getting easier without sufficient evidence and it undermines public confidence in the exam system, which damages pupils and teachers."

Source: The Guardian

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