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Exams: Tougher new GCSEs and A-Levels

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Year after year we hear about record high exam passes in the UK. Some may take that as a sign of higher teaching standards resulting in pupils achieving better grades than previous years, where as other see it as a sign that exams are getting easier. So which is it? Well regardless of the reasoning behind these record highs, there will soon be a shake up of GCSE’s and A-Levels and they will get tougher.

Emphasis on maths and exams

The shake up to the current system will include a greater emphasis on maths skills in other subjects such as economics, geography and physics and also on the final end-of-course exams. The current system also allows for science practicals to count towards A-level grades, but those will now become a separate test altogether.

Michael Gove, Secretary for Education hopes these tougher changes will undo the damage previously caused by the ‘dumbing down’ of exams: “Our changes will makes these qualifications more ambitious, with greater stretch for the most able; will prepare young people better for the demands of employment and further study”.Exams: Tougher new GCSEs and A-Levels

Agreeing with Mr Gove is The Royal Geographical Society, that believe the changes are a “robust curriculum with an enhanced level of demand” and that “explicit requirements for the use of mathematics and statistics in geography is also particularly welcome.”

Enormous risks

Not everyone agrees with the proposed changes, with teachers and schools facing confusion during the switch to the new exams which will place “enormous pressure” on those involved. Brian Lightman, the Head teachers’ leader says: “Hastily implemented changes on such a scale carry an enormous risk.”

There is also concern from particular science organisations around the new marking of practical exams for A-Levels, stating the new plans as ‘inadequate’ and that A-Level grades will no longer be a true reflection of a student’s knowledge and ability. Missing the practical element of the exams will dismiss an integral component of science learning.

The changes to A-Levels from September 2015

From September 2015, A-Levels in Science will have separate marking for practical experiments and more maths will be required in physics. Exams will make the whole of the final grade.

History topics will cover the last 200 years rather than 100 years and will include a specific theme to be covered. Exams will make up 80% of the final grade.

English Literature will include an unseen text to encourage more critical and wider reading. Exams will be 80% of the final grade.

Computor science will now focus more on algorithms, problem solving and programming with exams making up 80% of the final grade.

The changes to GCSEs from September 2016

The science subjects will contain more ‘cutting edge content’ such as energy and space, nanoparticles and human genome. There will be more maths but no decisions made as to whether practicals will be included in the final grades.

There will be a wider range of periods to be studied in history, covering medieval (500-1500), early modern (1450 – 1750) and modern (1700 – present), with more study around UK history. 100% of the grade will come from exams.

Foreign languages will see more translating with the requirement that ‘questions are asked in the respective foreign language’.

In geography, there will be more emphasis on UK studies and maths and schools will also have to confirm students have completed two pieces of fieldwork. Exams will make up 100% of the final grade.

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About Rebecca Robinson

About Rebecca Robinson

After spending the last 8 years juggling life as a mum of two, wife and working full time as a Project Manager for a global telecommunications company, Rebecca Robinson made the decision to follow her love of writing and took the plunge; turning her passion into a full time career. Since becoming a full time writer, Rebecca has worked with various media and copy-writing companies and with the ability to make any topic relevant and interesting to the reader, now contributes to The Working Parent on articles ranging from credit cards to teenage relationships. Ever the optimist, Rebecca's dreams for the future include a house in the country filled with children, dogs and horses in the field!

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