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A few thoughts on this week’s exams

May 24, 2014 3 comments

This week my A Level students sat their Core 1 and Core 2 exams. Both papers were, in my opinion, fairly nice. Although there were questions on each paper that were asked a tad differently that threw a few students.

The general consensus amount my students, and other teachers I’ve spoken to, differed majorly between the year 12 students and the year 13s who were re taking for whatever reason. Year 13, on the whole, found the papers much easier than year 12.

This got me thinking about the make up of the A Level course and the placement of exams. I’ve long thought that sitting all the exams at the end if year 13 would be beneficial. When I arrived at university I met friend Steve for the first time. In one if those early conversations we discussed the make up of our A-level courses and he explained how he had done a modular course, but sat them all at the end. I suggested that seemed silly and he disagreed, saying “but P1 is well easy once you’ve done P6” (those were the days before “pure” modules became core modules).

We’re both maths teachers now, and at somepoint recently we had a similar discussion and we both agreed that this was probably the case. And anecdotal evidence from this week’s exams seems to suggest that this is indeed true. So perhaps the move to terminal exams is better? (Although I do think 3 and a half hours is too long for an exam, and would rather see more papers!)

Another thing struck me about the discussions around these papers I had with year 12. One student, who is extremely gifted at maths, commented on the C2 exam “that’s the most enjoyable exam I’ve ever had, it was ace.” Another commented that she “proper loved it” when asked about the C1 exam. This made me look at the papers again, with the first student I mentioned. He said he didn’t understand why some people had found it difficult, and it occurred to me that the ones who had found it easier in year 12 were the ones who had spent more time on the underlying mathematical concepts, and the ones who had focused on “will this be in the exam” were the ones that struggled, relatively speaking. This is why I try to answer “yes” to every variant of this question. (The only exception being a few proofs that may be nice, but don’t enhance understanding and aren’t required to access the content.)

The other exam this week was M3, this was nice enough, for an M3 paper. It was hard, but M3 IS hard. I don’t understand why it was scheduled so early on in the session.

All in all quite a nice set of papers, I’m quite looking forward to the next ones!

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