Gareth from the Office: Less testing times for students?

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IT’S that time of year again, when ultimately one topic will be hotly debated, and it has nothing to do with elections.

With the imminent arrival of GCSE, A-Level and university exams comes the inevitable prospect of new statistics showing record breaking exam results – and the question of whether exams are getting easier?

I took my GCSEs in 2002 and A-Levels subsequently and fortunately over that time was part of a school year that set records and was outraged at the suggestion exams were getting easier.

However, there is an increasing body of hard evidence that exam standards have actually slipped significantly and even some evidence that grade inflation may actually be masking a decline in general levels of academic ability since the 1980s.

I know I tried as hard as I could and I achieved some pleasing results at one of our city’s top schools, but some people put that little bit more effort in and got the fantastic results their perseverance deserved.

I saw people walk away with five A grades or more at A-Level and GCSE level and that wasn’t because they cosied up to the teachers – that was because they applied themselves better.

Nationally the pass rate for A-Levels has risen steadily for the last 28 years in a row to an astonishing 97.6 per cent, as recorded in August of last year.

But what does that mean? Does it mean that schools are now training people to learn, or teaching them not to fail?

Around 27 per cent of students achieved an A grade in their exams making it harder for some pupils to achieve good enough grades to get into university. That is why the A Star grade was introduced at A-Level, because exams were getting too ‘easy’ and universities were finding it harder to choose acceptable new applicants.

Now, if students are serious about going to university then they will need to apply themselves that little bit more.

I am aware of a number of students, and I met plenty more at university, who just went along for the ride. They chose a course that was easy so that they could ‘experience’ the uni lifestyle.

Now if a university looks at a prospective student they will be able to filter the good from the bad, and results are scrutinised by prospective institutions.

Yes, exams may be getting easier, and the pass rate may be going up, but that just means fewer students people are falling below the dreaded E grade.

But good luck to all who are taking exams in the summer but remember, if you put the work in then the exams will seem easier, if you don’t then you probably won’t notice.