Watchdog tells of serious concern over GCSE science exam
Jul 23 2010 By Huddersfield Examiner
GCSE science is still too easy, the exams watchdog said today.
In a damning report, which looked at last year’s exam entries for the subject, Ofqual said there was "evidence that standards are currently too low".
In one case students only needed six marks to score a C grade on a paper, it found.
It is the second time the regulator has warned that GCSE science is not tough enough.
In March last year the regulator published a highly critical assessment of science GCSEs taken by students in 2007 and 2008 which highlighted "serious causes for concern".
The exams, for which pupils studied for the first time in 2006, failed to challenge the brightest pupils, and contained too many multiple choice papers, it said.
Ofqual ordered an overhaul of the qualifications with exam boards told to take immediate action to toughen them up for students sitting them last year and this year.
But today’s report, which Ofqual carried out in collaboration with DCELLS, the Welsh regulator, reveals that standards in last year’s GCSE science exams were still too low.
It concludes: "The findings of this investigation did not differ significantly from those found in previous investigations, thus adding further evidence that standards are currently too low in GCSE science and additional science qualifications."
The papers did not match grade descriptions, and candidates were not given the chance to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding, Ofqual said.
The report concludes that there were differences in standards between awarding bodies.
For both science and additional science GCSEs the level of demand of the papers, and the standard of candidates’ work was "acceptable" for AQA, one of England’s biggest exam boards, and WJEC, the Welsh exam board.
But assessments for Edexcel and OCR, the other two major awarding bodies in England, demanded too little of students.
It adds: "Across all awarding organisations some grade boundaries were too low to ensure that candidates showed a satisfactory range of knowledge and understanding across the assessed content.