I WAS curious about the new, tough GCsEs (Mail), so looked at the higherlevel practice materials for this year’s French exam and compared them with an O-level paper from 1966.
The new GCsE has a translation into French passage of some 50 words containing two tenses (present and future). The old O-level paper for the same task contained more than 150 words and five tenses.
The new exam lasts one hour and 15 minutes, whereas the O-level paper was two-and-a-half hours.
I feel sorry for candidates facing what they feel are challenging exams. It is clear, however, that there has been a slow, but steady, erosion in the difficulty of exams taken at 16 since the sixties.
The Government’s reforms have gone a little way to return to higher standards, but there is a long way still to go.
St John Cox, taunton, Somerset.
AS A PARENT of a Year 11 student sitting exams, I can entirely understand why pupils are distressed and parents/teachers are in despair.
We knew our children would be in the first year of the tougher exams, but what a disaster it has turned out to be. we were informed two years ago that there wouldn’t be enough time for schools to complete the curriculum, so the past two years of study seem to have been hurried.
Students have been rushed through topic after topic with little or no chance to assimilate the information they have been given. If there was something they didn’t understand, ‘just go back and read through it in your own time’ became the mantra.
With the exams arriving, exhausted children return home to inform you that not only was the test harder than they were expecting, but that some of the higher-scoring questions weren’t related to the syllabus.
It will be further demoralising for these students when they apply for jobs and the employer sees only B and C grades, whereas a student from a previous year might have straight as under a different system.
Mrs h. RaffeRty, Congleton, Cheshire. I was intrigued that teenagers have had to endure hours of pre-examination revision and have been suffering panic attacks after sitting tougher, new GCsE and a-level papers.
My immediate thought was: ‘welcome to the world of O-levels and a-levels of the sixties and seventies!’ My generation simply had to knuckle down, pay attention, do the work and learn the stuff. There was a point to it, even though we didn’t realise it at the time.
The acquisition and application of knowledge, plus learning how to pay attention to detail, were all part of preparing us for the stresses, strains and responsibilities of life. and the bonus is I still use a lot of the stuff I learned all those years ago.
Ms L. GiLLan, address supplied.