Are School Exams Really Dumbed Down ?

I rarely meet a student interested in science. I am curious as to why science has such bad press.

Maybe nobody teaches it with enthusiasm. Maybe nobody wants to teach it full stop. Maybe nobody is inspired by it. Maybe it is just too hard.

Very few of our LS or IS students wish to specialise in science information.

Tonight’s Evening Standard (27/03/09) ran this article:

“Lords’ warning on too easy science GCSE’s were ignored”

The following questions were listed from the science GCSE:

“1. Our moon seems to disappear during an eclipse. Some people say this is because an old lady covers the moon with her cloak. She does this so that thieves cannot steal the shiny coins on the surface. Which of these would help scientists to prove or disprove this idea?

A) Collect evidence from people who believe the lady sees the thieves

B) Shout to the lady that the thieves are coming

C) Send a probe to the moon to search for coins

D) Look for fingerprints

Answer C


2. Many people observe the stars using:

A) A telescope

B) A microscope

C) An X-ray tube

D) A synthesizer

Answer A


3. The female nurse leaves the room while the X-ray photograph is being taken. Why must she leave the room?

A) to avoid being in the X ray image

B) to avoid the X ray damaging her cells

C) to avoid the X rays melting her mobile phone

D) to avoid the X rays giving her a tan

Answer B


4. When we sweat, water leaves the body through?

A) kidneys

B) Liver

C) Lungs

D) Skin

Answer D


5. Sandy is a warden for a conservation group. He notices that there are fewer sea birds nesting on the cliffs this year than in previous years. He is worried that some species of birds may die out. Which word is used to describe a species which has died out?

A) Endangered

B) Evolved

C) Extinct

D) Protected

Answer C

Just for interest, I retrieved my ‘O’ level physics book from the shelf.

[Abbott A F (1969). Ordinary Level Physics, (2nd edition). Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.: London]

It opened itself at chapter 6, Newton’s Laws of Motion. Here is one of the questions listed at the end of the chapter:

“6. State Newton’s laws of motion and explain how one of them may be used to define the absolute unit of force in the SI system.

A parcel of mass 10kg slides from rest down a straight shute inclined at 30degrees to the horizontal. If the frictional force acting is 2kgf, find:

a) the force in newtons causing the parcel to slide

b) the acceleration

c) the distance moved down the shute in 2s.”

There are 18 questions in all, but I won’t go on. My father always used to tell me that things were much harder in his day. But I wonder if they really were much harder in my day?

Of course the major point of newspapers is to sell newspapers. And maybe the questions listed are merely a taster of what a science GCSE candidate has to know to pass.

Answers before bedtime please.