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Relative difficulty of subjects at GCSE


David Wilson
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On the TES Forum, a poster drew my attention to an interesting statistical analysis of the relative difficulty of school subjects when they are examined at GCSE level:

http://www.cemcentre.org/Documents/News/su...tiesbyrasch.pdf

This topic seems timely as the annual debate goes on about what constitutes a "hard" and a "soft" subject. The traditional universities seem to favour the former, while even brighter school students are increasingly choosing to play safe with the latter at KS4 option time. I'm particularly concerned about the way this trend is impinging on continuation rates for MFL.

The document comes from the Durham University CEM stable, the people who devised MidYis and YELLIS tests to provide schools with baseline assessments of the literacy, numeracy and non-verbal skills of their Year 7 and Year 10 pupils, to predict their likely GCSE grades over a range of subjects, and more controversially, to supply evidence of pupils' under-, over- and in-line achievement for individual teachers' performance management.

Anyway, the document seems to confirm what we all surmised, that Latin is the hardest subject, followed by single sciences and modern foreign languages. The "usual suspects", e.g. PE and Media Studies, do indeed appear to be the easiest options when aspiring for higher GCSE grades.

There are regular postings on TES Forum from teachers of so-called "soft" subjects, protesting that it's really much harder to get an "A" in the likes of Media Studies than it is in English Literature. As a curmudgeonly educational traditionalist, I'm having none of it! What do others think?

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

Edited by David Wilson
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On the TES Forum, a poster drew my attention to an interesting statistical analysis of the relative difficulty of school subjects when they are examined at GCSE level:

http://www.cemcentre.org/Documents/News/su...tiesbyrasch.pdf

This topic seems timely as the annual debate goes on about what constitutes a "hard" and a "soft" subject. The traditional universities seem to favour the former, while even brighter school students are increasingly choosing to play safe with the latter at KS4 option time. I'm particularly concerned about the way this trend is impinging on continuation rates for MFL.

This has a lot to do with how the exam board judges the candidates of the different subjects. For example, when I taught History and Sociology at GCSE and A level I studied these issues in some detail. I noticed that nationally a higher percentage of students in History got A grades than those in Sociology. When I questioned this I was told that the reason for this was the assumption that Sociology attracted less able students.

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