GCSE science exams fail watchdog’s test … again


School science exams, revised after criticism that they failed to stretch able pupils, have been sent back for further modification after an exam watchdog said they failed to address concerns over standards.
The new-look GCSE exams for 15 and 16-year-olds are being developed after regulator Ofqual found problems with the versions used in 2007 and 2008, and still used today.
The revisions cover exams in science, additional science, additional applied science, biology, chemistry and physics.
Around 500,000 pupils take science GCSEs each year.
Ofqual said the five exam boards offering science GCSEs, including OCR, AQA and Edexcel, had submitted revised versions of the qualifications for approval for teaching from September 2011. “However, Ofqual has found that the new versions do not fully address the concerns raised,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It has sent detailed feedback to the awarding organisations so they can take action to bring the examinations up to the required standard.” In March 2009, Ofqual said science exams contained too many multiple choice questions and that a review had found “significant causes for concern” in the specifications for the science, additional science and physics exams.
At the time the findings were seized on by critics who argued GCSEs had been “dumbed down” and no longer challenged the brightest pupils.
Many private schools have switched to teaching International GCSEs, designed for overseas pupils and which offer a more traditional syllabus and test. Until now state-funded schools have not been able to enter pupils for IGCSEs. But following the change of government in May, Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced that the IGCSEs will be available for all state schools.
Exam board OCR said it was “naturally disappointed” by the regulator’s finding and said it had been following official guidelines for the revised exams.
— Reuters