Are Exams Really Getting Easier?

It is almost an annual tradition. The summer yields a fresh batch of exam results which show an improvement on the previous year and the educational commentators duly start to assert in their columns that exams are getting easier as the years pass. This accusation (for that is what it often appears to be) is most frequently levelled at GCSE exams. But can it really be said that the trend in improving results is entirely down to the examinations becoming objectively less challenging?

The short answer that no, it cannot. With the best will in the world and regardless of what some politicians claim, it is simply not possible to definitively compare standards when looking at periods of 20 or 50 years, for example. This is because there are a large number of contextual factors to take into account such as social issues of the time and relative contemporary standards.

Whilst the 1950s is often touted as a golden age, educationally many pupils were simply not able to fulfil the requirements of O-Levels, which does not necessarily mean they were far harder, more that the educational focus was less well-targeted. Yet while there is substantial evidence to this effect, it cannot now be conclusively proven.

So, it is effectively a moot question. But what we do know is that students find it hugely discouraging to have to endure this ungracious assumption, all too often made by the O-Level generation about their offspring’s peers. Let’s make this the first summer in many years where students who have worked hard for months to receive their A* are not then dismissively told by the media that it was “too easy”. Instead, we would do well to simply support our students as fully as possible, to remind them to aim high and assure them that having superior standards is unequivocally worthwhile.

Should you wish to support your child in their pursuit of the highest possible academic standards at GCSE and A-Level, please do not hesitate to contact us on 020 7112 4832 or at [email protected].

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