Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Achieving top grades in science subjects more difficult, proves research

01.07.2008
SCHOOLCHILDREN studying science and technology subjects like Maths, Physics and Chemistry find it much harder to achieve the top exam grades than candidates of similar ability studying subjects like Media Studies and Psychology, proves a new report.

Durham University researchers analysed and compared data from nearly one million schoolchildren sitting GCSE and A-level exams and reviewed 28 different studies of cross subject comparison conducted in the UK since 1970.

They found significant differences in the relative difficulty of exams in different subjects with the sciences among the hardest. On average, subjects like Physics, Chemistry and Biology at A-level are a whole grade harder than Drama, Sociology or Media Studies, and three-quarters of a grade harder than English, RE or Business Studies.

A student who chooses Media Studies instead of English Literature could expect to improve their result by half a grade. Choosing Psychology instead of Biology would typically result in over half a grade’s advantage. Preferring History to Film Studies, however, would cost you well over a grade at A-level.

The study found that these differences were consistent across different methods of calculation and were remarkably stable over time.

Durham University’s analysis runs contrary to a report released by the exams regulator the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in February this year which found that some exams may be harder than others, but concluded that subjects were broadly in line and no immediate action was needed to even things out.

The researchers, from Durham University’s Curriculum, Evaluation and Management (CEM) Centre publish their findings in a report commissioned by the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society on behalf of SCORE (Science Community Representing Education).

Researchers voice concerns that students will be more likely to choose to study ‘easier’ subjects and will not opt to study science subjects that are desperately needed by employers in the knowledge economy.

They are calling for marking for ‘harder’ subjects to take account of their difficulty, perhaps introducing a ‘scaling’ system similar to that already used in Australia so that some subjects are acknowledged to be worth more than others.

The findings come 3 years after the UK Government vowed to improve the rapidly falling numbers of students taking Physics, Chemistry and Maths. Between 1991 and 2005 figures show the numbers of students sitting A Level Physics dropped by more than a third.

Report author, Dr Robert Coe, Deputy Director of Durham University’s CEM Centre, said: “This research shows that science and technology subjects are much more severely graded than subjects like media studies and art. I can’t see how anyone could claim that all A-levels are equally difficult. If universities and employers treat all grades as equivalent they will select the wrong applicants. A student with a grade C in Biology will generally be more able than one with a B in Sociology, for example.

“The current system provides a disincentive to schools to promote take up of sciences while league tables treat all subjects as equal.

“It also puts pressure on students to take particular subjects which may not be best educationally. I know students and schools will try to make the right choices, but we should have a system where the incentives support doing the right thing, not act against it.”

However, the Russell Group of universities has warned that pupils at some state schools put themselves at a disadvantage for accessing top Universities by studying so-called "softer subjects" like drama, art and media studies. Cambridge University has already published a list of subjects that together provide a less effective preparation for degree studies and may be a bar to a successful application.

Carl Stiansen | alfa
Further information:
http://royalsociety.org/page.asp?id=5216
http://www.cemcentre.org
http://www.iop.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Oxygen loss in the coastal Baltic Sea is “unprecedentedly severe”
05.07.2018 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>