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 Post subject: GCSEs versus O Levels
PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:38 am 
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Someone on here kindly posted a link that took me to a list of O levels from 1959. Now, I did O levels too, but quite a bit later than that. I took a curious look at them, and boy, what a shock! I couldn't do them!
I home ed my son, who has now got a place at boarding school for September, but I was preparing for having to continue teaching him at home, so have a vast amount of stored info on GCSEs and IGCSEs that I thought I might need to use. I can do them.
I know Guest 55 says they are harder nowadays, but quite frankly, that's a load of rubbish. These exams from 1959 were scary! I didn't dare look at the A levels.
Having seen these, nothing on earth will convince me that children have got cleverer since then, nor that teaching is better.
If that is true, then our children currently preparing for GCSE should be able to do these exams standing on their heads, because they have been "better prepared" to think independently and work out problems than we were - allegedly.
I would LOVE to see these exams given to our modern children.
Guest 55, I challenge you to give your class some old O level papers to do, without any extra preparation. If you are right, then your class will sail them, because they are better taught nowadays.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:49 am 
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Location: Berkshire
Presumably the syllabus to get O Levels in 1959 is different to the one taught today ?

Just a thought :D


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:23 pm 
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O Levels were so much harder than GCSE's! You only have to compare papers!!! Controversial subject I know- but we never had A stars!! Nowadays A star = A(o level) , A = B(o level) and B = C (o level). We never had 40% coursework so parents could help and below a C was not a pass. Oh and we never had computers. Encyclopaedia's and going to the library for research were the norm!! Oh to be younger.....

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 1:50 pm 
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Didn't the Channel 4 series taking modern students expected to get high marks in GCSEs and putting them through O' Levels from the 50's and 60's rather prove the point about the differences? I vaguely remember watching it and not imagining that GCSEs would loom their ugly heads rather so quickly in our house... :?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 1:55 pm 
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But it depends on what they have been taught! If the syllabus is the same, then there should be no problem. I would imagine some of the areas of maths taught today for GCSE would bamboozle the students from 1959.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:05 pm 
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Location: South Bucks
biggest difference is O'Levels were marked on a curve (were they not?) meaning only a set percentage COULD get an A, a B and so on.

Therefore you always knew that an pupil who achieved an A was in the top 5% (??) of their cohort.

That and terminal exams with no coursework or modules.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:22 pm 
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Hi Flicka,

Can you please post the link to the papers (or the thread where you got the link from)?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:43 pm 
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I lead guilty to being the one that posted the link:

http://www.lawnswoodhighschool.com/lhs/Documents.html

About three quarters of the way down the page.

The context was Amber (I think) being rude about WJEC Biology GCSE. I took O-levels much, much later than 1959 and I have to say I recognised everything on the Biology paper :shock: (has anyone ever SEEN spirogyra, by the way?). As far as "easier" is concerned: remember that (1) O-levels were intended for the top 40% in academic terms, which is about the proportion that are now taking A-levels and (2) GCSEs also cover the ground that CSEs covered in my day.

My own feeling from looking at a tiny handful of papers was that some O-levels (like Biology) were just tests of memorised facts, that GCSEs certainly have some easier questions than O-levels (but see comment about CSEs) but that the harder elements of GCSE were as hard as O-level. The difference, I suppose, is that you can get a C at GCSE without tackling those harder aspects whereas they were an unavoidable part of O-levels, so I would suggest that a C at GCSE probably doesn't mean the same as a C at O-level did (any more than anyone REALLY believed that a grade 1 CSE was the same as a C at O-level). I don't think I'd choose to draw any more conclusions than that.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:58 pm 
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Hi,
this is the link.
http://www.lawnswoodhighschool.com/lhs/ ... s.html#GCE
I only looked at the Maths and English. Wow! Did I do exams like that? Yes, I saw the programme on tv a few years back! It was funny. All those kids with French GCSE at A* who couldn't conjugate avoir in the present tense!
Horrifying really. Have you read the guidelines for marking French GCSE?
If you want a laugh, take a look on Xtremepapers.com - it is eye opening!
We had to be able to write and spell french and have a proper conversation when I did O levels! It seems they don't have to nowadays!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:48 pm 
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Location: Berkshire
Constant ridiculing of the current system is by no means helpful, especially as the curriculum has changed, the examinations have changed, and actually we hope that most kids leave school today with some knowledge of something. Was that the agenda back in 1959 - well I'm Scottish and wasn't born then so I couldn't possibly say :lol:


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