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Exams assessed

Our review this week of a cross-section of principal assessor reports for Standard grade and Intermediate 1 and 2 exams reveals that examiners are still concerned about pupils' standards of writing.

We see comments that candidates sitting exams in other languages are losing marks because of poor English. In social subjects, the inability to supply recalled evidence would suggest a lack of revision. In maths, teachers are warned that they must continue to practise the course work covered early on. Yet in English, markers describe the overall standard in Standard grade as "good". Why, then, the discrepancy?

Gill Stewart, depute director of national qualifications at the Scottish Qualifications Authority, says that, when sitting an English exam, candidates are writing for a specific purpose. If sitting a history exam, for example, they have to focus on another subject under pressure of time - which "brings additional challenges".

Candidates' problem-solving skills come out stronger than their knowledge and understanding, which Dr Stewart acknowledges is "a trend in modern kids". She adds that the ability to solve problems is good for the Scottish economy and suggests that this skill reflects some of the teaching and learning approaches being encouraged under A Curriculum for Excellence. "The modern world is not just looking for the regurgitation of knowledge but the development of skills," she said.

Dr Stewart also revealed that there had been a significant increase in Standard grade appeals this year in the wake of the SQA's decision to drop the derived grades procedure.

The total number of appeals last year was 45,874 compared to 60,363 this year - with the bulk of the increase accounted for by Standard grades.

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