First 'big fat' maths GCSE exam had 'ridiculously hard' questions, says teacher who sat it

Students take to Twitter to say how difficult today's toughened-up exam was

Martin George

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The first “big fat” maths exam taken by GCSE students was much harder than its predecessor, a teacher who sat the paper in solidarity with her pupils found.

Students are sitting reformed maths and English GCSE exams this summer, which the government has made tougher, and which be given numerical grades from 9-1.

Year 11 students this morning sat the first of the harder maths papers.

It was the first exam Mel Muldowney, a maths teacher at Alcester Academy in Warwickshire, had sat for 20 years, and she thought she had dropped at least eight marks.

“In terms of content, I would sit the old GCSE in 25 to 30 minutes,” she said. “I sat there today and was still working 90 minutes later. There were some questions there that were ridiculously tough, but that’s what [the government] wanted, and that’s what they got.”

She said that about half the questions in the higher tier paper were at A*-A standard, compared to about 25 per cent under the old system.



The foundation and higher tier papers were in line with what students had been expecting, based on their mock exams and materials provided by the exam boards, she added.

Craig Barton, a maths teacher who runs the MrBartonMaths website, said the Edexcel foundation paper was harder than he had expected, while the higher paper was easier.

He said: “The foundation paper was considerably harder than previous foundation papers. There were a lot more multi-step questions there, which foundation students would have found very challenging.

“It was the higher paper that was the surprise. It seemed to me to more resemble the old specification than the new specification. It was not as challenging as we were expecting.”

However, he said he has advised pupils to expect a lot of the new topics to come up in the second and third papers.



The move to harder maths exams has led to fears there could be a fall in A-level maths entries, because of students finding it harder in comparison to other subjects.

Students took to social media today to comment on the difficult of the Edexcel paper, and #edexcelmaths was trending on Twitter this afternoon.


An Edexcel spokesman said: "Edexcel exam papers are designed to reflect the curriculum and to test across the grade range."

See the 26 May edition of Tes magazine to read how teacher shortages, exam reform and funding turmoil are plunging maths into crisis.

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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