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Holding their breath

This year, for the first time, a significant number of pupils across Scotland may well pass the final Higher exam but not all the unit assessments - and will, therefore, not be able to gain the award, predicts Gordon Lawrie, principal teacher of modern studies at Portobello High.

The new Higher paper, when it came, was easier than many teachers had anticipated - largely because the national assessment bank units in the run-up to the exam were very difficult.

The main change to the exam follows a long-running dispute over "description"-type questions. "Modern studies teachers managed to persuade the powers that be that it was not possible to do a discussion question without describing what was going on as well. So they basically dumped some of the questions and now, instead of two different types of questions, they have one - the harder type. In a sense we have been holding our breath," he says.

When reviewing an exam paper, Mr Lawrie wants to see all the questions being of equal standard, no matter the topic. That criterion was largely met this year. Nevertheless, he has two slight grumbles: the question about political parties in paper 1 was "quite tricky" and the question on America was phrased in a "slightly strange way".

The decision-making exercise in paper 2 did not allow candidates to give much background knowledge about health inequalities and was weighted too much on wealth inequalities, he feels.

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