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Modern studies - Too many whys and whatnot

This year's Credit paper in the Standard grade exam was "at the hard end of the scale", said Helen Holdsworth, principal teacher of modern studies at Belmont Academy in Ayr.

It represented what examiners might be looking for in A Curriculum for Excellence, with a greater emphasis on critical thinking in the knowledge and understanding paper, she said. This was fine for the "Credit 1" candidates, but very challenging for "Credit 2s".

"There was nothing content-wise that should not be there, but almost every question was slanted towards the `why' for at least 50 per cent of the marks," she said.

Mrs Holdsworth also had some concerns about the wording of question 4a, on the security of European countries, because it did not allude to "alliances", saying: "It didn't give them a clue. For tired brains, who had already spent one-and-a-half hours on the General paper, it could have tripped them up."

Her other quibble concerned question 2 (3) in the enquiry skills section, which was "a mirror image" of a question set in 2007 about ethnic composition, crime and employment statistics. Two years ago, the question was set in America, but this year's was set in London, which was not part of the modern studies syllabus, she said. "They would have practised the American one so could have done it, but I feel it was scraping the bottom of the barrel for contexts."

For the second year running, the General paper included too many visual prompts, according to Mrs Holdsworth, who feared this meant that pupils took too long to read the paper and ran out of time. The visual prompts were well-intentioned, being aimed at making the paper easier for Foundation pupils. However, the end result was to confuse some of the Foundation pupils and hinder the General pupils, she felt.

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