The weaknesses of the O grade exam were very much a preoccupation 30 years ago, as reported in The TES Scotland on September 12, 1975:
"Scotland has accidentally created a common system of examining, while researchers in England have suggested it is almost impossible to do so by design," Dr John Wilson, Moray House, told the British Education Research Association in Stirling last week. The O grade examination now attempted to provide an objective for the whole ability range.
But the examination took a heavy toll of candidates: less than two in three presentations were successful. In 1974, 38 per cent of O grade attempts by S4 pupils resulted in failure. Part of the fail rate could be explained by pupils' 'hopeless' presentations, some of whom lacked the ability even to read the question papers.
But pupils presented in large numbers of subjects also contributed to the total, which might reflect the increasing divergence of O and H grade syllabuses in some subjects or wholesale presentation of weak candidates in the hope they would get a D or E pass and scrape A, B or C in the easier subjects.
There was little incentive for teachers to devise suitable non-certificate courses. Significantly, schools which had developed such courses were increasingly going for Certificate of Secondary Education validation to obtain evidence of national currency for their pupils . . .
. . . the SCE Examination Board . . . had been reticent in promoting discussion of the functions of examinations. They did not appear to have considered whether they had a role in validating school courses developed for non-academic pupils, and several schools had gone to CSE examining boards for guidance which the SCE board might have supplied.