Exam results that spell trouble

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Bucketloads of incredibly cross examiners badmouthed candidates this year for their use of colloquial phrases.

And no, that wasn't just journalese. Bucketloads, badmouthing, and "the incredibly widespread 'incredible'" all got the thumbs down from examiners.

OCR's chief history examiner has taken exception to being told that Luther had "badmouthed" the Pope, and that Gestapo officers "did over" those who "badmouthed" Hitler.

More than one A-level historian attributed "Ganshof's decomposition theory" to "Gandalf", while GCSE historians studying the creation of the NHS thought Bevan was variously a woman, a doctor and a patient.

Spelling raised the ire of most examiners. One student "miss be haived", another was "perlight", while a third wrote about "traphic lights". English language students misspelled "sentence" and "grammar".

Computer spellcheckers were blamed for mistakes such as "loveable rouge" and a "fatal floor", while some A-level students wrote words according to pronunciation: "fief" for "thief" and "fought" for "thought". A-level Greek students described "navel battles" and how Odysseus drilled a "steak" through the eye of the Cyclops.

When asked what constituted an ideal school, many GCSE English students used the opportunity to write scathing critiques of the existing education system.

One candidate wanted schools to be turned into penal institutions, while another produced a "stimulating description" of a world without schools thanks to advanced nano-culture technology.

Teachers may be happier with the idea, advocated by some children, of the return of capital, rather than corporal punishment.

In general studies, some students wrote that they had been in the exam room for five to seven hours already that day.

Maybe that is why the examiner was relieved that "candidates seemed respectful of the demands of the exam". He continued: "Out of more than 20,000 candidates, there were no abusive scripts." Standards must be rising...

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