Examiners feel test pressure

6th May 2005 at 01:00
After last year's marking fiasco it is not just teenagers who will be nervous about this week's tests for 14-year-olds. Helen Ward reports

Thousands of 14-year-olds did tests in English, maths and science this week, with the controversial English paper left until last.

It was the last time that the key stage 3 tests will be compulsory in Wales, where more than 40,000 students have taken them each year. Northern Ireland is also thinking of scrapping tests at 14. Scottish pupils do not sit the tests.

The two KS3 science papers on Tuesday were well-received.

David Bevan, chair of the Association of Science Education and head of science at Manningtree high school, Essex, said: "We had fair warning of the fact there would be more investigative and analytical questions. There was nothing unduly onerous or unfair."

Ian Pindar, advanced skills teacher in science at Burnage high school for boys, in Manchester, said: "It was a bit better than previous years because there were not as many questions. It gave the kids more chance to finish it."

Angela Herbert, KS3 science co-ordinator at Colne community school, Colchester, Essex, said: "I welcome the trend towards scientific inquiry questions. We can look up information very easily these days."

The maths tests on Wednesday seemed similarly unremarkable.

David Tungate, head of maths at Greenwood Dale secondary, Nottingham, said: "It was what you would expect. If schools had been looking at previous papers, as all schools do, they would have been fairly well prepared."

But it is the English tests, taken after The TES went to press, which will be under particular scrutiny this year.

Last year, hundreds of schools complained about their KS3 English results after some pupils were awarded grades up to five levels lower than expected.

Computer problems meant that thousands of results were late last summer, forcing many staff to spend holiday time checking data.

The fiasco led to the resignation of Jonathan Ford from his post as managing director of the National Assessment Agency.

* helen.ward@tes.co.uk

QUESTIONS FROM KS3 SCIENCE TEST 2005

1. Paper 1, tier 3 to 6 and 5 to 7

Burning fossil fuels leads to

the formation of acid rain.

Acid rain has collected in this

lake. A helicopter is dropping calcium hydroxide into the lake. Calcium

hydroxide dissolves in water to form an alkaline solution.

i) What effect does an alkali have

on the pH of an acidic lake?

ii) When calcium hydroxide reacts

with sulphuric acid in the lake a

calcium salt is formed.

What is the name of this salt?

calcium carbonate calcium

chloride calcium nitrate

calcium sulphate.2. Paper 1, tier 3 to 6

Bindweed is a plant that grows tightly around other plants.

The drawing below (not shown) shows bindweed growing

around a rose bush.

Complete the sentences below. Choose from the words in this list:

air, light, support, water, minerals

i) Bindweed grows as high as

possible on the rose bush so

that the bindweed can get as

much .................. as possible.

ii) Bindweed grows around the rose bush because the rose bush provides

................... for the bindweed.3. Paper 2, tier 5 to 7

Part of the reactivity series of metals is show below:

most reactive potassium sodium magnesium aluminiumiron lead

least reactive copper

Dan wanted to find out where zinc should be placed in the reactivity series.

i) What tests should Dan do to find the correct position of zinc in the reactivity series?

ii) How would Dan use his test results to decide where to put zinc in the reactivity series?

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