Excessive coaching in some subjects, not enough preparation in others, generous internal marking and tough external assessments again feature prominently in the Scottish Qualifications Authority's analysis of last year's Standard grade, Higher and Sixth Year Studies exams.
Examiners' reports underline the continuing difficulties translating course and exam guidelines into practice across the country.
History receives mixed marks. At Standard grade general level, performance was "encouraging overall" but candidates are reminded to monitor their use of time and that "simply copying material from presented sources without showing understanding, is unlikely to gain marks".
At credit level, it was "pleasing to note an improvement in the quality of extended writing", while at Higher there was "a pleasing improvement in the standard of performance".
In contrast, standards slipped for the Certificate of Sixth Year Studies.In paper 1, the overall standard was "rather disappointing". The examiner notes: "The use of pre-prepared answers - in any case somewhat surprising at CSYS - needs to be discouraged as it penalises candidates by distracting them from the actual question set."
The dissertation receives equally tough criticism with candidates from the same schools often submitting similar material. "It should be noted that this practice is inappropriate and detrimenta l rather than beneficial to candidates," the examiner pointedly comments.
Home economics at Higher, a troubled subject in the recent past, again receives stern treatment. The overall ability of candidates showed no change over the previous year and many answers lacked "depth and detail". The examiner observes: "Appropriate training in examination technique, including presentation of answers, would benefit many candidates."
Modern languages teaching gets pass marks for some areas but speaking a European language appears a problem at Standard grade where "otherwise very competent candidates often lacked the ability to converse". At Higher,pupils' ability to speak was "generally pleasing". Where assessments were not in line with the national standard, "they were more frequently generous or very generous than severe".
Some aspects of the SYS exam in paper 2 were "marred by poor English spelling and grammar". "Serious difficulties with grammar and vocabulary were common and the weakest candidates were unable to deal with the simplest syntactical structures."
Higher physical education continues to bed down slowly and although the pass rate rose slightly to 55.5 per cent, there was no overall increase in the number of A and B passes. The performance aspects score more highly than the investigation and analysis sections.
There was evidence from some schools of "a prescriptive and limited" approach to the investigation but the examiner notes that this does not benefit all candidates. "However, there are some who are totally reliant on this type of specific guidance from the teacher. Without this guidance they might find it difficult to achieve any marks."