Since its inception in 1990, Standard grade Credit maths has been a prestige subject with a rigorous but fair examination. To pass was an achievement, to get a 1 was an honour.
This year's exam (Papers 1 and 2) came as a shock for several reasons:
- the usual practice of placing questions in increasing level of difficulty throughout the paper seemed to be abandoned, that is, question 10 is easier than question 6 and so on;
- a question involving a circle, previously given as a real-life problem, is given in the abstract form of analytic geometry;
- several questions do not specify the required degree of accuracy of the answer (to one decimal place, say - a real student teacher error!);
- inappropriate elements of Higher maths are introduced, which are not in the course;
- one question involving the exponential equation and its graph, which is in the syllabus but has never been examined in 18 years, was worth 8 per cent of the marks in Paper 1;
- and one question in Paper 1 (worth two marks) makes no sense at all!
I spoke to someone at the Scottish Qualifications Authority who seemed to be aware of the difficulties. She assured me they had not set out to trick students and due consideration would be given to the points raised when marking the papers. Horses and stable doors spring to mind. I asked how many people it took to set a maths exam. Her reply? Twenty!
I showed the paper to a Higher student (who got a 1 last year). He couldn't believe it. "That's Higher maths," he said.
Dougie Macfarlane, private maths tutor and retired teacher.