Sixties kids had it easy

2nd March 2007 at 00:00
Modern-day exams are more sophisticated, say Year 7s who put both to the test

the modern exam is complex, rigorous and demanding. Now analyse that sentence with reference to the author's motives.

According to Year 7s at one of the North's top independent schools, it's nothing less than a literal statement. To challenge the perception that modern exams are about as intellectual as Swingball, pupils at Newcastle Royal grammar took entrance exams from the 1960s and concluded that the tests have got harder.

In a blow to curmudgeons who say we've dumbed-down, pupils scored several points higher in an old English exam that posed relatively straightforward questions compared with its sophisticated modern counterpart.

While the 2007 exam asked pupils to analyse the author's motives, the 1964 paper asked them questions such as how many sweets the lead character had eaten.

Simon Barker, head of English, said: "These results confirm my view that standards in English have improved over the past four decades. When I first started 22 years ago, the range of skills developed was astonishingly small."

Pupils fared less well, however, on a 1960s general knowledge test, which expected them to know the name of the British Army commander-in-chief (Sir C Redmond "Reddy" Watt), and asked: "By the mouth of which river is the marine biological station of Millport?"

"It's an insight into the different skills that the school expected its students to have four decades ago," said school newspaper editor, Tom Rowley, who conducted the study.

HAVE EXAMS DUMBED- DOWN SINCE THE 1960s? DISCUSS

2007 English Entrance Exam

Silas is referred to as "poor Marner" in line 10. What do we learn from this paragraph (lines 7 to 14) to justify this description of him? Explain fully, using words and short phrases from the text (in quotation marks) to help you.

From Silas Marner by George Eliot

1964 English Entrance Exam

1. How many sweets does Avery take out of the box?

2. Avery's eyes linger on the last "superior kind" of sweet (line 5):

* because there aren't many left

* because he has not seen one like this before

* because he thinks he might choke on it.

From Jeremy at Crale: His Friends, His Ambitions and His One Great Enemy by Sir Hugh Walpole

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