Tests must get real

7th May 2010 at 01:00

Your contributors ("Doubtful on the wisdom of a shift to `functional' skills", Letters, April 23), are defending badly flawed qualifications.

High success rates are of little value if the assessments are unrealistic. This is the case in adult literacy and numeracy tests as they consist entirely of multiple choice questions. The most glaring problem with this is that a level 1 or 2 literacy qualification can be gained without writing a word. Another problem is the pass marks, which can be in the very low 20s for a 40-question test.

Functional Skills is an attempt to produce more credible qualifications which test meaningful skills. Candidates will be expected to tackle purposeful tasks in real-life contexts, and the answers will be open response. If the requirement for them to write means success rates fall, then at least we will have a true picture of the challenges.

The idea that young people leaving school should continue to study "basic" skills and concepts risks holding them back unnecessarily.

John Linfoot, Bournemouth.

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