Re-Evaluated Academic Qualification Exam Results Rise in Britain

January 4, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. watchdog (n.) [woch-dawg] – a person or an organization that acts as a guardian or protector against illegal acts or incompetence
Example:  Media may serve as a watchdog to make sure that the citizens get the right information.

2. cite (v.)  [sahyt] – to mention or give an example to serve as proof or explanation
Example: The protesters cited many instances of harassment from the police.

3. standardize (v.)  [stan-der-dahyz]  – to subject to set of rules or standards
Example: The company policies are standardized in all branches to minimize miscommunication between employees.

4. tuition (n.) [too-ish-uhn, tyoo-] – refers to payment for instructions (usually in school)
Example: The students complained about the expensive tuition.

5. garner (v.) [gahr-ner] – to get, to earn, or to acquire
Example: The athlete won first place because he garnered the highest score in the competition.

Read the text below.

Requests for re-grading the results of major academic qualification exams from British schools have risen this year, according to a report by an academic exam  watchdog.

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) reported a 19% increase in requests to re-evaluate results of General Secondary Education Certificate Exams (GCSE), Advanced Level Exams (A-Levels), and Advanced Supplementary Exams (AS Levels). The 38,000 exam entries that were re-graded are from educational institutions from England, Wales and Northern Ireland where the exams are taken by students.

Ofqual cites several reasons why demands to re-grade the exams have increased. One reason involves the several changes implemented in the assessment for GCSE  which is taken by high school students aged 14-16. Education Secretary Michael Gove says that this should change next year as they aim to standardize the date when most students will take the exam.

Another major reason is the increasing competition to get in universities. With the looming tuition fee increases in UK universities next year, grades garnered in A-Level and AS Level exams can make or break the student's chance to get into the university they want.

Meanwhile, Ofqual rules out technical errors in exam papers as a main contributor to the rise of exam result queries. Although errors—such as extremely difficult questions or printing mistakes—were reported, Ofqual assures that standard measures in dealing with these cases were already followed before releasing the exam results. In the end, more than 12,000 exam papers were given a new grade.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

      Why are academic qualification exams important?
      Do you think there are other ways to measure a student’s learning aside from examinations? Can you give examples?

Discussion B

      Do you think the educational system in your country is effective?
      American author Mark Twain advises to “never let school interfere with your education”. What do you think does he mean by this?

January 4, 2012