Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Science and Maths Exams are Harder Than Arts Subjects, Say Researchers

Oooh.. now this is bound to stir up a whole bunch of hornet's nests.

Researchers at Durham University in the UK think they have evidence that shows that science and math subjects are harder than arts subjects such as English, social studies, etc. They used the grading scale in the UK's A-Level examinations as their data.

They analysed the GCSE and A-level results of almost a million students who sat exams in the summer of 2006, comparing marks in traditional sciences and maths with those in arts and humanities.

There were "substantial differences in the average grades achieved by the same or comparable candidates", they found.

A-levels in physics, chemistry and biology were marked a grade lower than A-levels in drama, sociology and media studies and three-quarters of a grade harder than English, religious education and business studies, the researchers said.

Examiners were half a grade more generous when marking students of the same ability in psychology A-level, compared with biology A-level.

For many of us, this isn't really that surprising. There have been plenty of anecdotal studies on a general consensus that the science subjects are more "difficult" both in high school and in college. However, there hasn't been any kind of systematic studies on this. Furthermore, I don't know if it is a fair comparison between the two, and certainly it is comparing apples and oranges.

Still, with the UK system, it may reinforce the fact that teachers or even parents may encourage students to take the easier subjects in their A-level exams, which may explain why the number of students in the UK taking the more difficult subjects has been declining for the past several years.


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