Sunday 4 December 2016

Predicting Leaving Cert is not easy - just ask Oxford

Published 30/04/2015 | 02:30

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan released some of its findings as she confirmed a new Leaving Certificate grading structure and new CAO points scale for students sitting the exams in 2017
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan released some of its findings as she confirmed a new Leaving Certificate grading structure and new CAO points scale for students sitting the exams in 2017

Leaving Certificate students who try too hard to second-guess what is coming up in the papers do not necessarily perform as well as those who prepare more broadly for the exams.

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Contrary to popular perception, Leaving Cert papers are not very predictable at all, according to a major new study.

The research, involving more than 1,000 candidates from 2013, as well as interviews with 17 schools, was carried out by Oxford University Centre of Educational Assessment and Queens University Belfast.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) commissioned the study as part of a series of complex, and painstakingly worked-out, inter-connected moves to revamp the college entry process.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan released some of its findings as she confirmed a new Leaving Certificate grading structure and new CAO points scale for students sitting the exams in 2017.

A widespread belief that the exams were too predictable prompted the study - the first of its kind in the world - but the concerns were not sustained by the findings, according to a summary released yesterday.

However, the researchers did identify certain aspects of the exams that could be addressed, including greater emphasis on the assessment of higher order thinking skills.

The research team said this was a common concern internationally in relation to exams.

The findings will be released tomorrow, but Ms O'Sullivan said she had requested SEC for advice on how the issues identified could be addressed.

Meanwhile, students entering fifth year in September will be the first to experience the massive changes designed to reward effort and excellence, while also taking heat out of the "points race".

The current 14-band ABC grading system will be reduced to eight bands, H1-H8 at higher level and O1-08 at ordinary level, which is closer to international practice.

And instead of the usual five point step-up on the CAO points scale, the differences between bands will vary to allow for greater distinction between student achievement.

That is important because of the related move for broader entry routes to college - if the current CAO scale stayed, then more applicants would be bunched on the same points.

In one example of a possible new scale, maximum points would be 120 for a H1 - down by 14, to 106, for the H2, reducing by 13 to 93 for a H3, and so on.

In a key move, candidates who achieve between 30-39pc at higher-level will be awarded points - 45 in the example.

Irish Independent

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