Do you see with your eyes, ears, nose or mouth?

I’ve written previously about the dumbing down of GCSE science exams. With that in mind, the question below really is an excellent example of the genre:


It’s from the AQA BLY1AP Unit Biology B1a (Human Biology) exam taken on Wednesday 5 March 2008; you can download the whole paper from

Do any readers have better examples of dumbed down science exams (particularly GCSEs)?

Incidently I wonder how long it’ll be before exam authorities stop putting up past papers on their websites, and prevent others from doing so, in order to suppress criticism about how crap the exams are.

(via Libertarian Alliance Blog)

This entry was posted in biology, Britain, education, science, society and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Do you see with your eyes, ears, nose or mouth?

  1. Constantin says:

    I don’t have any examples to post but can you give me hint as to the right answer? ;)

  2. David Davis says:

    I have a very large library of them, going back to about 2003, further in the case of maths. Plus isolated ones from the 90s, 80s 70s 60s and 50s.

    There is also a recent archive of A-level maths and science papers for the last 5 years or so. These are not so stuffy as the GCSE ones obviously. But the trend in the case if science is still obvious.

    I will be prepared to make the entire lot available to anybody who wishes, on a CD ROM, for a nominal charge to reflect time and postage.

  3. Jonathan says:

    To be fair, though, they are trying to test their knowledge of scientific jargon, and it is only on the foundation tier (the maximum mark available is a C.)

    (And no, I don’t work for AQA.)

    • cabalamat says:

      they are trying to test their knowledge of scientific jargon

      Yes they are. They shouldn’t be. Science is not about learning definitions of words, it’s about understanding how the natural world works.

      I don’t have a problem with easy questions in science exams, for example for younger or less able students, but I do have a problem with exams that contain very little or no science. Here are some examples of easy science questions that nevertheless require some understanding of science:

      (1) a man wants to breed striped cats. He gets a black male cat and a black female cat, paints stripes on their fur, then gets them to have sex. Is this likely to produce striped kittens?

      (2) a woman drops a glass bottle from a 4th floor window, and it drops 12 m onto the ground, which is concrete. What happens to the bottle when it hits the ground?

      (3) a man boils an egg for 6 minutes until it is hard. Can he return the egg to its original state by cooling it?

      All these questions are easy, and all test understanding of important scientific concepts. It took me 5 minutes to invent these examples; if the examiners can’t do better I suggest they are incompetent. (Or maybe it’s the people who invent the syllabus who’re incompetent).

      • Owain says:

        To some extent understanding the scientific jargon is an important first step to understanding the science. Otherwise it’s like trying to live in France without having learnt French.

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  5. kelvinthroop says:

    If the boards stop publishing them on their websites, they can still be scanned in and posted as images as I have done a couple of times on my blog.

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