GCE O Level past papers.

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GCE O Level past papers.

Postby Paul » 12 Jun 2013, 10:40

Here we go. I've found some past papers for O level (and they're maths too) from the 1970s.

I've not got the time right now to go through the site - will do this evening, but at a brief glance it seems like the kind of thing I experienced. The Joint Matriculation Board (JMB) was one of the primary examining boards and the one that set all my O levels. Maths O level was a two-part exam, Paper 1 and Paper 2, and was sat on two separate days. From what I remember, each paper had a Section A (all compulsory) and a Section B (two out of five I think).

There are some Advanced Maths papers it seems and a couple of A level papers too.

The Associated Examining Board (AEB) was an alternative to JMB and we were aware of it. I think we studied some of their past papers too but concentrated on the JMB stuff because that was the format we would be experiencing in the exam.

http://bland.in/GCE/index.html
Paul
 
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Re: GCE O Level past papers.

Postby Paul » 12 Jun 2013, 10:55

I couldn't resist looking.

Lo - the June 1979 Maths O level papers are included. What nostalgia. I see they occurred on June 13th and June 15th. The former date was my brother's birthday and he would have been 10 years old. I bet all the attention went his way on that day and nobody wondered about my plight!

Margaret Thatcher had been Prime Minister for just over a month, whatever relevance that has.
Paul
 
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Location: Lancashire, England.

Re: GCE O Level past papers.

Postby Nathan » 12 Jun 2013, 18:35

I had a look at the 1979 paper, and it does seem very similar to the Maths GCSE I got an A* at 21 years later (I think more of us in my class got A* than didn't, and this was in the second set!).

I was actually quite surprised that you were allowed/expected to use calculators, and measurements were all given in metric - presumably fairly recent developments at the time? I've no idea how modern exams compare, but I'm surprised how much time you were given - two and a half hours for nine questions seems fairly generous, though perhaps this is the adult in me speaking and not the teenager!

I doubt I would be able to do half of it now, but only questions B8 and B11 about drawing graphs based on formulae look unfamiliar - though it seems I would have been able to dodge having to answer those questions anyway. I can't remember if we got to choose which questions to answer or not in my day.

I couldn't find a standard deviation question in those papers - did you not study that, or was it just not in the exam? I ask this because I certainly had to learn it, but my brother three years younger than me once said he'd never heard of it, so I wondered if it had been suddenly judged too difficult and dropped from the syllabus shortly after 2000.

It would be interesting to see what standards are expected of 16-year-olds in other countries.
Nathan
 
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Re: GCE O Level past papers.

Postby Paul » 13 Jun 2013, 08:44

I'm surprised you seem to be inferring that it was easy Nathan. Calculators allowed, lots of time to complete and 'only' nine questions to answer (which is incorrect - there are nineteen questions).

You've reminded me of my nephew aged now ....... nineteen. A few weeks ago he said " But it's obvious that Maths and Science were a lot easier when you were at school."

Obvious eh? For the young, no time is as complex or sophisticated as their own. Most everything that happened before their time is largely irrelevant. Having said that, no doubt I was the same at that age. Youth has all the answers.

I realised you may only have glimpsed the paper briefly Nathan and aren't having a go at you. Nonetheless I am almost duty bound to retort.

First rule of sitting exams we were told - read the paper properly and understand what is required. "Would you believe", we were told, "how many pupils fail to even put their name on the exam paper because they rushed straight in?" And "many pupils don't read the paper properly and so fail to complete all the questions!"

Hence it is important to spend say 5 -10 minutes reading briskly but efficiently through the paper first - and making sure you complete the essential parts at the beginning - like writing your name and understanding the format. Don't worry, you have 2.5 hours to complete. Spend 10 minutes organising yourself and completing the essentials. Reserve 15 minutes, to be used at the end, if you can, reviewing all your answers and tidying anything that looks like sloppy presentation. Make sure you show ALL working out. Do NOT rely on your calculator. You should have a clear two hours to wrestle with the actual questions. It works out at a little over 6 minutes per question - though some questions will take longer than others of course.

Our year (1979) was the second year that was allowed to take calculators into exams. I think it was trialled in 1977 in certain areas of the UK and rolled out full time in the following year. The correct answer was only a proportion of the mark given for each question. More important were the stages used to arrive at the answer. If you did the whole question with a calculator (though there were no fully scientific calculators then) and that was then obvious (plain answer with no intermediate workings), then expect to get a zero mark for any such answers. So we were told. Prior to calculators being allowed, slide rules were allowed and every desk had a new copy (no graffiti or coded cheat mechanisms - like theorems and such) of log and trig' tables alongside the exam paper.

By 1979, all measurements at school were Metric and our money had been fully decimalised for 8 years. I was never taught linear measurements in Imperial units - always Metric, and so centimetres, metres and kilometres. Still, for some reason, everyone still thought in yards, feet and inches, or at least it seemed to me and how I still think.

I can use linear Metric of course but am exasperated by the centimetre. It seems a pretty useless denomination to me. The best use is millimetres, or if larger, metres. If someone says 'six and a half centimetres', then I will instantly think 65mm ............ though I will then convert that to two and a half inches (thereabouts). Metres are harder to convert as quickly I find. I don't know why. But 6m will always feel better to me if said as 20 feet. If I look at something to estimate it's length, whether that be a distance down the street or a length of wood, I never think in metres. I cannot instinctively see it in anything other than feet and inches, or yards.

I do like mm though, becuase they are small and so fairly precise. Not as good as the thousandth (of an inch) though. Point oh three nine three seven oh one (0.0393701) - is a mantra I've never forgotten. It's the number of thou's of an inch in 1 millimetre. You can see from this that a mm is actually quite large after all - nearly a whole forty thou'.

And who ever uses kilometres when driving to London and working out the.....Mileage?

Foolish measurements I think. Euro stuff - probably communist inspired. Get back to feet and inches - they're English! :)

I began learning Imperial weights at primary school (pounds and ounces) but it gradually switched, at school, to Metric as the 1970s wore on. It was still important to know Imperial weights because all foodstuff was sold in pounds and ounces. It's only in the last few years that Metric weights became mandatory and there was dual marking for two decades or more prior to this. For all intents, when out shopping, the UK populace was Imperial still, probably into the 1990s or even later. I still am. I hate looking at meat or fruit and not knowing instantly what weight it is. I have to convert the kilogrammes back to grams and then convert the grams to pounds and ounces. Shopping is a mathematical exercise. Cooking often is too.

Litres. Same problem. It's pints - and gallons .... and each gallon of water weighs ten pounds! I know a cubic metre of water weighs one tonne however.

It's all a bit silly of me I suppose but....... it's a cultural thing.

I couldn't pass that exam now. The questions are familiar but I've forgotten some of the rules. It is 34 years ago. It has annoyed me though. I should be able to answer them all. I have swiftly completed some answers though. I can do all the geometry I reckon, better than I probably could aged 16, but only because I'm used to geometry. It's some of the algebra that I've forgotten. Not for long though - I'm now on a mission.

The graphs from formula will be Calculus - I think. Something else I've almost wholly forgotten. I remember it was really hard.

No, we didn't learn standard deviation at all up to aged 16. There was no mention of statistics. Why would that be do you think? Before the computer age? I was first taught about SD in the following two years, aged up to 18.

Thanks.
Paul
 
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Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
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Re: GCE O Level past papers.

Postby Nathan » 13 Jun 2013, 14:29

I wasn't so much inferring that those exams were easy, it's just reassuring that I would at some stage in my life have been able to do them, given that I was expecting them to be more difficult. I wonder if the grade boundaries were different? I can't say as I remember how the grading worked when I did GCSEs.

Here are some Maths GCSE papers from 2012. I'm not sure if the questions are actually simpler, but the presentation looks a lot less daunting. (I'm referring to the Higher papers - looking at the Foundation ones, which if I remember rightly still allow you to get a grade C, they seem ridiculously easy.)

In the summer after I did GCSE French - I got an A* in that, as well - I went on holiday to France with my parents, and my mother could speak French at least as well as I could entirely from her O-level knowledge from 30 years earlier, despite having rarely or never practised it in the meantime.

Comparing this 1959 French O-level paper with its 2008 GCSE counterpart, you really cannot say that the latter is of an equal standard to the former, or regardless of how high a grade you get that it really prepares you adequately at all for that ultimate benchmark of French language proficiency: being able to go to France and actually understand what's going on.

When I did French GCSE, we knew that the writing part of the exam was likely to be about your family, or your holiday, or describing your town and so could - and did - prepare accordingly, whereas with an unseen translation into French there is no substitute for knowing your stuff.

This foundation-level French reading exam from 2012, which if passed would qualify somebody to say 'Yeah, I've got a piece of paper proving I can speak French!' could possibly be passed by somebody who's never even studied the language.
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