Allison Pearson, commenting on the Daily Telegraph's expose of GCE history chief examiner Paul Evans' shocking action of revealing contents of future papers to teachers, was no more surprised by her own daughter's attitude. "Relax, Mum, it was a paper from 4 years ago... Plus, if the paper's hard, the examiners will adjust the grade boundaries so I'll probably get an A* anyway."
One schoolgirl who sat for this year's A Level biology paper at a Dover Road premier school said something similar. The questions were difficult, but she was confident that the T-score will be tweaked if everybody else stumbles. Last year one chemistry paper question was out of syllabus, but since a particular JC had supplied its students with the material for the answer, everybody had a free boost in their grades.
Pearson reflected that, during her days, one "swotted up as hard as you were inclined", and the exam results will pretty much reflect one's strengths and weaknesses in the subjects studied. Those were the days when 10As were unheard of, Bs and Cs were respectable grades. There was no such thing as "being good at exams". Or as Evans explained the game in play, "We're cheating, we're telling you the cycle." His illogic for focusing on key topics instead of covering the entire syllabus, "Yes, if we are proper educationists, our gut instinct is to teach the lot... (but) if you are under pressure to get results and you are hammering exam technique, you may go at a slower rate."
Our teachers will recognise the technique: if you teach the whole syllabus, you will have less time for drill practices. All the holistic spiel about skipping the O Level in the IP system so kids will have more time for enrichment activities is plain baloney. The extra time is more likely spent in extra tuition classes. They even have tutors for students sitting for the IB. One lecturer claims that even undergrads are attending tuition classes.
Quick to distance themselves from the British exam system under fire, principals like Chan maintain that other than briefings on changes in syllabuses, teachers here have limited contact with Cambridge examiners. Specifically, "...questions that will be used for exams in the future are not discussed." Tell that to the kids, and especially their parents, who sign up with ex-teachers who make a bundle selling tuition services on the premise of their uncanny skills at spotting questions.