Modular vs Linear Exams – How are these changes affecting students?

Changing the structure of GCSE exams from modular to linear, where students no longer take exams in stages over a two year period, but rather sit one final exam at the end of a two year period sparked off discussions over what the benefits and disadvantages of both the modular and linear exam structures are, and what affect these have on the students themselves?


Previous discussions indicate that many are concerned that modular exams are not helping students to achieve but rather merely encouraging re-sits. Michael Gove himself suggested that modular exams didn’t benefit the students in the long run and in a way devalued the achievement of a good result. People also suggested that courses examined in stages, with the ability to take exams an unlimited number of times is unfair to those who have to take a linear exam and work hard to achieve a good result the first time, as they haven’t had the same opportunity to simply re-sit if they are unhappy with their grade.


A serious issue that many people are facing as schools make the change from modular to linear examinations is the unfairness in which the students themselves are subjected to in the process. In some cases, pupils that have already sat their first set of modular exams in year 10 and are coming into Year 11 are being told by their schools that they are now no longer doing a modular course, but a linear course. Teachers told students they would now sit a final exam at the end of year 11 on everything that they have covered over the two years spent studying for their GCSE’s and that this exam will determine their overall grade for the entire course.


Students are being severely disadvantaged by having the basic structure of their course changed when they are already part way through and have already applied themselves, only to then find that the results they achieved in their Year 10 exams are now worthless. This is incredibly discouraging as all their efforts have been for nothing and is totally unfair for the students. No government or school policy should be able to dictate changes to courses if it would lead to disrupting students when they are halfway through their studies. If changes need to be made then surely it makes more sense to only affect students who are just beginning to study for their GCSE’s?


Realistically change will be inevitable in everything, including education and how students are examined and grades determined. A spokesman from the department of education made an important point in consideration to the changes being made to examinations. He claimed that, “passing modules has become more important to pupils than actually achieving a lasting understanding and love of a subject.” This we can understand as we want all pupils to be encouraged and enjoy the subjects they take at school as this will benefit them more in their future decisions. What seems to be the real underlying issue is the way in which the government and schools have gone about instigating this change. Pupils have been demoralised in their studies and disadvantaged by having the structure of their course changed halfway through. Both the government and schools need to communicate about when structures will be altered so as to ensure they benefit, rather than hinder the students that are actually the sole purpose for all these changes.

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