How much will pupils know about exams as plans for tests go ahead?

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has invoked 'Scenario 2 contingency' amid disruption in schools.

How much will pupils know about exams as plans for tests go ahead? iStock

The Scottish Government has the “firm intention” to hold National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams this Spring, education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has said.

It comes as the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has announced it will reveal what content pupils will get questions on in their test papers for several subjects.

Referencing ongoing disruption in schools, including some temporary closures and record levels of students and teacher absence, it was revealed the “Scenario 2 contingency” had been invoked.

The government said “revision support” would be made available in early March – shortly before senior students could have their tests scrapped should the Covid-19 situation deteriorate.

For subjects such as accounting, business or geography, advance notice of what content will or will not be assessed will be shared with pupils.

For others, such as biology or English, only some exam content will be revealed in advance and the remainder, such as chemistry or computing, will receive no advance notice at all, with students offered what the SQA calls a “study guide” instead.

The subjects that will receive advance notice of content that will be assessed are:

  • Accounting
  • Administration and IT
  • Business Management
  • Care
  • Childcare and Development
  • Higher Drama
  • Economics
  • National 5 and Higher English (question paper 2 – Scottish Text)
  • Environmental Science (essay topic choice)
  • Graphic Communication
  • Media
  • Music
  • Music Technology
  • Philosophy

The subjects that will receive advance notice of some of the content that will be assessed or topics that they will not be asked about are:

  • Applications of Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Human Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics

The subjects that will receive just a study guide are:

  • Higher Art and Design
  • Chemistry
  • Classical Studies
  • Computing Science
  • Geography
  • Design and Manufacture
  • National 5 Drama
  • History
  • Engineering Science
  • Fashion and Textile Technology
  • Health and Food Technology
  • Modern Studies
  • Physics
  • Politics
  • Practical Cake Craft
  • Practical Cookery
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

For languages, students will be given advance notice of contexts that will be assessed.

Somerville told MSPs: “It remains my firm intention that exams will take place as planned – they will only be cancelled if public health advice says it isn’t safe.

“While the number of full and partial school closures has been small, it is clear that many secondary schools have experienced extreme disruption as a result of the Omicron variant – particularly in the first half of January – in relation to both student and teacher absences.

“This package of measures is designed to ensure our learners are fully supported in their learning and preparations for the exams this year.”

The SQA exam timetable is due to start on April 26 with prelims already underway.

The SQA also announced a series of measures that “acknowledge the disruption caused by the pandemic”.

There will be back-up for learners who are unable to attend their an exam due to illness or bereavement, grading will take into account the impact of the pandemic, and, once results have been published, learners will have free direct access to appeal.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, welcomed the SQA’s package of support.

The EIS argued that there should not be a return to “high stakes” exams this year given the risk of further Covid disruption and the “inequalities” that characterise the exam system.

However, the Scottish Government remained set on an exam diet.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The provision by the SQA of some revision support for courses which have an exam is helpful for students, though it will be important that schools and local authorities are supported to enable additional relevant study support for young people who would not otherwise have access to private tutors, in order that students might benefit from the SQA revisions aids on a more equitable basis.

“The inclusion this year of an appeals service that can be accessed by students who perform less well in the final exams than their evidence-based estimates suggest, and of arrangements for exceptional circumstances in the event that students are unable to sit the final exam, also provide some mitigation of the impacts of Covid disruption on learner outcomes.”

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